MSU – Artisan Cheesemaking class with Peter Dixon: Day 3

Last Day. Feels like I’m just getting to know everyone.

We started the day making mozzarella. Goat – did not turn out. Bummer. Cow – came together nicely! We pulled and formed, and Peter showed us how to braid. If we had someone in the class who could make balloon animals, we could’ve gotten really crazy.

Flavoring the Fromage Blanc and Chevre was next. Some cheesemakers brought fresh herbs, spices, fruit, honey, mint, nuts.. the combinations were nice. I especially liked a cherry walnut chevre and a fresh bluberry chevre. Fresh chive was another that turned out nice.  Actually, I can’t think of a combo that didn’t turn out nice. I opted to keep mine unflavored and bring it home.  A trip to the market is in the future, thinking fig and aged balsamic with some chevre.

The last afternoon of class we discussed more detail about brining, went in to affinage, talked about business plans and ended with sanitation.

Three days with Peter Dixon and MSU was a fantastic experience. To be able to listen and watch someone with so much experience and just inherent ability is a treat. The amount of information we covered was incredible and I’m hoping that my retention is more than less. Maybe I should put in ear plugs so it doesn’t leak out of my brain.

Great experience. Glad I went.

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MSU-Artisan Cheesemaking with Peter Dixon: Day 2

Day 2 “Sillies” settle in…

Run away cheese cube on a cart, breaking equipment (oops),  nuns in the creamery, accidental drenching of peer with hose, mention of “my armpits are dry now”, an overheard and misheard comment turned into “did you say dead chickens”.. (had to be there), and general 2nd day goofiness.

Today we ladled our Fromage Blanc and Chevre into our clothes and hung them to drain. Everyone is looking forward to flavoring them tomorrow!!

On to making a goat Gouda and a cow Asiago. Ready set… GO! It was like being on a game show to see which “team” was cheesing it the best. (I was on the Gouda team, so I’m partial). It was interesting to see Peter at work. Half “winging it”, half actually measuring… he was honing is inner Obi-Wan and like a Jedi using the Force, we have cheese!

I especially enjoyed stirring the curd by hand. It needs to be patented as a specialty manicure. My hands have never been so smooth. When talks of taking our shoes of and getting all “Lucy” in the curds and whey, I think we had inhaled a little too much milk steam…. and then naming it Stinky Feet Cheese.. well, again 2nd day sillies.

We molded our cheeses.. and in the middle of all of the cheesemaking craziness started our ricotta. I saw the second batch being started and I was amazed at how simple it really did seem. There was a smoked pan liner that we used to set the ricotta pans in, so it would pick up some smokiness. Campfire Ricotta, how about that?

And let’s talk about the nuns for a sec. Peter told us a story during morning lecture about the Cheese Nun (Sister Noella Marcellino) and her doctorate in microbiology, taking samples from caves all around France. Fascinating story really. So when two nuns arrived during our ricotta making, I think it was  a sign from above! Everyone in this class will have fromage success. Yes!

After class we gathered for a cheese tasting. Peter brought Consider Bardwell’s Manchester, Dorset and Pawlet. I was excited about the Pawlet since that’s one I haven’t tasted yet. MSU show-cased their cheeses, Dagano was my favorite. We tasted the cheeses that the previous classes made, not bad. And the aspiring cheesemakers in the class brought their own home-made fromages and accoutrements. It was a yummy evening.

Looking forward to a good night’s sleep.

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MSU – Artisan Cheesemaking with Peter Dixon: Day 1

Were to begin! The group is definitely an eclectic mix of people. Family farmers, newbie cheesemaker, dairy operators, restaurateurs, I own a goat so let’s do it and see where it goes people, cheesemongers in training, retailers getting better understanding.

There was definitely a hippie vibe happening; I would gladly spend  my night drinking a cold tall brew and singing karaoke with the bunch. Just a really laid back motley crue.

We covered so much of the essential basics of cheesemaking today, like a chemistry crash course on why cheesemakers are just crazy enough to do it! I’m glad I am only looking to retail the heroic effort.

Peter Dixon is virtually a walking encyclopedia of “how to”. His brain so full with info that the rogueness of his training can completely be appreciated. Experience abounds and there was no lack of conversation… on any topic.

For me – this is starting to ge into  the technical and chemistry parts of the cheesemaking that I think is invaluable to a retailer. Hey – I need to understand what I’m selling. And plus, it builds a better understanding and partnership between cheesemaker and cheesemonger.

There seems to be a lot of nice networking opportunities. Never can have too many.

We’ll see what tomorrow holds for us….  finish setting our goat cheese and fromage blanc!

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When will cheese get respect???

If cheese plates are more often than not paired with a wine flight… when will the cheese get the respect it deserves?

Is it because the general public is more familiar with  the Sommelier than the Fromager? If they are going to be put together to complement each other, shouldn’t there be equal billing?

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Holiday Market field trip

My big morning outing to Holiday Market to purchase some cheese while the boys were at swim class. These little cheese jaunts are becoming more and more entertaining. (I think I like people watching at grocery stores… weird?)

Let me first state that the cheese island at HM is so much better maintained the WF. Like day and night. Two ladies were diligently asking every customer that even passed a glance at the case if they needed assistance. That was nice to see.

As I was perusing to find an Ossau-Iraty style cheese and a Mahon, on of the ladies asked me, if I needed help. I just asked how often the cut and packaged the cheeses on display and she said “Every few days”, and when I asked if pieces could be cut to order off the wheel…. she said “If there aren’t some already cut we can do that.”

OK.. again, I’m finding it strange that I can’t get a fresh piece cut from a wheel if requested. Maybe I needed to be a little more assertive. Just didn’t have it in me.

The other gal asked me too if I needed help a couple minutes later (she was with someone else and didn’t see me talking to the first lady). She was putting out new pieces of cheeses of various types.

I asked her too… how often to they rotate the stock and she was much more informative. She said they peruse the case every morning and re-wrap cheeses every 2 days, cutting off any exterior paste and assessing the quality. Whew – I felt much better about grabbing the pre-wrapped nuggets. I think her name was Caroline – I tried looking at her name tags without it seeming like I was staring at her boobs.

She also offered me a taste of a french double cream that was not yet on display. Yum!

I do wish HM had the detailed labels that WF offers… mine will rock!

Keeping the tastings going, trying to solidify a name (Cheese Crave has taken over Fromage du Lierre), need to file my LLC, logo, networking, business plan, investors, store front, whew!

Looking forward to my cheesemaking class with Peter Dixon class at MSU!

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Sheri LaVigne of The Calf and Kid is awesome

Belated post…

I had an absolutely fabulous talk with Sheri last Wednesday.  She was very straight forward with everything that she has gone through to get to the point of launching her store.

She gave me invaluable insights and much needed advice. It was certainly a huge relief and definately an inspiration. And as she pointed out “why re-invent the wheel when you can just pay it forward”… Wouldn’t the world be fab if everyone had that mentality.

It was a breath of fresh air to have someone who has gone through all the little headaches just say it how it is and what she would’ve done differently. I’m hoping this honest no-bones quality is not the exception but the norm in the small specialty retail communties.

I guess I can’t really verbalize everything that I got from our talk and the true inspration one can get from someone who has a dream turning into a reality.

In short.. You rock Sheri!!
Wishing The Calf and Kid much success!

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Cheese tasting with hubby

So I decided to have a nice cheese tasting with the Hubby on Friday night… nice little romantic date night… and also get his impressions of the cheeses to see how they compared to mine.

Now, for anyone who knows my wonderful Jon, knows that in the lightening fastness that he actually consumes his food…. the likely hood of him actually tasting anything are usually around 50%. I explain the basics of cheese tastings… not giving him any info about the cheese first.. and wait for his first impression.

However my favorite one was this observation:

River’s Edge Chevre: Up in Smoke

Me: Ok, all I want is a visual. Tell me when you look at this, how would you describe it.

……….after several seconds of pause and contemplation

Jon: Mother Earth’s perfect little turd.

Nice! haha!  Not EXACTLY the insightful description I was looking for.

Oh Jon, I do love you!

It really is this perfect little puck wrapped in dark chocolate and auburn smoked leaves and the stark white of the fresh goat cheese is undeniably beautiful…. so although not reminicent of a turd to me.. I understood what he was trying to say, and he did say it with all seriousness and respect for the cheese.

It’s in my top 5 !

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Murray’s Cheese shipment just arrived!

Murray’s Cheese shipment just arrived! My highly anticipated shipment from Murray’s has just arrived! I’m really excited to try the awesome cheese selection and make some comparisons. Even just opening the box, you could tell that the quality and care is far superior to the miserable little bites I’ve sampled so far from my Whole Foods expedition. Every piece precisely packaged in the famous Murray’s cheese paper (not plastic!). So expertly done that I don’t want to undo the wrapping for fear that when I re-packed it will be just ugly (ok, maybe too much pressure from the always wanting to be able expertly wrap Christmas gifts). My adventure will include: Rivers Edge Chevre: Up in Smoke Sweet Grass Dairy: Green Hill Tomme de Savoie Jasper Hill Farm: Bayley Hazen Blue Cabot: Clothbound Cheddar Consider Bardwell: Manchester (in anticipation of my cheesemaking class with Peter Dixon) Sweet Grass Dairy: Asher Blue Consider Bardwell: Dorset Can’t wait to start this afternoon with tasting notes. Duly preparing for my Friday night cheese tasting and wine pairing on date night with the hubby!

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The Great Whole Foods field trip

I was completely happy with the non-educated help I received at Whole Foods. (since they boast knowledgeable staff)

A nice lady, middle age, sandy brown hair, pleasant smile working behind the cheese case offered her services if I had any questions. I thanked her and said I might have a few.

The case is what I’d expect to see at a deli, maybe small specialty shop. Cheeses collected by type of milk, country and “special of the week”. All cut into some semblance of uniformity but wrapped to death in saran-wrap. I asked Ms. Nice-lady if she could tell me which goat cheese was the youngest, the freshest. She proudly walked me around to the front of the case and handed me a goat cheese that she had “just cut” that day!! She was so proud of herself and happily paged the manager for further consult. When I asked the Mr. Wants-to-know-the-answer manager how long the cheese aged…and I said a few weeks, a couple months.. he proudly agreed “Yes, 2 months”! He did offer to show me to Zingerman’s offerings (since they would be the closest creamery I suppose) and unfortunately no option (not even a cream cheese) was avaialable.

And when I brought to her attention that the Cyprus Gold – Humboldt Fog was mislabeled as a Roth Kase – Mezzaluna (gorgonzola), She had to re-lable and re-price the whole wheel and pieces. **I mean, even in my infancy here trying to acquire local cheese legacy, I recognized that immediately** She thanked me for bringing it to her attention because she could “get in trouble,” and to please let her know if I “found anymore mistakes.”


All in all – Glad I went to see what it was all about…… But NOT feeling satisfied with service, which I was completely expecting to be.

I guess I was anticipating walking in with my little index of questions in my brain and being blown away by all of the knowledge and love for the cheese they peddle.

So can the little girl take on a local large “all knowing” retailer? Yep, I’m ready – Bring it!

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Leaving my full-time marketing job in December was the best thing for all of mankind. It was bad, a good bad in a weird way because if it had never gotten so awful in the first place, I would’ve never gotten pushed enough to leave.
… and leave I did…. and it was great.

I was then stuck with the nagging question about what to be when I grew up. I always wanted a shop, but what type of shop. I pulled out the massive library of cookbooks I have. Pretty ones, ugly ones, free ones, ones you get as gifts you hate… and in this cookbook clean up (by the way, I always read the cookbooks, just never made anything from them)found inspiration.

AHA! A Saveur issue from April 2005. The Cheese issue. I could never let it go. Survived two moves and endless repacking… but I still had it! I remember that the articles about the Artisnal cheesemakers fascinated me and I loved their passion….

and then lookingback at my feebel attempts to have cheese parties that were disasterous. What HUGE block of midgrade Cheddar from Meijer can I cut up and serve with cashews and White Zin… really???

But then the cheese cart in Luxumbourg was divine! Changed my novice cheese eyes forever, Beautiful, smelly, meticulously arranged. It took my breath away. And since then, any high end restauant we go to.. it has to be cheese plate or else…

So then I started doing research in the Metro-Detroit area, and we are sadly remiss of anything resembling the fromageries of the east or west coast…. WHY?? I don’t get it. Now that the Artisan movement is in full swing, why are we still going to a cheese case with poorly cut and packaged cheeses. THIS MUST BE FIXED

ok tomorrow, one more step to Detroit’s glory in the artisnal cheese movement.

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