Monday, February 12, 2007

Cheesy Stuff

It's okay -- I'm not spilling the beans by describing Fellow Traveler's and my planned Valentine's Day dinner -- a wine-and-cheese party for two featuring a top-drawer northern Michigan Riesling and an inexpensive but allegedly decent sherry, a meandering cheese trip around Europe and assorted fruit, crackers and nuts to go with. Ah....foodie love.

But we shouldn't be the only ones to enjoy the pleasures of good cheese. And we have some good ones right here in Michigan -- even though, sadly, it is incredibly hard for Michiganians to find and purchase our own artisanal cheeses. (As in many other aspects of life here, we just can't seem to get our act together to promote ourselves as a state worth working in, visiting or even buying food from.)

Here are two cheeses I really love, that I hope to one day include in some sort of "made in Michigan" feast, that you may want to consider purchasing by mail order if you too are a foodie:

I was introduced to Boon cheese when I lived in that area many years ago. As you can see, Boon cheese has a story -- one of those true stories, part of which may actually have happened. In any case, the Boon Store is a tiny little party store pretty much in the middle of nowhere; the cheese is cut by hand, wrapped in brown paper and tied up with butcher string, just like in the old days. The extra sharp cheese is sooooo rich and sooooo good that you can really only enjoy it in tasty little increments.

Blackstar Farms is a winery/creamery/bed-and-breakfast up in the Leelanau Peninsula. The owners, trained in the Old Country, make a really wonderful raclette cheese that I had the pleasure of tasting a couple of years ago during a solo adventure trip to that part of the state.

I hope I've inspired you to put together your own cheese tasting, for friends or just for a special someone, and to explore your own region's small-batch cheeses. Smile and say...

13 comments:

Reverend Dona Quixote said...

MMMmmmm.

Good for you two!

Thanks for the tip on some new cheese sources ... besides Pinconning.

LutheranChik said...

Oh, it's easy to plan an entire "up north" foodie vacation...not just the chi-chi-foo-foo destinations, but also places like the little Amish bulk foods store halfway between Harrison and Cadillac (they have their own interesting assortment of cheeses) and the funky (in a good way) little hole-in-the-wall cafe' in downtown Cadillac where I've had some wonderful soups and sandwiches. And of course with all the lakes and woodlands, you can enjoy a picnic feast just about anywhere en route!

zorra said...

Oh, that all looks fabulous. Wouldn't I love to come roam around that area sometime during the summer when it's 98 degrees with 90 per cent humidity down here. Have a lovely evening.

LutheranChik said...

And I can't believe I forgot this...my alma mater, MSU, has an on-campus dairy, and it makes a variety of cheeses including its famous chocolate cheese...if you've ever had cream cheese fudge it's something like that but with a firmer texture; has walnuts in it. If you go Google "Michigan State University" and "chocolate cheese" you can find out how to order it.

David said...

You're right about Pinconning. When I lived in Michigan that was the cheese capital of the world. I still order from them from time to time. The Pinconning Cheese Company has a great online store. They ship all of my old meat and cheese favorites.

Here's another spotlight on Michigan foods. I used to love my grandmother's homemade pasties, and my mom taught me how to make them. But when I don't feel like going to all that trouble, I visit Pasty.com and order from them. They ship from door to door in two days, and the pasties are fantastic.

Ok...now I'm hungry!

LutheranChik said...

Mr. Foisie's Pasties in Cadillac, on M-115 -- hard to beat; and I've had them above the Bridge too.

LutheranHusker said...

It figures that it would take a post about food to get me to de-lurk! I've been a regular reader for some time now, was recommended here by RevScott and have enjoyed reading your thoughts since.

I spent 4 years in the U.P. (Air Force Brat, we were stationed at KI Sawyer) and in that time got to know the wonder of cuisine known as the pasty as well. Lemme echo David's recommendation of pasty.com as a great place to order from. Good stuff! And, they used to be made by rest home residents who had been making pasties their entire lives. The rest home has since closed, but they use the same recipe. I can just close my eyes and taste them now...

So if anyone's looking for a great birthday present for LutheranHusker...(hint hint) =)

Bag Lady said...

So -- was the lovely dinner a success? (How could it not be?)

LutheranChik said...

Oh! Oh! Oh! It was fantastic. Best ever.;-)

The Riesling -- 2005 Chateau Grand Traverse -- was wonderful. The cheeses were wonderful, and it was so fun to experience the interplay of flavors between the wine, the cheese and our fruit assortment (plums, white nectarines, Gala apples, Bosc pears and -- just for kicks -- a dead-ripe starfruit). I also made, as an amuse-bouche (if that's the correct spelling), a canape with dill havarti, thinly sliced cucumber and a smoked oyster on a cracked-pepper water cracker...got that idea off the Internet. Wowsers, those were good with the wine.

Here's something interesting -- also just for kicks, we included Romano Pecorino in our cheese selection, and tried some with both Riesling and sherry. Depending on who you talk to, Romano Pecorino is 1)unpalatable except as a grating cheese; 2)not appropriate with white wine; or 3)not appropriate with dessert wine. Well -- it rocked with the Riesling, and to me it also took that sweety-sweet edge off the sherry.

Oh -- and here's a great dessert: You need an 8-ounce wheel of Brie, a half cup of brown sugar, a quarter cup of broken pecans and a tablespoon of brandy or fruit juice. You mix the sugar, nuts and liquid, then refrigerate the mixture until you're ready to bake the Brie. You trim the top rind off the Brie, put it in a baking dish just a bit larger than the cheese, and bake it at 450 degrees for maybe 7 minutes. Then you take it out of the oven, put the sugar mixture on top, and return the dish to the oven for another 5-7 minutes -- you want the cheese gooey and the sugar sufficiently carmelized. Slathered on a piece of apple or pear -- oh, my. It's like a fruit/praline cheesecake.

LutheranChik said...

Lutheranhusker, welcome! I had the pleasure and privilege of eating a pasty in Paradise -- Michigan, that is.;-) They are a state treasure. And they must -- MUST -- contain rutabagas.

Rainbow Pastor said...

Sounds like a winner of a night to me!

When I went on my retreat in October, I splurged on a variety of cheeses and crackers--oh, yum...

And pasties...

Time for a snack!

Susie said...

Real foodie love in MI? I'm so excited for these links! We're in Lansing, and have discovered the goodness that is MSU Dairy Store ice cream - but real artisan cheese? I'm so ready for a road trip!!

LutheranHusker said...

AMEN on the rutabagas in the pasties!

And wow, sounds like you had quite the dining experience. How wonderful!