Olio Nuovo è arrivato

This week we received our annual shipment of Olio Nuovo from Italy.  Olio Nuovo is the fresh new olive oil of the season, pressed just a few weeks ago between mid-October and Thanksgiving.  This super fresh oil is quite intense, a little cloudy, bold and peppery.

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In the northern hemisphere olive harvests happen in autumn, typically sometime between late September and December.  If you live here in the San Francisco Bay Area you may have noticed folks harvesting olives in the parks and along the sidewalks as olive trees have become more popular as foliage here over the years.  So each year as the year comes to a close the fresh oil is pressed and stored for shipment later in the new year. Typically we start to see the new season oils in the late spring and early summer of the next year. This time is necessary for the oil to settle and mellow a bit, and for the previous years oil to sell through.  Often the oil may be filtered and either bottled or kept in the tank until time for packaging and shipment.

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Olio Nuovo is not allowed to sit and mellow.  It is the freshest, brightest expression of the olive fruit; unfiltered, cloudy, with bits of olives and leaves, and bursting with flavor and aroma.  Olio Nuovo is meant to be consumed quickly, and if you lived in Italy you might pour it over everything for the next couple of months – raw veggies, slow cooked beans, grilled meats, mozzarella, ice cream, pasta, and toasted bread with a pinch of salt.

We have 3 Olio Nuovi from Italy this year:

Tenuta de Capezzana from Tuscany – Beautiful lime green color, scents of green apples and fresh-cut grass. Lovely, velvety texture with a very full, clean flavor of olives, green tea and a delightful peppery finish. A mouthful.

Filippo Contini Bonacossi comments on the 2012 Capezzana Harvest:  “I am very satisfied with the quality of this year’s oil; it has not been this good in years!  The olives appear beautiful, with good pulp, and a level of anticipated maturation, in fact, the ripening began in early October”.

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Olio Verde from Sicily (made from San Francisco’s favorite Castelvetrano Olive) – Dark olive, sage leaf, almost military green color with strong golden highlights, full of Sicilian sunshine. Rich notes of freshly cut grass, artichokes, tomato skin and aromas of banana peel. Strong olive fruit and white pepper flavors. Rich, velvety texture enfolds a well-balanced spiciness which kicks back at the end. OUR BEST VALUE!

Frescobaldi Laudemio from Tuscany – Absynthe, vibrant esmerald deep green.  Rich aromas of artichoke, leafy greens, asparagus and black pepper, as when present in a frantoio when the oil is being pressed. Flavors of freshly sliced artichokes with a noticeable bitter spicy finish typical of Tuscany which will awaken all your tastebuds. 

Lamberto Frescobaldi says about the 2012 harvest: 2012: what a great year for Laudemio! I don’t recall such a vibrant, rich aromatic Laudemio . For our great wines, we look for low yields instead for a great Laudemio we hope for a generous crop of olives . The reason is simple: a considerable amount of olives makes them mature more slowly and remain smaller, thus the aromas are more concentrate and the colour is greener.  We had the right amount of rain in Spring and early Summer, then a terrifically hot dry summer. From October onwards we monitored the olives and we started picking on the 20th, almost the same date as of last 3 years. Picking and pressing within few hours is one of the secrets of our quality.

A side note…  About 10 years ago I was in Italy with a group of friends staying in an old farmhouse on the Capezzana property situated between olive trees and vineyards near Carmignano, outside Firenze.  One morning I awoke to the sound of tractors and excited Italians – the olive harvest was happening outside my window.  I watched as multiple generations of the family spread out large nets below the trees, and shook the trees vigorously forcing the olives to fall to the ground.  I thought to myself simultaneously – wow, how cool, and oh boy, that’s a lot of work!  Unfortunately, it was our last day in Italy and I never had an opportunity to know more about those olives… I always think of that day when we receive our Nuovo Olio.

Now’s the time to get a bottle of Olio Nuovo as we will sell out quickly.  The Frescobaldi Laudemio comes in a nice gift box perfect as a stocking stuffer!

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Rancho Gordo Beans

We just received a shipment of dried beans from Rancho Gordo in Napa.  On Saturday I cooked a package of Rancho Gordo Flageolet beans at the store and sampled them throughout the afternoon.  The recipe/technique was dead simple – just soaked them overnight, and the next day I cooked them at a soft boil/simmer for about an hour.  Simply seasoned with red onion, bayleaf, and a little dried Italian seasoning we had available.  Once tender, I seasoned them with salt, a good dash of sherry vinegar, and a little Cappezzana nuovo olive oil we had on hand.  At home I might have seasoned them further with Pancetta, or maybe even serving them with Confit Duck Leg.

In addition to dried beans, we also received dried hominy, popping corn, and New Mexico chile powder from Rancho Gordo.  I was so inspired by the beans we prepared on Saturday that I brought home a bag of dried hominy to cook for my Sunday dinner at home the next day.  When I was a kid we ate hominy regularly.  Where I’m from it’s quite common, but in our house the hominy was always from a can.  My dad liked to cook it with lots of butter (margarine actually), and I liked to mix it in my mashed potatoes 🙂  Initially I was thinking to make Posole, or maybe a green chile stew with hominy, but I ended up making a “kitchen sink” hominy stew instead.

I soaked the hominy in water before going to bed.  Like many dried grains, it plumped overnight to about double.  The next morning I drained the water, and added fresh water to the pot.  I brought the hominy to a boil, and lowered the heat all the way and let it simmer for a couple of hours.  The hominy doubled in size again, and became soft yet chewy in texture.  To make the stew, I browned a couple of slices of Pancetta we had in the fridge, and sweated chopped white onion with a crushed garlic clove, mexican oregano, thyme, and bayleaf.  I deglazed with white wine, and filled the pan with chopped kale, coarse chopped carrots and fingerling potatoes, a bone in chicken leg quarter, the cooked hominy, and topped it with stock.  After about an hour of gentle simmering I removed the chicken and bay leaf, shredded the chicken and returned it to the pot, and seasoned the stock with salt, cayenne, and sherry vinegar.  Oh, and I chopped a little cilantro for garnish in the bowl at serving.  We ate the stew with bread, and Manchego cheese.  It was delicious.  Leftovers will be even better!

Hominy Stew

  • 1/2 cup dried hominy
  • white onion
  • kale
  • garlic
  • carrots
  • potatoes
  • bone in chicken thigh(s) or breast(s)
  • mexican oregano
  • thyme
  • bayleaf
  • cayenne pepper
  • stock – veggie, chicken, veal – it’s all good
  • options – pancetta or bacon to build the base; cilantro, parsley, or chives for garnish

Enjoy!

-Ray

Cazelle St. Affrique

A soft dense sheep cheese from the region near Roquefort in France.  We like to think of it as a sheep milk Crottin, all soft and wrinkled with a sweet milky layer of cream near the rind and a smooth dense interior.

A cazelle is a stone hut created centuries ago to shelter the shepherds from storms and is small, round and squatty.  Herve Mons, our favorite French Affineur, named this disks after these squatty stone huts.

St. Affrique is a town located a few miles above Roquefort, and is the center for Roquefort production. The farms along the Midi-Pyrénées provide fresh raw sheep milk for the production of Roquefort and a few regional favorites such as Perail and our Pick o’ the Week – Cazelle St. Affrique.

Under that wild wrinkly rind you’ll find a sweet, nutty, butterball of cheese.  All the richness we love from sheep milk matched with a little tartness and gentle salty notes.  Spread this baby on a crusty Acme baguette and drizzle with a touch of your finest olive oil, and you’re in heaven!  Match with a rich Chardonnay such as our favorite Macon-Charnay from Manciat-Poncet, or Keller Estate’s Oro de Plato; or maybe a great Rosé like Verdad from Edna Valley or Domaine de Beaupré from Provence.

Valentine’s Day

Sensual and sensational, Valentine’s Day is a cheese lovers holiday. Here’s the set up – you and your sweetheart alone by the fire, a platter of cheese, a bottle of bubbly, Chocolate Strawberries – you get the picture!

Here are a few of our favorite Valentine’s Day Cheese in stock this weekend:
La Tur – Creamy and rich Italian Cow, Goat, and Sheep blend to match with Strawberries and Champagne
Tomme du Chevre du Grandmere – Grandma’s Traditional Goat “Cheese Cake”. Simply scrumptious in a Frisée salad, or matched with Sour Orange Preserves
Tasmanian Signature Camembert – A new selection at the Plus. Sweet and creamy. Perfect for licking off fingers
St. Agur Blue – Cream enriched blue from France. Sweet and grassy. Match with a sticky dessert wine.
Pyrenees Brebis – Southern French Sheep cheese. Toasted hazelnut praline flavors to match with Spanish Jamon Iberico Ham.
Saenkanter 3 Yr Aged Gouda – Salted toffee and caramel notes. Match with a rich Zinfandel or Port and Dark Chocolate.

Maybe you’ve got Champagne wishes and Caviar dreams for this Valentine’s Day. We have a full selection of Champagne and Sparkling wines to compliment our Tsar Nicholai California Farm Raised Caviar. And don’t forget the smoked Salmon, Crème Fraîche, and Buckwheat Blini to serve with your Caviar.

For all you chocoholics out there – we saw you coming! In addition to fabulous Red Velvet hearts, we’re stocking all your favorite dark chocolate bars including our latest addition of Amano Chocolate from Utah. And we’ll also make our own Chocolate Dipped Longstem Strawberries this Friday and Saturday.

And don’t forget the Roses! Paul Robertson will deliver fresh Longstem Roses, Tulips, and more to the store just for you this Valentine’s Day!

Winter Artisan American Cheese Fair

We’re hosting our first Winter Artisan Cheese Fair at Cheese Plus.  We’ve invited a few of our favorite American cheese makers to come to the Plus on Saturday, February 21st from Noon – 4 PM.  You’ll be able to sample dozens of fine American Artisan cheeses from the top producers across the country.  In addition to all the great cheese, we’ll also have 4 acclaimed cheese authors here signing their books and spreading the cheese love for everyone.

The line-up includes:

Dee Harley of Harley Farms

Jeanette Hurt – Author of The Cheeses of Wisconsin

Sid Cook of Carr Valley Cheese – *2008 American Cheese Society Best of Show Award Winner

Laura Werlin – Author of Cheese Essentials

David Gremmels of Rogue Creamery

Clark Wolf – Author of American Cheeses

Sheana Davis of Delice de Vallee Cheese

Janet Fletcher – Author of Cheese and Wine

Bob McCall of Cypress Grove Chevre

Culture Magazine

Wisconsin Milk Marketing Board and More!!

If you’re a cheese lover, you won’t want to miss this one of a kind event at Cheese Plus.  Save the date and be sure to stop by on Saturday, February 21st from Noon – 4 PM!

This event is co-hosted by Sheana Davis proprietor of The Epicurean Connection.  Sheana is a Chef, Caterer and Culinary Educator based in Sonoma, and is the host of the 7th Annual Sonoma Valley Cheese Conference being held in Sonoma on Monday and Tuesday, February 23rd and 24th.  For more information about the cheese conference please follow the link here.

Celebrate New Year’s Eve

Greetings!

I hope you are enjoying the holiday season.  With only 3 days left until the New Year, I want to let you know what a pleasure it has been to serve you in 2008. The team and I were reflecting the other day about the incredible growth and change we’ve achieved this year.  None of it would be without your continued support of the Plus.  Thanks for all your encouragement and feedback.  It’s an honor to provide great traditional and authentic foods for your table.

I’m looking forward to another great year at Cheese Plus.  We are making plans for a few new products and some merchandising changes in the new year.  Please let us know how we can better serve your needs.  In the meantime, I hope to see you one more time at the Plus, so I can personally wish you a very happy, healthy, and prosperous new year!

We’ll be open regular hours on NYE ’til 7:30.

We’ll be closed on January 1st, reopening from 10 – 6 on Friday, January 2nd.

 

-Ray

Cheese and Champagne

A match made in heaven

We’re often asked what cheeses to pair with Champagne and sparkling wines.  Typically we might reach for a decadent and creamy triple creme brie style, or a tart and tangy goat cheese.  Both categories are a sure success with most Champagne and sparkling wine styles.  Here are a few more suggestions we’ve been enjoying this season:

Constant Bliss – Raw milk soft ripened cones from Vermont.  Earthy with mushroom and straw flavors.

Garrotxa – Firm and nutty goat cheese from Catalonia, Spain with a nutty character of toasted hazelnut flavor.

La Tur Robiola Tre Latti – An unctuous blend of cow, goat, and sheep milk with a fresh clean character, and dense/creamy texture.

Chaource – A delicious double cream snowball from the Champagne region of France.  Sweet and creamy with a slightly salty character.

Pecorino Foglie di Noci – A firm sheep cheese from Tuscany that’s been rubbed in olive oil and rolled in walnut leaves.  Sharp and salty with a flaky texture and a flinty, minerally character.

Make sure you check out our extensive selection of more than 350 cheeses from across the country and around the world in stock everyday.

 

Tiny Bubbles

Just for you!

Whether it’s Champagne or Sparkling wine, one thing’s for sure – it’s not a true New Year’s Eve celebration until the bubbles come out.  Here are a few of our favorite bottles of bubbly perfect for your New Year’s Eve celebration.

Francoise Chidaine Montlouis Sur Loire Sparkling Chenin Blanc

This organic and biodynamic wine is produced at the Chidaine family vineyards in the Loire Valley of France.  From vines of 40 to 80 years in age, this lightly sparkling beauty is loaded with rich fig and dried pear notes.  Soft ginger spice lingers on the finish.

Monmarthe Champagne Rosé

A true beauty with deep rich red cherry color.  The flavors are bright and concentrated with red raspberry and strawberry character, a little gentle grapefruit zestiness, soft toastiness, and spicy cumin notes on the finish.  A great rosé to enjoy as an aperitif or with fresh berries and whipped cream.

Luis Pato Vinho Espumante Maria Gomes

A deliciously soft and fruity wine with light bubbles.  This Portuguese sparkler is perfume-y, tropical, but dry, with a bit of a spice on the finish.  Complex, yet understated – a great everyday sparkler!

Tsar Nicoulai Caviar – San Francisco’s Original Sustainable Caviar

Caviar is the classic New Year’s Eve indulgence.  Paired with tart and rich crème fraiche, smoked fish, and delicious bubbly, we can think of no finer way to finish 2008 and welcome 2009!

For decades San Francisco’s own Tsar Nicoulai has been supplying the finest restaurants and retailers with their award winning farm raised California Estate Osetra Caviar.  Tsar Nicoulai were the first to develop California farm raised Caviar, and continue to produce and import the world’s finest Caviar.

Traditionally, Caviar was produced in Russia, Iran, and Romania along the Caspian and Black Seas.  Overfishing, heavily polluted waters, and brazen illegal poaching there have resulted in lowering the quality of imported Caviar while drastically increasing the costs.

Contrastly, California farm raised Caviar is produced locally in the Sierra mountain range of Northern California under strict guidelines and attention to detail.  The resulting Caviar is superior in its clean fresh flavor, affordability, and sustainability.

Here’s a brief description of Tsar Nicoulai Caviar we have in stock for you this New Year’s Eve:

California Select Estate Osetra Caviar

Medium to large sized eggs.  Golden tawny brown to platinum color.

California Estate Osetra Caviar

Medium sized eggs.  Dark black/brown color.  Sweet, nutty and creamy.

American Paddlefish Sturgeon Caviar

Small eggs.  Steel gray color.  Fresh sea-breeze flavor.

We recommend serving Tsar Nicoulai Caviar well chilled in the simplest manner – either on buttered toast points, or a buckwheat blini (pancake) with a dollop of creme fraiche, and a glass of sparkling wine or Champagne.

Enjoy!

Il Nuovo Olio d’Oliva è Arrivato!

The new Olive Oil harvest has arrived at Cheese Plus

Recently we featured fresh and lively Beaujolais Nouveau wine from France – the young, just pressed and fermented first wine of the season.  Today I’m going to introduce you to Olio Nuovo d’Oliva – the first pressed Olive Oil of the season, which has just arrived at Cheese Plus.

Olives ripen and mature late in the year, and are typically harvested in late autumn.  To celebrate the harvest, the freshly pressed olive oil is made available on a limited basis.  More typically the olive oil that was harvested and produced just 3 – 6 weeks ago is allowed to settle and mellow; waiting for shipment to the market sometime in the springtime of the new year.  So most of the oil available today was actually harvested in the late autumn of 2007.

The Olio Nuovo (or Novello as it’s known in Southern Italy) is vibrant green in color, with a thick silky texture, and the unmistakable aroma of freshly cut grass; and spicy black pepper, sweet fennel, bright green apple, artichoke and olive leaf flavors.  Olio Nouvo is the most intense and full flavored olive oil available.   Pour this green elixir over your best bread – I like the Acme Bakery Long Italian loaf or their not-so-well-known Upstairs Bread we offer.  For cooking I recommend serving this as a finishing oil on flavorful cold weather roasts, risotto, pasta, and green vegetables.

We have a very limited supply of Olio Nuovo d’Oliva from Capezzana and Laudemio (Tuscany), and Olio Verde (Sicily), so call us today to secure your bottles.  And remember – Olio Nuovo is a great holiday gift for any foodie on your list!