Sunday, August 29, 2010


I know Sacanova sounds like a Russian tennis player but it's not, it's a cheese. An aged Mahon to be precise. It comes from the island of Menorca with which I feel a particular affinity as my daughter-in-law comes from there. And I've eaten Mahon cheese before.

I didn't expect to find it in Waitrose and to be honest I wonder how much demand there is for it. It's nice enough but doesn't blow you away as much as you'd expect from an unpasteurised cheese, let alone one that's rubbed in olive oil and paprika. It's not particularly punchy or spicy - more like a semi-soft Scandinavian cheese with slightly more ooomph. The sort you'd have for breakfast or nibble with some Spanish ham.

The label describes it as having "a fudgy finish" which doesn't help much. It's certainly not like any fudge I've tasted. And I'm surprised they grade it as 6 in strength.

That said it's not expensive at £16.87 a kilo and it's mellowness would certainly make it an accommodating partner for red wine - I suggest an aged Spanish red like a Rioja reserva.

Friday, August 20, 2010

Home made halloumi

Not a recipe, I'm afraid just a revelation. Which is how much better homemade halloumi tastes than the mass-produced shop-bought version. As you'd expect.

I came across it in one of our most inventive local restaurants Flinty Red where the chef Matthew Williamson had decided to make his own, grill it and serve it with roasted tomatoes and a drizzle of olive oil (apologies for the blurry iPhone shot). It was absolutely delicious.

Needless to say there are loads of recipes on the net if you Google 'How to make halloumi' but I liked the look of this version from blogger Alessandra Zecchini which uses smaller quantities than most and includes step-by-step photographs of what the cheese should look like at each stage (though not all the recipes suggest brining it as this one does). Anyway it really doesn't look difficult.

Have any of you made halloumi and would like to comment?

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Beecher's Handmade Cheese, Seattle

Back at the beginning of my US trip which already seems like several months ago we spent a day in Seattle and, as you do, nosed around the Pike Place market. I can't say I liked it much - it's become too much of a tourist attraction rather than a place to buy great food but it does have a very clever cheese shop called Beecher's which has its own dairy thus underlining the company's boast that they sell 'handmade' cheese.

Their signature cheese Flagship is nothing to write home about to be honest. The standard version is like a rather dull medium-matured block cheddar but the way it's sold is nothing short of brilliant. The dairy runs down one side behind large plate glass windows (above) so you can see everything that's going on. (The cheese is sold from the other side and there's takeaway in the front including what they immodestly describe on the website as 'The World's Best Mac'n'Cheese'. You can even buy it frozen by overnight delivery if you live in the States.)

What I did like were the 'cheese curds', tubs of fresh cheese curds you can nibble as a snack - apparently known as 'squeaky cheese'. They suggest you can toss them with greens, combine them with pasta or use them as a pizza topping (some were flavoured with herbs and garlic and chipotle peppers). I also - unusually for me - liked their flavoured cheese which is called Marco Polo and contains peppercorns but found their 'Blank Slate' dessert cheese which is blended with honey a tad too sweet (I imagine I'd be in a minority there).

Also good were the packs of 'cheese papers' so that you can wrap your cheese back home like they do in the shop, books and other cheese paraphernalia. And their website's full of useful information about cheese styles, storing and serving cheese and what wine to pair with it.

They're apparently going to open a shop in New York next year. I'd love to see something similar in the UK.

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

More on the Oregon cheese scene

The main - and pretty well only - frustration about my recent trip to Oregon was not managing to get down to the Rogue Creamery, which makes one of America's best blue cheeses. (Though I did at least manage to taste some)

However I came across some other great cheeses including this beautiful looking ash coated goats' cheese called Sunset Bay from Rivers Edge. As you can see it has a line of smoked pimenton through the middle which didn't greatly affect the taste but made it look very exotic. And it had a wonderfully silky texture.

It was served rather beautifully by John D'Anna of Cristom winery on a marble slab with two other local cheeses: Adelle (bottom left) a rich bloomy rinded cow and sheeps' cheese from Ancient Heritage Dairy and Boerenkaas, a hard Dutch-style cheese from the Willamette Valley Dairy (top left). The fourth cheese - improbably - was English Yarg.

I was also gutted to be missing what looks like the ultimate cheese dinner - a collaboration between Quady North, the Oregon winery Anne Amie, Rogue and Tim Keller of the Carriage House at the Nunan Estate in Jacksonville. Here's the menu (just to make you equally green . . .):

Vella Asiago "Taffy"
Chamomile Pollen - Grapes - Raw Almonds & Black Pepper
Quady Winery Palomino Fino

Rogue Creamery Lavender Cheddar Cherry Apple Pizzetta
2009 Anne Amie Pinot Gris

Rogue Creamery Touvelle Cheese & Mushroom "Omelet" with Pommes Frits
2009 Annie Amie Riesling

First Course
Cypress Grove Purple Haze Chevre - Plain Curl of Chevre with Flower
2007 Anne Amie Prisme

Shaved Pholia Farm Hillis Peak & Duck Carpaccio - Pearl Onion - White Bean -Truffle Oil
2007 Anne Amie Pinot Noir

Second Course
Rogue Creamery Chocolate Stout - Mocha Poached Salmon with Grilled Corn & Cheese Risotto Cake
2007 Quady North 4-2 A Syrah

Grains of Paradise Crusted Lamb & Rogue Creamery Raw Milk Sharp Cheddar Tartlet
2006 Quady North Flagship Syrah

Fiscalini San Joaquin Gold Stuffed Filet Mignon with Smoked Blueberries - Allspice Foam
2008 Quady North Cabernet Franc

Rogue Creamery Caveman Blue Lemon Meringue Tart (Sounds totally wild! I can't imagine what this would taste like)
2009 Anne Amie Muller Thurgau

Rogue Creamery Oregonzola Plum Sponge Cake - Orange, Vanilla & Chocolate Covered Sunflower Seeds
2007 Quady Winery Elysium

It apparently takes place on August 19th.