I’m feeling cruddy today, so this post may not drip with as much sarcasm as the others. I picked up a box of crackers for a cheese plate at Whole Foods last night. My aunt was there and recommended Lesley Stowe’s Raincoast Crisps, and offered to get me a box with some St. Nectaire and a shiny Gala apple. Okay, twist my arm. The selection was vast and I was so enthralled by the crisps that I grabbed the most appealing box- salty date and almond. I vaguely remembered hearing something about the crackers being gluten-free. Continue reading “How to Make a Cheese Plate”
Woof. I mean, like, really, woof. Emphasis on the woof part. If you came to the site for the insightful commentary on food, history, charming personal anecdotes about DH and the kids, and artful photography, get the hell out. For the next three years, I’m going to be complaining about Connecticut, law school, gluten, and home decor!
For the remaining three of you, Mom included, you’ll be pleased to know that my roving bachelor lifestyle has allowed me plenty of time to cook and study in equal amounts. It was refreshing to come back from a study session after a beast of a contracts case in anticipation of the meal I’d planned for The Bedfellow and I. I’ve finally finished my first week of law school- just 150 more of them, and I’ll officially be an attorney. Cool, right?
On another note, I’ve been trying to find ways to cook and interact with this new change in diet. As of this moment, I’ve cut approximately 98% of gluten out of my diet. It’s really difficult, but the change is positive and just makes me feel much better than I’ve been feeling. I’ve tried to take a centrist approach to it, in that I’m not eating gluten unless I’m presented with something so incredible, ephemeral, and perfect that the benefits outweigh the risks. Then, I can work around the crippling headache, chills, itchiness, tightness in my skin, sweats, general fatigue, and muscle aches.
As a note, and for clarification, I don’t profess to have any official gluten allergy or celiac’s disease. I have not been diagnosed by a doctor, nor have I made any other significant changes other than realizing the issue at hand- namely, that when I eat gluten, my body feels awful almost immediately after. It’s as simple as that, and I’ve been working to alter my diet to reflect this new need. Don’t think that I’m not trying to resist it, either. I broke the other night and ate a cookie and paid for it in physical ramifications severe enough to force me to lie down for a few hours until they subsided. It’s hellish and strange, but I’m working through it. I won’t stop looking for the best brownie until I’ve exhaustively worked through the long list of gluten-free products. And you’ll still see plenty of gluten-ridden products on the website, but The Bedfellow will be tasting them and relaying her notes to me instead. This isn’t so bad. Hopefully, it will encourage me to make healthier changes, and the ensuing energy and good feelings will help me maintain them.
So, last night, I made us roasted chicken roulades with wasabi goat cheese and tart cherries. The recipe was easy, and came from an abundance of food in my new apartment. (Thanks, Mom and Dad!) I had a little round of chevre from Capri that I was excited to use, and The Bedfellow brought some powdered wasabi over. I pounded the chicken flat, and added the cherries, which I’d roasted with lemon salt and olive oil, to the cheese and stuffed the breasts with it. I roasted them in the juices leftover from the cherries, and topped them with wasabi powder and a little more lemon salt.
They were delicious, filling, and pleasantly spicy. This rambling, of course, is both to let you know that I haven’t overdosed on ramen noodles in a fit of panic with school, and also to announce Cookbook Week, which I’ll be starting next Friday. I have seven cookbooks, and I’ll be cooking a recipe from each, all gluten-free, to share with you and give you thoughts on my results. This one was my own, of course, but my trials and tribulations will be broadcasted as they come.
(Bonus GF Gratify pretzel and smoked almond chicken tenders with hot mustard pic!)
This forced socialization thing is hard. No, scratch that, it’s the worst. Hard is having to merge on a busy highway, or open a bag of Sun Chips quietly. This is DMV-levels of Millenial discomfort. With a lethal combination of a wheezy air conditioner, the worst internet connection ever, and no snacks, I’ve forced myself out of the house in my finest linen shirts and Birkenstocks to the comforting, suffocating embrace of a local coffeehouse. The internet thing is especially killing me. I can’t fully describe the sheer rage I feel toward DataJack, only that it combines the slow pain of walking on hot pavement with the rising force of anger I feel only when I read articles on Fox or see photos of other people eating pizza online, with the exception of the fact that I can no longer even read those articles or ogle those cheese drips, because photos load with a speed that makes dial-up look advanced.
So, now I’m here. I’m backed into a tiny corner with my back against some exposed brick and what looks to be a trendy reclaimed wood installation of mountains jutting from the wall. I have traded $4 and my dignity for an iced chai and have awkwardly negotiated the usage of an outlet so my aging HP can function. If one more person asks me to share a table, I might cry and start making a barrier with my laptop bag, French-English dictionary, and sunglasses case so I don’t have to see the raging trendiness in their eyes and the ensuing realization that the grown woman next to them is still hiccuping, twenty minutes later.
I tried to prepare myself for this in the best way that I could. Before I ventured out into public, I bought four boxes of macaroni and cheese and a package of toilet paper at Wal-Mart. As you may know, this exclusive set was nominated for a ‘Worst Combination Award’ at this year’s Retail Stars gala, and swept the category, closely tailed by ‘tampons and cat litter,’ and ‘any Eddie Murphy DVD’. Regardless, I brought home my bounty and am going to savor the ensuing reviews. Today’s antisocial special, brought to you by a dead childhood, is Goldfish Macaroni and Cheese Mac and Cheese Cheesy Pizza.
Admittedly, I was less excited about the flavor and more excited about the pasta- solid, thick, fish-shaped pieces? Sounds like orichiette for children, and I love me some tiny ears. Plus, my affinity for macaroni and cheese that tastes like snacks that taste like other snacks is still raging hard. The box title is ridiculous, the back of the box reminding me why I’m happy I don’t have an unpaid marketing internship, as it primarily details, in subtle comic form, the tragic, yet concisely gritty recounting of the murder and disembodiment of the protagonist’s peers before he, himself, is consumed. It’s like Quarantine, but for kids.
Alas, it wasn’t meant to be. I should have known when I saw the crudely-rendered pieces, shaped like rejected Pokemon pasta from the mid-2000’s, or smiling tennis rackets, destined to crumble under the relentless pressure of my spoon. Sixteen minutes to boil, coincidentally the amount of time I need to cry into my pillow, and they were done. A pugnacious herbaceousness. A faint whiff of dairy, from the last of my imported French butter, and a single, cheesy tear down my cheek. I needed no further motivation to leave the house.
I’m back stateside, as you might have guessed. It’s going to take me a few weeks to get back up to speed, but I promise to deliver you your semi-regularly, inconsistently scheduled programming as I desire. For now, a summary of some of the treats I ate in Puy-de-Dôme, a department of France where a friend of my father’s resides, in a small town called St. Florine.
Over the course of a very relaxing four days, the family pulled out all the stops and cooked a selection of some delicious regional specialties, starting with these lentils de Puy on my first night in town. The lentils were grown some 10km southwest of where we ate them, and the sausage was from a farmer down the road. They were tender and toothsome, with a sweeter flavor than red lentils.
For lunch the next day, S, the mom, made a roasted rabbit dish in a spicy mustard sauce. The French mustard is much spicier and intense than ours- think Dijon on steroids. Technically, this was more our dinner than lunch, because someone in the house (me) slept until three in the afternoon after a long and tenuous train ride through the countryside. Yes, I’m aware that my problems are damned stupid.
It was a one-two-punch meat day, because dinner, along with lapine leftovers, consisted of a fantastic roasted veal shank with tasty, garlicky bone marrow. Spread on pieces of hearty sourdough bread, it was a fantastic dinner and an even better midnight snack.
After every meal, we had coffee and chipped away at this massive cheese plate, replete with Comte, St. Nectaire, my personal favorite, Brie, and more.
In fact, later on in the week, I schlepped home my own wedge of fresh St. Nectaire, grassy and bovine, with a deep, bucolic flavor. Room temperature on bread with a little butter, nothing can beat it.
This is Raclette cheese. It’s a soft, springy cheese not unlike Gruyere, and it is so special that it breaks the French carnal rule of unitasking appliances. I mean, look at this beastly thing! Raclette is eaten with ham, sausage, bacon, smoked pork, more cheese, boiled potatoes, and cabbage, and is melted and cooked in…
This thing. Look at that. It’s like an Easy Bake Oven for your tabletop, and eight additional guests. The two bread-shaped halves of the oven are like inverted grills- they are sandwiched with space in between for eight individual frying pans, which the cheese is placed in along with any additional desired toppings, melted, poured directly over the meat or potatoes, and repeated. It is not uncommon for the typical voracious American dinner guest to consume upwards of twenty pieces of Raclette in one setting, and then cry.
Because it was January 6th, we ate a King’s Cake for dessert. King’s cakes in France are different from King’s cakes in the States. They are traditionally made with puff pastry and thick, unsweetened almond paste with a glaze on top. Like cakes back home, there are different fun prizes inside- I got one of them and got to wear the crown!
Happy New Year’s Eve. I thought it might be fun to ring in 2013 with this new, awful level of cheese fuckery. There hasn’t been this much tampering with lactose since the Nesquik bunny got arrested for coke possession in ’06. I’m not sure what to say about these. I think they speak for themselves. Apericube Limited Collector’s Edition Saveurs features four clever, awful flavors for all of your party-ruining needs. All of them. Truffle, grilled shrimp, blue cheese with nuts, and sweet spices await your poor, wretched tongue.
The package is classy and also larger than most Apericube commitments. 48 cubes is a lot of cheese for one person. On the package is a chance to win a trip to the Lapland region of Scandinavia, for skiing or something. In French, it’s “Laponie.”
I prefer to think that Apericube has come up with a whimsically branded term for winning a French pony. I may be clinically depressed. The package is also filled with all sorts of hyperspecific humor gems for enhancing your holidays with little flavored cheese cubes.
For instance: trivia and cheese ornaments? Ain’t nobody got time for that shit, I got partying and drinking to do, in a world where “partying and drinking” is synonymous to eating an entire pizza alone in your apartment with the soulful croons of Johnny Cash. 2013, you devil! Besides, why bother going out when I can subject my guests to the musky, most certainly artificial flavor of truffle, a $350 trendy tasting menu with truffles all over the place compressed into one cube? And who could forget the allure of grilled shrimp, the cheese that forgot the grill? Grilled shrimp, you taste and smell like wet cat food.
Moving down the line, we have the surprisingly inoffensive blue cheese and nuts, surprising as I am usually disgusted by blue cheese, so for this to be very, very removed from its original inspiration is a boon. It is also perfectly smooth. Nuts? Finally, we finish off 2012 with the enigmatic “epices douces,” which translates to “sweet spices.” Is it gingerbread? Gingerbread cheese? I wouldn’t put it past the criminal masterminds at Le Vache Qui Rit. Regardless, it tastes like cinnamon and crushed pink peppercorn.
None of these are very good.
Scratch all that effluvium from yesteryear about how Pernes’ website was the best website in the history of all websites. Maybe a 3D model would cut it- if this was 2002! (editor’s note: Can we calibrate a record scratch for each time someone silently mouths that to themselves? No? Well, screw you, me.) That information is now as obsolete as an iPhone 4 with a Crazy Frog app and Bing set as its homepage. That frog is dead to me! A new reigning champion has entered the scene of disposable allocation of revenue toward Flash-generated advertising campaigns: Bel’s Apéricube!
You know them from such family-friendly products like Babybel, The Laughing Cow, and rapping bull GIFs! Say whuuuuuuuh?! (editor’s note: Seriously, that record scratch is money, and you’re an asshole.) Allow me a brief pause to take you through the World of Laughter (yes) and introduce you to the 27 (yes) cows whose bodily fluids are responsible for the Apéricube Girl Party/Soirée Filles selection I’m about to review for you today. (yes, and I’m sorry in advance.)
We start with an agonizingly long wait, presumably while all the freelance website designers of the world collectively sob into their shirts, and are amused by a hot vat of cheese precariously tilting while we wait. Protip: it never falls, which is good? Ish? Once we’re securely in the world of cows, greeted by ominous lowing and prefabricated bird sounds, we meet this guy like eight times and he progressively haunts my nightmares.
Rappe-T, or as he’s known on the street, Mayor McSleaze, has an extensive bio, and as a result of reading it, I now know more about him than I do about our current president. Sorry, Barack, but have you released a hit single with MC Rosbif? Didn’t think so. So, anyway, this guy exists and raps and apparently, also makes cheese while upsetting real live people on the real live bus and referencing “Twitter” and “blog” with the same apprehension that my grandmother has when she uses her iPad.
On to the review! Apéricube manages to accurately capture what women like to put in their mouths more accurately than any romantic comedy or yoghurt commercial ever will with their Soirée Filles line: fried seafood, fire-roasted vegetables, and goat cheese, all in soft cheese form. Where my Cosmo cheese cube at, Apéricube!? And they throw in trivia to boot. I will admit a brief moment of intense nostalgia for these. Apéricube existed briefly in the States where, like most delicious foods from the 90’s, they moved quietly to Europe once boy bands started being classified as “a thing.” I ate them as a child and now I am warily writing about them as an adult.
The trivia questions are about as much fun as you could make the timeless experience of squinting to read gooey, cheese-covered facts about sports teams and prime ministers. Fun fact: Two out of three trivia questions are cut off by the packaging. Want to know which sport Axel Pons plays? Well, too bad. You’ll just have to Wikipedia that shit like I did. Uh, well played, Apéricube.
The cubes are smooth in texture. Starting from least offensive to terrifying future food: chevre is unsurprisingly innocuous. Chalky, goaty, and forgettable with the remarkable consistency of toothpaste. Soon! The vibrantly-colored fire-roasted vegetables fares much better, with a surprisingly deep smokiness and lingering paprika and red pepper aftertaste. Definitely something I would toss in an omelette to give it an element of surprise and dairy.
And now, the wild card. The Charlie Sheen of cheese. Why would anyone want to make fried scallops into a cheese flavor? Poêlée de Saint-Jacques is a classic French dish that apparently, the French hate enough to immortalize in soft cheese form. I spat this one out because it was repulsive. It was too close in color and texture to raw scallops to not make it a creepy experience. And it tasted just like them, too, with the beery flavor of fried batter and an oniony aftertaste. Basically, the only cheese-like thing that remained was the creamy texture.
Well, that was awful. Until next time, my compatriots, when I review such dainties such as the Man Party, featuring pizza-flavored cheese, tuna-flavored cheese, and ham ‘n’ olive-flavored cheese. No, wait, that’s not true, because I am not self-destructive. I am done with this noise. Peace out, Rappe-T. Godspeed to you and your pile of lady cows. Farewell, Girl Party. You were the sparkliest, and now you shall hold my hair ties for eternity.
Ladies? I hear he has an OKCupid account!
We don’t have a TV. Trust me, it’s better off that way. It’s a dangerous habit to ease into the swelling waters of bayou billionaires and extravagant birthday parties. There are a few shows I love the concepts of, though, like Chopped. It’s fun to think of what a random combination of ingredients could be incorporated into a dish and how the flavors could come out in any number of ways. I did my own miniature version of Chopped the other night, using some fun ingredients I’ve received over the last few weeks. Without further ado, here are my Three Pepper Smoked Turkey Sliders en Papillote.
I came up with this idea in part in homage to a classic Connecticut treat, steamed burgers, and also as a result of having some spectacular spicy ingredients around the house. I received some spice-infused salts in the mail from The Spice Lab a few weeks ago, and picked up some fantastic Cypress Grove peppered goat cheese and parchment bags from PaperChef at the Fancy Food Show that I’d been dying to use. These sliders are small, but they’re packed with flavor and are moist and tender from steaming in the oven.
Three Pepper Smoked Turkey Sliders en Papillote
Ingredients (makes 8 sliders)
8 slider rolls
1/2 lb ground turkey
1/2 onion, thinly sliced
1 jalapeno, minced
1 pimento pepper, minced
1 habanero pepper, minced
1/2 teaspoon of smoked sea salt (smoked jalapeno salt found here)
1/2 teaspoon of olive oil
1/2 round of goat cheese, approximately two ounces
1. Chop and prepare your ingredients. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Mix the salt, sliced onion, and half of the peppers together. Toss with oil.
2. Mix the remaining peppers into the ground turkey and shape into eight small sliders, roughly 1/8th of a pound apiece.
3. Layer the onions and peppers on the bottom of the parchment bag in a single layer, evenly distributing the ingredients. Place the patties on top with a blob of goat cheese and seal the bag tightly, crimping the edges over twice to ensure that it doesn’t open while cooking.
4. Bake for 15-20 minutes. Let the burgers cool for five minutes, and open the bag from the top. Spoon burgers and onions onto buns and devour!
We served these with a cantaloupe basil agua fresca, a drink we’ve enjoyed before. It was a really refreshing treat and definitely quenched the heat these baby burgers brought! Even if the ghetto three-hour fresca drip and Death Star melon husk (pictured below) didn’t quite work out.
I’m excited to experiment with parchment bags more. Have you tried out any other interesting recipes with these? I want to go past the ubiquitous steamed salmon and asparagus. What else do you think would be fun to steam in the oven?
I’m in college, but I’m not Van Wilder, so now is the time when the academic system starts anxiously tapping her toes, looking at the clock on the wall and asking the perpetually unanswered question: so, what are you going to do for the rest of your life? I’ve mentioned here that I want to study law. As a result of the relentless eyes of the system on my back, I’ve been face-deep in the LSAT instead of face-deep in cupcakes and puppies as I would personally have it and have started applying all the LSAT theories to the meaningless details of my life. Believe me, you know you’re not making any friends when you start accusing your own grandmother of denying the premise fallacy every time she draws a connection between Clinton and the aliens. In the arguments section of the LSAT, there is a tool called the transitive property, which basically gives the conclusion that if A is true in relation to B, and that B is true in relation to C, we can conclude that because A is true, C is also true.
This crossed my mind while I was eating these cheese poofs from Herr’s today. I know, I’m a freaking savant. A large box of these came in the mail a while ago and I’ve been whittling down my supply in moments of sheer anxiety, because nothing says professional like a sweating hand covered in cheese dust. While eating the delicious tubes, the following occurred to me: Out of the 889 posts I’ve written in the past few years, there has been a trend. If I review a food that supposedly imitates another food, I am judging it based on its successful resemblance to both products. If it successfully resembles both products, I will give it a good rating. But what if a product resembles neither of its two forms yet is still freaking awesome? The moral of the story, of course, is that it’s incredibly silly to presuppose a working theory onto a freaking cheese puff review.
Regardless, this product scientifically contains all of the components that are designed and curved to tickle my pleasure enhancers. Buffalo sauce diluted to a powdery, sticky form, the flavor of blue cheese without the nasty texture and moldiness of blue cheese, and an incredibly soft, yielding texture like a crunchy memory foam pillow. I quite enjoyed these. With an addictive texture and crammable shape, they made for a unique twist on a traditional snack that could accompany a sandwich without taking away the attention.
However, I didn’t feel like the buffalo flavor was distinct enough to pick it out of a lineup of other generic sauces. The blue cheese was softened in flavor enough to take some of the harsh tanginess out, also a good sign. Although one package contains 10 grams of fat and 15% of your daily sodium, I can’t resist eating a few now and then and saving the rest for later. Their front and forward saltiness makes it satisfying to just eat a few.
Did it remind me of buffalo wings? Not at all. Did it remind me of cheese curls? Barely. By all definitions, it was a failure of my transitive property argument. It was still a spectacular snack, though, and one that I’d get again if I just wanted something a little strange. Besides, it beats studying for the LSAT at a crowded bar, over a plate of questionable chicken wings.
Ugh, I just had a grilled cheese explosion all over my sweatpants. Too much? Perhaps. One might even call it…wait for it…cheesy. I’d personally call it a gloopy, room temperature mess. Welcome to our fifth day of Gross Week, readers. Here’s the Kraft Macaroni and Cheese Grilled Cheese Explosion, brought to you by bewildered kittens! Hold your horses, adult baby fetishizers– this is so easy you won’t have to have your aging mom make it for you.
How many different ways can companies try to shuffle around cheese, anyway? Seeing asiago Cheetos and camembert Easy Cheez just bothers me. It all tastes like the basic, vaguely tangy saltfest we all know and love. I’m not quite eager to whip out a bag of ten-year old vintage Ritz Bits with aged cheddar, if you know what I mean. So the Kraft Grilled Cheese Explosion, now with 100% more splooging on the package, eschews the familiar elbow macaroni format for little ditalini noodles. All the better to hold you with, I suppose. These looked appetizing dry but took on a translucent, slippery quality unlike any pasta I’ve had recently. It definitely wasn’t how I remembered eating it as a child.The directions for Kraft’s mac and cheese have also changed, in no part due to their stellar legal team fighting the obesity crisis. What used to be the “light” instructions in small print on the bottom of the box has now replaced the classic preparation and has cut the butter and milk in half. Of course, this doesn’t hinder you from adding a half stick of butter rather than a half tablespoon as I did as a child, but does try to detract and sort of screws with the ratios of the proper sauce mixture. When mixed, the entire pot of pasta seizes up unpleasantly instead of melting into a nice sauce, and the cheese powder never quite loses its grainy texture. I was surprised at how large the individual grains of powder were- they were more corrugated and crystallized than the fine powder of yore but surprisingly flavorless.
Despite smelling sharp, like actual cheddar, the only noticeable flavor was incredibly offputting, reeking of salt and butter, and not just the butter I added. It had more of a fake butter quality to it, making it more appropriately flavored as “$9 movie theatre popcorn” and had a clumpy, weirdly thick texture. Even after adding more than the recommended amount of milk, the sauce separated in some parts and seized in others, leaving each spoonful half-full of milky, runny sauce and half-full of chunks of undissolved powder.
As much as I love macaroni and cheese, this was inedible. Add its poor flavor to the confusing fact that there are two more of these “cheese explosion” varieties and you have a god-awful tasting menu. I don’t understand how Kraft’s menu team translated grilled cheese to a butter-on-butter sleazefest, but there you have it. Even piling a bit on top of a homemade nugget with some hot sauce like a cheap wedding appetizer didn’t help it. It was a veritable onslaught of hypertension crammed into small tubes.
Holy cow, we’re back in the hotel. We made it through pouring rain, boring people, and roaring reporters. And readers? It was a fantastic exhibition. Honestly. If last year’s Fancy Food Show was a smashing success, this one is easily twice as good. If you’re around tomorrow, we highly suggest you attend. It’s totally worth it. Special thanks to Louise Kramer for facilitating our press badges and making sure we were happy and enjoying the show.
GTL stands for grenache, tamarind, and limoncello, ya n00b.
Washington, DC is a beautiful place with beautiful people and wonderful memories. We’re proud to have been a part of this year’s Summer Fancy Food Show and are definitely coming back next year, hopefully with Miss Love. Thanks again to everyone who facilitated and cheered us on, including, but not limited to, Keepitcoming Love, my mother, Rodzilla, FF, the Dalai Lama, Louise Kramer, Kristine Heine of Global Communicators, and anyone else who let us in or pointed us on our way. This is just the beginning of many wonderful experiences with both Foodette Reviews and Fighting Varietal.
See you next year! We’re sad to go!
Don’t leave just yet, because tomorrow we’re going to recap our two events from today, an epic olive oil tasting and prosecco drinking with the one and only Bill Marsano and dinner at the Embassy. We’re heading home tomorrow with treats in tow! This definitely isn’t the last you’ll be hearing of the Fancy Food Show…