A passion for food + fashion

Posts Tagged ‘Cheese’

The Foodinista’s Fondue

In Drink, Food, Recipes on December 25, 2009 at 12:19 pm

Every Christmas Eve, my family makes fondue for dinner. We start off civilized and seated, but before long we’re standing over the fondue pot each trying to claim the best bite. Over the years we’ve perfected the cheeses in the mix to include Gruyère, Appenzeller, and Swiss or Emmentaler, with the ratio being 3:1:1. Ricardo at the Oxbow Cheese Market in Napa selects the cheeses each year, and Beeler Gruyère always plays the starring role. This year we enjoyed with a couple bottles of Zind Humbrecht Pinot d’Alsace, which is rich and honeyed with apricot flavors. FANASTIC with fondue!

The Foodinista’s Fondue

This recipe comes from my paternal grandmother, Esther, who is the most elegant woman I have ever known.

1 garlic clove, halved

1 1/4 cups dry white wine (preferably a bone-dry Chablis)

Juice of half lemon

3 cups grated Gruyère

1 cup grated Emmentaler

1 cup grated Appenzeller

1 tablespoon cornstarch

3 tablespoons kirsch

Dash of ground white pepper

Pinch of freshly grated nutmeg

1 large boule French bread cubed (cube 12 hours before serving)

We make this stovetop in a saucepan, and then when finished transfer to a Le Creuset fondue pot, which we set on the table. Rub inside of saucepan with cut garlic clove. Pour in wine and lemon juice and cook over medium heat until bubbly. Turn heat to low and stir in cheeses with a wooden spoon.

In a small bowl, whisk together kirsch, cornstarch, nutmeg and white pepper. Add to cheese mixture and stir to blend. Cook for another 2-3 minutes, until mixture is thick and smooth.

Bring fondue to a simmer and cook, stirring, until thickened, 5 to 8 minutes. (Careful not to let fondue boil). Transfer to fondue pot set over flame. Serve with cubed bread and salad.

And beware of lurking Spaniels…

Whey Hot!

In Food on December 6, 2009 at 12:25 am

At last year’s holiday bash, my friend Carolynn brought a stunningly thoughtful hostess gift—a beautiful box of uncooked chocolate chip cookies with instructions for baking, so we could enjoy the next day. This year, she somehow outdid herself and brought not only fresh burrata (Italian for butter, yum) from Di Stefano but Mimmo Bruno, the cheesemaker himself! As soon as Carolynn and Mimmo handed me this precious cargo—and before everyone around me starting speaking Italian—I knew exactly what I wanted to do with it. Another merry reveler, Kate, had brought a gorgeous homemade jar of Habanero Gold Jelly. Hot-sweet with habaneros and apricots, this piquant jelly is phenomenal with the creamy burrata. Kate also recommends it with peanut butter or cream cheese. Thank you, Carolynn, and thank you, Kate! And lucky, lucky me!

Burrata, Birthday Edition

In Food, On Location: Out and About in L.A. on November 21, 2009 at 1:30 pm

Last night we went to my friend Andrea’s birthday party, for which the invitation beckoned “Learn how to make burrata. Or just eat it.” I’m pretty much in awe of what we witnessed last night, which started with Mimmo Bruno—who supplies all the better joints in town with burrata, and in fact is credited with bringing burrata to LA a decade ago—filling pouches of mozzarella with curd and runny cream imported from Parma. (To read more about Mimmo, check out Lesley Bargar Suter’s story in this month’s Los Angeles Magazine, page 136.) If you want to try some of Mimmo’s handiwork, Mozza2Go sells his formaggio, or you can order next door at the mozzarella bar. Words cannot describe how freaking fantastic burrata tastes at the hands of the master. Below: the curd, the cream, the hands, the man.

The birthday girl and our friend Carolynn assisted, as well as making some incredible peperonata (sweet peppers, onions, garlic), braised artichokes, pesto and an insane currant pine-nut relish from the book Carolynn co-authored with Mozza‘s Nancy Silverton, A Twist of the Wrist. There was also a grilled beef tagliata inspired by Mozza’s dish. With friends like these, who needs dessert? (And of course there was dessert—a heavenly chocolate devil’s food cake with chocolate mousse layers from Susina Bakery on Beverly.) Here’s to wonderful friends old and new, to a beautiful evening, and an even more beautiful birthday girl! Happy Birthday, Andrea!

First Taste of Fall

In Food on October 12, 2009 at 8:33 am

american cheese

For those of you who are fortunate enough to live in a clime where seasons exist and leaves change colors, I ask you to please indulge me. Here in Los Angeles, we felt our first nip in the air this weekend with temperatures in the low 70s and lovely overcast mornings. Suddenly all I wanted was fall food, specifically Americana in flavor. So on Saturday morning, my sister and I went to the Cheese Store of Beverly Hills and asked Raffi to select several American surprises. None of the now ubiquitous Humboldt Fog, which I’m told is a bit passé, but instead a gorgeous ashen cube of Nocturne goat cheese from a Korean cheesemaker, the talented Soyoung Scanlan, in Petaluma. So tart and creamy and mushroomy. Then there was a KILLER raw-milk gooey cheese from Meadow Creek Dairy in Virgina, and finally a delicate hard cheese called Pleasant Ridge Reserve from Uplands Cheese Company in Wisconsin. We also grabbed a wedge of Grafton Vermont Cheddar for the main event: burgers.


Our friends Booth and Adam brought over Nancy Silverton’s preferred burger blend of ground beef from Huntington Meats and excellent buttery buns from Thee’s Bakery—both in the Farmer’s Market at Third/Fairfax. To go with the burgers, I tried the Thyme-Roasted Apples and Onions from the new November issue of Bon Appétit. It’s a great side dish to serve with a rich main, as the apples and onions feel very bright and comforting.

apples onions

For dessert, we made the Harvest Pear Crisp with Candied Ginger, also from the November issue of Bon Appétit, with some Ben & Jerry’s Vanilla Ice Cream. I love the coarsely chopped almonds in the topping. God bless America! (Oh, and Happy Thanksgiving Day, Canada.)

pear crisp

Balsamic-Marinated Radicchio with Fresh Ricotta and Basil

In Food on May 2, 2009 at 4:26 pm


Here’s another winner from the current issue of Gourmet. It’s INSANE! We made this Balsamic-Marinated Radicchio with Ricotta and Basil last night to go with the lamb. Start it a little early because you broil the radicchio for a few minutes and then it marinates in the balsamic marinade with crushed garlic for at least an hour.

rad2marinadeThen you simply toss the radicchio with fresh basil leaves. The fresh ricotta gets a drizzle of olive oil. Serve together.


Thankfully we have leftovers. Tonight while my husband goes to a friend’s to watch the Pacquiao-Hatton fight, my sister, Tiny G and I will make pizza with last night’s radicchio and ricotta! Check back tomorrow for results…

Vaquero Beans

In Food on April 28, 2009 at 8:15 am


Sorry for the delay – got home from work on the late side last night, so here I am a day late with my bean odyssey. At a crazy good dinner party on Saturday night, my friend Katie gave me a bag of  these heirloom Vaquero Beans from Rancho Gordo. Actually Katie was pretty clear that they were “on loan,” so I’ll be hitting up my sister to bring a few replacement bags from Napa Valley next time she comes down to visit. First off, can we agree that they are stunningly gorgeous? Like an Appaloosa horse. Love! So to get going, first I rinsed them in super cold water. Then I put them in a pot and covered with an inch of water and soaked for six hours. Yes, that’s right. Six hours.


From there, I consulted Rancho Gordo founder Steve Sando’s instructions for cooking beans. (Note: Sando has an awesome new Heirloom Beans cookbook, click HERE to order.) Per Sando’s advice, I made a makeshift mirepoix with onions, carrots and garlic I picked up at farmers market sautéed in olive oil – makeshift because I realized too late I had no celery. C’est la guerre. But basically all you need is water or broth and some sort of fat (I used olive oil, but freshly rendered lard or bacon fat would be mighty nice). I added my pseudo-mirepoix to the beans and their liquid, brought to a boil for five minutes, and then slow cooked on super-low heat for several more hours. Check out that amazing, rich liquid they give off. So flavorful!


Meanwhile my husband grilled red, yellow and orange bell peppers along with Maui sweet onions, and we tossed with the beans, fresh thyme and some crumbled French feta, which we picked up from Laurent Bonjour—the “French cowboy ” with the cheese truck at the Larchmont Farmers Market (which conveniently works with the whole vaquero angle). The dish was as delicious as it was beautiful. I’ve said it before, but it bears repeating. Mr. Foodinista knows his way around a grill!


And I know my way around a corkscrew, which I pressed into action to open a cold bottle of crisp, minerally 2007 Domaine Leflaive Mâcon Verzé—a Chardonnay from the Puligny-Montrachet region of Burgundy and a great value at $27. It was made by one of my very favorite winemakers in Burgundy, Pierre Morey (a true pioneer in biodynamics, not to mention one of the most gracious winemakers I’ve ever met) before he stepped down last year as Leflaive winemaker to concentrate on his own label. Here’s to you, Pierre!


NOTE: We were in the mood for white wine (the White Burgundy was lovely; a Sancerre or Vouvray from the Loire would have been even better with the tangy feta). If you prefer a red, a nice cru Beaujolais would kill with this combo!

Feeling Bleu

In Food on March 14, 2009 at 8:32 am


Last weekend we grabbed three cheeses from Surfas in Culver City—two cows milk and one sheep. The latter was a wonderful Pecorino Fresco, whichwas soft and mild. The other two were a sharp Vermont white Cheddar (what’s not to like?) and a small piece of St. Agur bleu. I usually go for a Stilton or Roquefort when I’m feeling bleu, but the guy behind the counter sold me on this double-cream cow’s milk blue from the Auvergne region in France. It’s kind of like a Roquefort, but milder and creamier—and not as salty as your typical blue. We went wild for it spread on Raincoast Crisp cranberry hazelnut crackers, which I got suckered into tasting at Whole Foods a few months ago before having first seen the “crunchy” packaging. The name is a total turnoff, as is the suggestion of dried cranberries in a cracker, but wow – they’re shockingly good, especially slathered with blue cheese!


Home Wrecker

In Food, Out of Town on March 3, 2009 at 8:12 am


The man in this photograph nearly ended my parents’ marriage. His name is Ricardo Huijon, and he knows his cheese. For the past decade he was at Dean and Deluca in St. Helena, but last year moved over to Napa’s Cheese Merchant at the Oxbow Market, which features 100-some daily varieties of cheese. Ricardo is so exceptional at his craft that he sold my father a $300 wheel of hard-to-find Massipou sheep’s milk cheese from the Pyrénées a couple of Christmases ago. One taste and my dad had to have the whole wheel, upon discovery of which my mother went ballistic. Over the next couple months, my husband, sister and I all eagerly volunteered to take wedge after wedge off their hands, but truthfully it was so good that the wheel disappeared pretty fast. The Cheese Incident is still a highly explosive topic, even though it was some of the most sublime cheese in memory—nutty, slightly salty, pure heaven. When I was at the Oxbow Cheese Merchant last weekend, I stopped by to see what Ricardo was recommending. He handed me a piece of creamy, buttery cow’s milk cheese called Tomme Crayeuse:


Sadly he had shared the very last bite of this exquisite cheese—more is coming next week—so we chose a triple cream instead. (Ricardo truly knows how to leave them wanting more.) Here are a couple shots of some other intriguing curiosities on hand like this sort of obscenely shaped Italian cow’s milk cheese with black truffles, or this girly “blonde” goat’s cheese covered in sultanas:


No trip to Napa is complete without stopping in to see Ricardo. And do yourself, if not your marriage, a favor and give yourself over to temptation.

‘Twas the Night Before Christmas…

In Drink, Food on December 25, 2008 at 1:46 pm


Arrived at my parents’ last night just in time for our Christmas Eve ritual of fondue. My father had selected a careful blend of cheese from Oxbow Cheese Merchants: Beeler Gruyère with almost mushroom nuances, Mt. Vully Swiss for a creamy note and a French Basque cheese called Pilota, which added a nutty flavor.  We use a dash of St. George Kirsch, a cherry brandy distilled locally in the Bay Area,mixed with cornstarch and some bone -dry Sauvignon Blanc. The trick is to rub the pot with garlic before melting the cheese. My sister has an uncanny knack for picking perfectly ripe avocados, which she used for a Butter Lettuce and Radish Salad with Tarragon—a perfect counterpoint to the fondue. The acid in the shallot and Champagne vinaigrette cuts through the richness of the fondue, while the Marc Kreydenweiss Lerchenberg Pinot Gris from Alsace complements the cheese blend with its rich pear and hazelnut notes.  (Can you tell I’m crazy about this producer!?)

Christmas Eve dinner is always a tough act to follow, but soaking artisanal Italian country bread from Grace Baking in Berkeley overnight in Bud’s Ice Cream Egg Nog—the world’s best commercial eggnog—and farm fresh eggs for French toast on Christmas morning does the trick.