For my contribution to National Grilled month I've chosen some hearty cheeses and condiments to pair with delicious (if difficult to photograph) pumpernickel from Hudson Bread.
I headed out to Chester County to visit two new cheese makers at a farm Di Bruno’s has been working with for almost two years. Amazing Acres goat Dairy was the project of Cheese Maker Debbie Mikulak and Farm Manager Fred Bloom. They made a variety of delicious fresh and soft ripened cheeses from their flock of Nubian Goats. We loved them, as did a lot of other people, and the demands the farm proved to be quite a bit to handle as new customers continued to emerge, requiring more cheese and more goats to care for to keep up with demand.
If you're the type of cheese enthusiast who takes their love of cheese beyond the shop and starts to do a little research of your own, there's a pretty good chance you've seen the word affinage thrown around a bit. Affinage translates as refining and it refers to the crucial last steps in cheese making that deliver a huge reward for a little extra time and attention. It is a process that requires more than a passing knowledge of cheese and takes years to perfect.
One of the most enjoyable perks of being a Di Bruno's cheese monger is what we like to refer to as culinary pioneering. Sniffing down leads and gathering information (and the occasional sample) of new and exciting cheese is a constantly rewarding and exciting process. If being at Di Bruno's gives an enterprising cheese lover a chance to be a culinary pioneer then the constantly expanding and always changing world of Artisan cheese represents the frontier of the gourmet food world which a cheese monger has to move toward to stay on top of their game.
As the weather gets hotter many cheese lovers take a respite from the meaty, hearty cheeses that so many of us enjoy in colder weather. If a savory piece of Stilton or a pungent, runny little Epoisses doesn't seem like your sort of thing on a muggy 80 degree day I can think of no better place to turn than the wide world of Goat's milk cheeses. Their cleaner, brighter flavors might be just the thing to refresh your palette on a summer day and they tend to work wonderfully with summery wines such as Vinho Verde and Rose.
Right outside of State College, Pennsylvania sits the much lauded and highly diversified Tait Farms. Purchase by Marian & Elton Tait in 1950, they originally raised everything from sheep to Christmas trees and gradually became one of central Pennsylvania's premier spots to pick your own fruits & vegetables.
Day two of the conference included a bit of an adventure outside of the cheese bubble with a morning charcuterie class (that's cured meat) led by Brooks Miller of North Mt Pastures in Newport, PA.
This year Di Brunos sent me as our ambassador to the 20th annual PASA conference in State College, PA. What is PASA you ask? The Pennsylvania Association for Sustainable Agriculture supports farmers throughout the commonwealth of Pennsylvania, helps put consumers in contact with growers and producers of sustainable, local food and does advocacy work for a safe & sustainable food system in Pennsylvania.