The Invasion of the Bees – Laura Chenel’s Chèvre Honey Log

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Honey Bear loves Honey Goat!

Soft, tangy, and honey sweet with a hint of orange, Laura Chenel’s Chèvre with Honey satisfies all around. It’s as if a honey bee came straight from the orange orchard and landed on a little log of chèvre. This honey goat cheese marries the traditional French technique of fine fresh goat cheese making with California’s Sonoma County terroir. Its delicate texture and mild flavor make it an excellent breakfast or dessert cheese. And it comes with a pedigree.

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Orange blossom honey has a faint flavor of citrus and is excellent when blended with fresh goat cheese.

Laura Chenel, a pioneer of American goat cheese, revolutionized the American cheese scene in the late 1970s and early 1980s with her goat cheese. Laura Chenel’s Chèvre represents the harmonious blend of French technique and Sonoma terroir.

California’s orange trees are full of tiny white flowers in the spring. The bees feast on the blooms, and then return to the hive to make the fragrant nectar that will flavor the Honey Log. The delicate touch of citrus and the light sweetness give this goat a balance created purely by Mother Nature.

ChevreHoneyIceCream-crop1-230x213The website, laurachenel.com, features goat cheese recipes, including Chèvre and Honey Ice Cream with an instructional video.

The Honey Log took home the gold at the CalExpo State Fair 2014, and the silver at CalExpo State Fair 2013.

It is KORC-D kosher and cholov stam. The ingredients are orange blossom honey, cultured, pasteurized goat’s milk, and enzymes.

Elizabeth Bland
The Cheese Mistress
http://www.cheesemistress.com

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Jersey Shore Cheese Balls Invade Hoboken

cheeseballs250Besides being famous for a reality show, a boardwalk, and a long stretch of beach, the Jersey Shore is home to the famous cheese balls from Clem’s Steaks Unlimited, a shoreside restaurant in Seaside Heights that specializes in cheese steaks. Although I have never been to the Jersey shore, I had a taste of one of the best cheese treats it has to offer at Clem’s Steaks Unlimited Too in Hoboken, an offshoot of the original Seaside Heights location.

handcheeseballFor a mere $6.50, Clem’s Steaks Unlimited Too will serve up a little paper basket of approximately 28 miniature deep-fried cheddar cheese balls. These things are addictive. Crispy and savory with a hint of blended spice, they hit all the right spots. The cheese is a tangy yellow (orange) cheddar that melts perfectly. The breading holds them together. You can eat them in just one bite.

All 28 are heaped into a small paper basket. Although 28 balls sounds like a lot, it’s not. One order is good to split with another person. For a hungrier person, a single basket might suffice, “might” being the operative word!

DSCN0330Jim, who works at the Hoboken location’s counter said that high school girls come in and get two or three orders per person. “Kids love them. Everybody likes them. Everybody eats them.”

While cheese balls are excellent plain, many people enjoy them with dips. “Some people like marinara sauce,” Jim told me “Others like ketchup, ranch dressing, or salsa. Everyone’s got their own favorite dip for them.”

SeasideHeights_NJ“At the Seaside Heights location, people hang out on the boardwalk and the seashore during warmer months,” he said. “All summer long you’ll see people eating them,” he said.

The cheese balls are not just finger food. They can even be substituted for cheese on a cheese steak. One popular item on the menu is the Seaside Tony Cheese Steak Topped with Cheese Balls for $8.50. The sandwich holds eight or nine crispy, melted cheese balls. I asked Jim who “Tony” was, assuming the cheese ball steak was named after him. I was wrong. It turns out that the guy’s name was not even Tony. Somebody just made up the name after a customer request.

“One day somebody asked if they could put the balls on their cheese steak,” Jim explained, “And the boss said, ‘Why not?’”

MTVTommy2The Seaside Heights Steaks Unlimited was featured on MTV’s True Life with MTV Tommy, who is in desperate search of his lost cheese balls in this ten-second clip: Cheese Balls on True Life https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=q6upatWc7bQ .

They made an even longer appearance on the E! Channel’s show Chelsea Lately Show with Chelsea Handler, who was raised in New Jersey. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cNE274SVxfM chelseahandlerFor this randy comedian, the cheese balls provide much fodder for slightly off-color humor. Her video shows the original location, the cheese balls in the fryer, and then the finished product.

Besides cheese steaks, Steaks Unlimited Too also offers sandwiches, wraps, and burgers, including a veggie cheeseburger. The cheese steaks are all served with white American cheese, onions, and peppers. For an extra dollar, you can have mozzarella or provolone.

Elizabeth Bland, The Cheese Mistress
http://www.cheesemistress.com

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Quattro Formaggi at Denapoli Pizza

Denapoli signUno, due, tre, quattro! Quattro formaggi means “four cheeses” in Italian. At Denapoli Crispy Pizza in Bayonne, NJ, quattro formaggi means more than just a four-cheese blend. Denapoli imports four cheeses from Italy: real Parmigiano Reggiano, real Pecorino Romano made from sheep’s milk instead of the copycat cow versions, mozzarella (both low moisture for shredding and super soft fresh mozzarella), and ricotta. These cheeses are used in a variety of ways on the menu.

All of the products in their dishes come from Italy, even the tomatoes.

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Vegetarian pizza with black olives, mushrooms, green peppers, and onions.

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Diana and Mike

“How can you keep your prices so reasonable when you are using imported ingredients?” I asked the owners, Mike and Diana, both from Naples.

“We are a family-run business. The entire family works here.” Mike said. He also mentioned that they keep the overhead low since they own the building and live there. That translates into high quality products for a great price.

throwingdoughI asked Mike when he started making pizza. “Since forever,” he said. He started at home with his family. He has been in America for 32 years and for 13 years in Bayonne, making pizza all the while.

I asked him what the most popular pizza was and he said the basic cheese. It also happens to be my favorite. One day I was standing at the counter, eating a hot molten slice, fresh out of the oven.

“It’s so good!” I exclaimed.

cheesepizza149“I know, I know!” he said, his eyes lighting up. “It’s so good, sometimes I can’t believe it myself!.”

The restaurant is decorated with neon, the centerpiece being the large “Pizza” sign which casts a glow. In this shot, Mike has just prepared a cheese pizza.

While cheese pizza is the most popular, also ready at the counter are several specialty pizzas, waiting to be reheated in the big oven.

pizzaassorted2On this day, they had out chicken marsala, buffalo wing chicken, and breaded chicken chunks with fresh tomatoes. They usually have and a deep dish Sicilian cheese pizza that Diana is especially enthusiastic about.

sicilianpizzaAlso ready to get hot and go are the spinach and chicken rolls; they are long rolls with mozzarella inside to make the hot, chewy bread even more luscious.

garlicknots208I was lucky to get there right as a batch of garlic knots was coming out of the oven.

Cheese comes into play in many of the hot dishes and sandwiches. I asked Mike and Diana which were their favorite specials. They said the Chicken alla Bella Napoli (chicken with white wine, ham, and fresh mozzarella) and Chicken Sorrantino (chicken with sherry wine and fresh mozzarella, topped with eggplant). They put special focus on the eggplant!

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A garlic pecorino romano roll, not on the menu, but similar in look to the spinach and chicken rolls.

Provolone shows up in the hero sandwiches, and the calzone is filled with mozzarella and ricotta. Still, my favorite remains the hot impulse buys of cheese slices.

Denapoli’s also offers free delivery alongside the grab and go slices.

“I use the real stuff,” Mike emphasized. “My food is real good.”

Elizabeth Bland, Cheese Mistress
http://www.cheesemistress.com

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Black and Blue Burger Made Easy

blueburgerlabelThank you, Denmark, for making the American burger cheesier and easier!

Blue cheese is known first for its famous blue veining and marbling; second for its piquant flavor; and third for the wide array of textures it assumes. Blue cheese ranges from creamy and smooth to crumbly and chunky. It has become increasingly popular sprinkled on a hot steak fresh off the grill or melted in place of Cheddar on a juicy burger. The salty, sharp of the blue melds nicely with the savory, sometimes even sweet, flavors of beef.

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Castello Danish blue in slices. The wrinkles are from the paper that was on top.

Danish blue came about by way of France, as a cow’s milk “Roquefort” style cheese, which is made with sheep’s milk. The Danish cheesemaker Marius Boel created Danablu (its most common name) early in the 20th century. It is aged eight to twelve weeks, and although it does it is creamier and milder than its sheep inspiration, it nonetheless creates its blue veining by way of penicillium roqueforti, a mold first discovered in the caves of Roquefort-sur-Soulzon.

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The slices broke off into smaller pieces, but were still easier to work with than crumbly blue off a wedge or in a tub.

One problem with putting blue cheese crumbles on a burger is that they roll off. Castello of Denmark has come up with a solution for this problem—blue cheese slices. The 6-slice is called “Blue Burger” and features a perfectly formed and gently melted blue cheese slice on a thick burger with lettuce, cheese, and onion.

I bought the slice pack partly because of the photo and also to see if the cheese would actually live up in texture and shape. I was also curious to find out if the Danish blue slices tasted like the cheese sold in pre-packed chunks or fresh off the wheel. Would it be as sharp? Would it be too gooey or too hard? How would it hold up being maneuvered around in cooking?

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The final product!

Burger Blue is creamy tasting with a sharp bite and a slightly fruity flavor. It is a bright cheese, not at all brooding or overwhelming. The slices are separated by paper so that the sheets may be lifted to transfer a fairly intact slice of cheese to a burger. Although the slices broke when lifted, the pieces were sturdy enough to make the melting much easier than the rambling crumbles of blue off a wedge. The thickness of each slice is uniform and fairly easy to work with.

Elizabeth Bland
The Cheese Mistress
http://www.cheesemistress.com

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Quesito from Mi Casita

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Quesito la Finquita. It comes in a clam container so that it doesn’t loose its cushy texture.

Quesito (Colombiano) la Finquita is arguably the best queso fresco I have ever had comes from Mi Casita Colombiana in Bayonne, NJ. Although I adore aged cheeses, there is a special place in my heart for fresh (unaged) cheeses. White and young, these cheeses brighten the day, like a breath of fresh air for the palate.

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Jorge Guerra, chef and owner of Mi Casita Colombiana in Bayonne, NJ. Note the soccer game on TV!

Jorge Guerra, chef y dueño (chef and owner) brings Quesito in from Stanford, CT where his cousin, also Colombian, makes it fresh. It’s a simple cheese, but it’s so fresco, like a jar of milk. Unlike the grocery varieties vacuum packed for an unnaturally long shelf life, Quesito behaves as a young cheese should. Like milk, it is best within the first five days. This is a cheese meant to be eaten “in the now.” The texture is right in between that of a regular, firm queso fresco and a spoonable ricotta. It is soft and spongy with fluffy granules.

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Pandebono, straight out of the oven. It sits on the counter and you go pick yours out and have coffee at the bar. Each one is only $1.25. Can’t beat that!

Jorge shares my love of cheese. His menu offers many “con queso” dishes and appetizers: Platano Maduro con Queso (sweet fried plantain with cheese), Arepa con Queso (corn cakes), Aguapanela con Queso (cane sugar drink with cheese), and last but not least, small Colombian cheese breads, Pandebono and Buñuelos.

He bakes them fresh every day and seems very proud of them. He should be. They are excellent! Chewy, fluffy, hot, and cheesy, made with a young Colombian white cheese, like a very firm, tightly knitted queso fresco, different from Quesito.

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Early a.m. at Mi Casita Colombiana in Bayonne, NJ, gearing up for a busy Sunday.

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Colombian flag scooter inside the restaurant.

Quesito can be sliced, but it also gives way to a fork with ease. I like to eat it plain, especially when it is high quality like this Quesito, but it is good for fillings, too. It adds extra creaminess to shredded cheeses in Latin dishes. Try it in chiles rellenos, quesadillas, salads, pupusas de queso (cheese-stuffed tortillas), arepas con queso (corn cakes filled with cheese, but why not put extra on top?!), and more. Although it doesn’t exactly melt, I use it crumbled as a topping over anything and everything. It heats up nicely as a finishing cheese and keeps its shape. ¡Perfecto!

Mi Casita Colombiana offers antojitos (snacks), desayunos (breakfast foods), platos tipicos (traditional dishes), ensaladas, comidas rapidas (fast food, both American and Colombian style), sandwiches , pastries, and specialty drinks, non-alcoholic. Check it out!

Elizabeth Bland, The Cheese Mistress
http://www.cheesemistress.com

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Matzo Pizza at the Manischewitz Experience 2015

IMG_1643Manischewitz put on a 3-day free pop-up at Chelsea Market in NYC. The event featured recipe tastings, an interactive s’mores-making station, a chocolate fountain for macaroon dipping, a giant gumball machine that dispensed macaroons, and chef demos.

The only cheese on the premise was at the matzo pizza station.

At “Manni’s Pizzeria” (get it?), Manischewitz’s Thin Salted matzos served as the base for two types of pizza: IMG_1649Manni’s Margherita Matzo Pizza and Matzo Pizza with Pesto, Tomatoes, and Fresh Mozzarella.

IMG_1651As much as I begged and pleaded, I was only able to taste the pesto/tomatoes/fresh mozzarella pizza “Only one per person!” the server said. The pizza I tried was very good. It was made with shredded mozzarella. I liked the thin matzos because they were reminiscent of a thin crust pizza with softness on top from the sauce, and a bit of crunch underneath. The sauce, pesto, and hot melted cheese transformed a crisp, flaky cracker into a softer, more dough-like crust.

Of course I was curious about whose cheeses these were as I know a lot of people in kosher cheese. I asked the guy making the pizzas about the cheese, but he didn’t know as he was just there to cook.

NKmozzgroupBy chance, Chef Richard of Main Event Caterers of Englewood, NJ, had just come out of the curtained kitchen for a moment. I asked him about the cheeses and he invited me into the kitchen. The shredded low-moisture mozzarella was a blend of Natural & Kosher’s and Haolam’s, both cholov yisroel.

Next he showed me a box full of fresh mozzarella balls and I immediately recognized the Natural & Kosher label. This company puts out a line of excellent cheeses of all sorts.

I am sorry to have missed the Matzo Pizza Margherita, but I can make my own. Margherita pizza typically is made of fresh mozzarella, tomatoes, and basil. The red, green, and white of the ingredients represent the colors of the Italian flag. IMG_1662According to popular tradition, in 1889, 28 years after the unification of Italy, Queen Margherita made a visit to Naples. In her honor and in the spirit of new-found Italian patriotism, a pizza maker and his wife created a pizza to mirror the Italian flag, and named it Pizza Margherita. In this picture, there is a bucket of N&K’s fresh mozzarella sliced straight from the ovoline balls, ready to go on the matzo for the Pizza Margherita.

Get the matzo. Get the cheese and let Passover begin!

Elizabeth Bland, Cheese Mistress
http://www.cheesemistress.com

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Roumy Cheese from Egypt – Exotic “gebna” at your corner deli

roumypitaOne of Egypt’s most famous cheeses, Roumy, has become an international traveler; it has made a name for itself worldwide for its sharp, pungent flavor and ease of eating. Roumy is a hard cow’s milk cheese similar to Parmesan or Pecorino Romano, aged around 3 or 4 months. It is salty, with an undeniable pungency that is sometimes enhanced with peppercorns. Although Roumy (also spelled Roomi and Roumi) is a firm cheese that probably is suitable for grating, the wheels are typically cut into long, thin slices. This shape makes the cheese easy to eat inside a pita. Slice up some tomatoes and cucumbers, and you’re eating like an Egyptian!

roumy95The name “Roumy” means foreign, reportedly derived from “Roman.” The first time I tried Roumy, I didn’t know what to make of it. It came cut fresh, but packed on a plate of Styrofoam. It looked like lasagna noodles al dente with peppercorns. It was yellow, granular, and speckled with small openings of various shapes. The flavor was powerful and confusing to me, though it echoed familiar cheeses such as Italian Parmesan and Kefalotyri of Greece. I only tried the cheese on its own—not with any bread or vegetables.

Years later, I find myself in Bayonne, New Jersey. There are two Middle Eastern markets here since there is a large Egyptian community. One market is large. They sell Roumy off the wheel, sliced to your preference, but also vacuum packed slices that are thicker than I like.

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Nathan Abdelsayed and his daughter, Karen Abdelsayed. New Mid Town Market in Bayonne, New Jersey

My favorite market is small and cozy—New Mid Town Food Market. It is run by Nathan Abdelsayed who emigrated from Egypt in 1994. When I visited, I talked a lot about tasting cheese. His daughter Karen Abdelsayed had a great idea. “I know what you can do,” she said excitedly. “You can invite your friends over and blindfold them. Then give them each a plate with three cheeses. They have to guess what the cheeses are!” That is an original take on the concept of “blind tasting”!

IMG_0943At New Mid Town Market, the Roumy is right there at the counter, ready to be sliced to order. The slices Nathan cuts are the perfect thickness. Since this cheese is salty and strong, too thick of a slice would be overwhelming. Cheese straight off the wheel is the most flavorful. Also, it is more fun to chat with somebody friendly at the counter rather than buying a pre-packed product.

Now I have come to like Roumy, especially since I learned how it should be eaten. I tried it with the tomato for breakfast and it was delicious, as well as convenient. The cheese comes already sliced and ready to slip right into a pita pocket. Just add tomatoes and cucumbers, or whatever bright, fresh vegetable you prefer. Simple yet exotic.

Elizabeth Bland, Cheese Mistress
http://www.cheesemistress.com

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