Thursday, August 03, 2006

Fog and fennel fairy dust

Goat cheese is tart, crumbly, spreadable, perfect on a green salad, toasted on a steak, smothered in honey, envelopes a walnut with ease, a favorite companion to white wine, and one of my favorite kinds of cheese.

My sister, Carol, gave me my first taste of goat cheese. I was in college, and one holiday, I drove up to San Francisco to spend a couple of days with her. She bought some walnut bread, goat cheese and wine to share with friends in Berkeley. Thinking back, they were such bohemians, working in blue collar or entry level corporate work by day, then at night they'd tour the musical halls to play classic or jazz pieces for a pittance. They slept on hard (rock hard) beds, bookcases filled to the brim with philosophical tomes. And ate left wing, liberal food like goat cheese and free range eggs. With plonk no less. Although it was probably $2 plonk given their economic status at the time. For a 20-21 year old like me, it was sheer heaven. Entry into a more sophisticated lifestyle, with intense discussions about the meaning of life. Yada yada yada. But what has remained through the years hasn't been the intense loyalty to esoteric germanic philosophers (how do you spell Kierkegaard? or Schopenhauer? aiyayay), or crazed monotone fusion music. It's been my love for the chevre.

My first initiation to the cheese was smashing the white pillows of french goat cheese into a garlic rubbed salad bowl, blended into the olive oil and lemon drizzled salad, frisee and arugula when we had a bit more money to spend. Otherwise it was your plain romaine, made luxe with its accoutrements.

I learned how to incorporate the white crumbles into omelettes, mixed into tarts, eaten with a simple nut and honey, or when I get really lazy, tostado (toasted) in the oven over bread. Ok, I admit, most of the time, it's usually the latter.

Last night, I joined fellow cheese disciples and ate a whole lot of cheese. Imagine my joy at finding a whole set of different goat cheeses including what I believe to be the ultimate in American goat cheeses: Humboldt Fog. A lovely thick cut of cheese, halved by ash, and with a light ash rind. It's a creamier chevre, and the ash doesn't leave any bad after taste. Truly a magnificent piece of cheesemaking. The other cheese I discovered last night was called Purple Haze, a goat cheese (quite young and tart) dusted with fennel and lavendar. The fennel clouded the normally acid flavors of the cheese, perfuming the palate with a nutty afterglow.

What bliss to pair both the fog and fennel chevres with the lovely Fume Blanc we had from Robert Mondavi's Private Stock, 2004. Life is good.


Katrina said...

Okay, now I feel really bad for not joining you last night. A cheese called Purple Haze? How perfect is that for me?! ;-)

Mila Tan said...

Lol, there's always another month. Yes, you should definitely look for that goat cheese.

wysgal said...

I adored the Purple Haze with lavender and fennel ... the name alone makes we want to make it my favorite.

christine said...

I loved the purple haze too, like its name it was intoxicating! I kept going back to that and the Humboldt fog for more. Mila, thanks for inviting us, we had a great time! :)

Mila Tan said...

I'll send your thanks to Genevieve, who lets me tag along. Glad you guys got to go too. Hopefully, Katrina and Lori can make it the next time.

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