curdnerd's blog

American Cheese

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Most of the varieties of cheese we eat were originally created in Europe: Brie, Parmigiano-Reggiano, Emmenthaler. But this country can be proud of several distinct varieties that can be called uniquely American (Colby, Brick and Monterey Jack among them). Unfortunately, though, the one variety that goes by the name of its home country is probably the worst cheese anywhere in the world.

American cheese, a.k.a. process cheese, a.k.a. processed cheese, can be found all over the industrialized world now, but in a sense it is a distinctly American food, born of a culture obsessed with efficiency, scalability, and reliability, and without a distinctive gastronomic tradition to guide it. If you're like me you grew up eating the waxy, iridescent orange, individually plastic-wrapped slices of

California Heatwave Killing Dairy Cows

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With the California heatwave now 13 days old, the state's dairy industry is poised to continue suffering major losses. According to an article from today's NY Times, roughly 1% of California's dairy herd, or 16,500 cows, have perished in the almost two-week-old heatwave. And for the cows that haven't died, their production is down as much as 10-20% due to the heat. From the article: “It is just a bad, bad situation,” said Larry Collar, the quality assurance manager for California Dairies. “In 25 years in Southern California, this is the most extreme temperatures we have ever seen and the most extreme length of time we have seen.”

It seems like this global warming thing has come on stronger and faster than anyone anticipated. Global warming is a hot-button topic these days, but, except for the talk of melting ice-caps and stronger hurricanes, you don't hear much about the specific

TurnHere Films

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I recently heard about an interesting site for multimedia-loving Curd Nerds. It's called TurnHere.com, and it features short films about unique places throughout the world, including the best places to shop, hang-out, and especially eat! Here are some links to films that feature must-see destinations for Curd Nerds like us:

I also found a nice little film about the neighborhood in Brooklyn where I live.

ACS 2006

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This weekend the American Cheese Society held its 23rd Annual Conference in Portland, OR. Unfortunately, I wasn't able to make it, but it sounds like the conference was a rousing success. According to David Grotenstein, chair of the ACS Competition Committee, this year's conference saw "record, sell-out crowds...and...an unprecedented number of entries for our annual Judging and Competition. 157 producers from 28 states (and two provinces) entered an astounding 941 cheeses, almost 200 more than last year's record 749."

The Best in Show award, given last year to Uplands Cheese Company's Pleasant Ridge Reserve, went to Vermont's Cabot Creamery for their Clothbound Cheddar. Made at Cabot's production facility from the

Cheese of the Week - St. Marcellin

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There's gold in them thar hills! From the Isère departement in the French Alps comes the ooey, gooey, utterly delectable St. Marcellin. Best served with a spoon, it is so soft and creamy that it comes to America in a little ceramic crock pot so that it can survive its arduous trans-Atlantic journey. It is usually aged for one month (which means that peak season is right about now) and has a hearty flavor that is at once mushroomy and barnyardy.

Bread and Butter

On the Lower East Side this Saturday, Saxelby Cheesemongers is hosting an event they're calling Bread and Butter. The event is a fundraiser to help send the Evans family, dairy farmers from upstate New York, to Turin, Italy for this year's Terra Madre festival, Slow Food's annual meeting of artisanal food and beverage producers from all over the world.

The Bread and Butter event will feature tastings of dairy products made from the milk of Evan's Farm, including yogurt, organic cheese, creme fraiche, and sweet cream butter, and of course the creamline milk itself. The menu will be created by

Cheese of the Week - Bucheron

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You are the breathless hush of evening
That trembles on the brink of a lovely song.

Like Jerome Kern's jazz standard, "All the Things You Are," Bucheron is one of those cheeses that, no matter how many times you experience it, you're never disappointed. A French goat cheese covered in a white bloomy rind, it is the paradigmatic "chevre": dry yet creamy, semi-firm yet flaky, simple but not simplistic, with a gamey flavor that is neither overwhelming nor understated. "Bucheron" means "logger" in French, and it is so called, presumably, because the cheese itself is formed in the shape of a log. It is traditionally aged for about 2 months, and is a great cheese for sandwiches. I love to add it to grilled zucchini and onions on a warm baguette. Magnifique!

Curdnerds.com Featured on Ecuadorean Radio

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Yesterday I was interviewed by the folks over at Radio City, an affiliate of the BBC in Ecuador, on a show called Buscando la Luna, Looking for the Moon. Hosted by Luisa Aray, Claudia Sinisterra and Diego Rendon, Looking for the Moon is a late-night lifestyles show that interviews "high class players and program[s] the best music of all time, the different genres and cover[s] everything that happens in the world of technology, film, music, culture, tourism, health, good dining and much much more." They asked me lots of questions about cheese including, "Where do the best cheeses come from?" and "What creates the holes in Gruyère?" It was a great experience, and it was my first interview conducted in Spanish (with the help of a translator, of course). If any of you are reading this from Ecuador, and maybe heard the interview live, please drop a comment and say hi!

Leon the Milkman

I recently got an email from a certain "Leon the Milkman", a dairyman from South Africa. I checked out his blog as well as his other site www.dairy-info.org, and they both have a wealth of information about cheese and other dairy products. In fact, if you sign up for a membership at www.dairy-info.org, you receive two free PDFs: a 23-page dairy dictionary and a cheese-tasting terms glossary. Definitely worth checking out!

Cheese Shop Newsletters

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In my unending quest for curd knowledge, I am a faithful member of email newsletters from several brick and mortar cheese shops. In such capacity, I have noticed a strange phenomenon: more often than not, the newsletters from Murray's and Artisanal arrive within several hours of each other, and yesterday, for example, they arrived within nine minutes of each other! Sometimes Artisanal's comes first, other times Murray's beats them to the punch. Now, I am sure this is no accident; I'm sure whoever is writing Artisanal's newsletter is a member of the Murray's newsletter, and vice-versa. But the really creepy thing is that the two contemporaneous newsletters often share the same "theme."

For instance on May 30th, the Artisanal newsletter arrived, featuring "Incredible Cheeses of the Northeast USA." Three days later, on June 2, the Murray's newsletter touts the all-too-predictable theme "Murray's Gone Local." In this case, it is possible that

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