French say Fromage; Spanish say Queso; I just say Yes!
We are so fortunate in Boston to have cheese expert Ihsan Gurdal and his knowledgeable staff at Formaggio Kitchen and South End Formaggio. Recently, Gurdal was awarded the Chevalier du Mèrite Agricol, which is comparable to the French Legion of Honor titles. They’re awarded in three levels in a secret process, bestowing respect and honor on the recipients recognized for their “significant contributions to the development and progress of agriculture in France.” So he’s really a big cheese, even the French say so!
I wrote about Ihsan Gurdal’s honor recently on Suite101 Cheese Expert Ihsan Gurdal Awarded French Honor. This time of year it’s good to recall shops like Formaggio Kitchen and South End Formaggio whether you’re building a perfect cheese platter and need a little help, dusting off the fondue set, or starting holiday shopping.
Certainly the Chevalier du Merite Agricole medal is an honor for Ihsan Gurdal. I hope it brings the respect and customers he deserves. We’re really lucky to have our own world-renowned expert right here in Boston.
While the award is from France, Gurdal has expertise globally. And, we have additional fromagiers. Two of the most exciting cheese finds of late hail from Spain. After Caleb introduced me to Las Ventas he brought home this Ahumado de Pria Spanish cheese. I knew from the name it would be smoky. But just slightly so.
I sampled more at Las Ventas (See Is Korean now the NBT Next Big Thing from Bi Bim Bap to Soccorat and Paella). Let me say again, Las Ventas is a place you must explore. Groceries for any foodie on your list, fresh made sandwiches, coffee, paella pans. Jamon.
Ahumado de Pareao
I cannot even find this Spanish cheese on Murray’s site. Not in his book and not online. One Spanish-language site did mention it. Here is their Spanish and Google’s English translation.
• El Queso ahumado de PRÍA esta elaborado a partir de leche pasteurizada de vaca agregando nata procedente de leche de oveja . • The smoking of PRIA this cheese produced from pasteurized milk cow adding cream from sheep’s milk. [ed.note: this is Google’s translation, not mine]
Se trata de un queso de forma cilíndrica que se presenta en tres formatos: 0,5 Kg, 1 Kg. It is a cylindrical shape of cheese that comes in three formats: 0.5 Kg 1 Kg. Y 3 Kg . And 3 Kg. Su corteza es lisa de color pardo claro con un ligero brillo y aroma ahumado.
Its bark is smooth brown clear with a slight gloss and smoky aroma.Smoked cheese of PRIA
En su interior la pasta es compacta de corte cerrado con pocos ojos irregularmente repartidos de tono blanco-amarillento. Its interior is compact pasta cut with few eyes closed irregularly distributed yellowish-white tone.
Posee un sabor suave con un ligero retrogusto ahumado.
It has a mild flavor with a slight smoky aftertaste. Una vez degustado su bouquet se mantiene algún tiempo en el paladar.
Once tasted its bouquet is maintained for some time on the palate.
Es ideal para el tapeo y como aperitivo cortado en tacos. It is ideal for tapas as a starter and cut into blocks. Se acompaña bien de vinos aromáticos y graduación alcohólica media, también con sidra natural fresca.
It is accompanied by good wines and aromatic alcohol half, also with natural fresh cider.
Se puede emplear rallado en platos de cocina o gratinado ya que les confiere un excelente sabor.
Can be used grated in gratin dishes or because they confer an excellent flavor.
Okay, so you got the picture. It’s not common, but it is magnifico! And they sell it at Las Ventas. He may be the sole shop carrying it.
Murcia al vino – This goat cheese has a wine-stained rind, an amazing tangy, but creamy texture, and a definite wine finish. It’s fantastic. It would be beautiful on a cheese platter.
And while we’re on the subject of cheese: allow me to make a gift suggestion? How about the Murray’s Cheese Handbook paired with a cheese knife or a hunk of good cheese?
Murray Greenberg (never met him; he died before I got here) was a Jewish Spanish civil war veteran and communist who opened a wholesale butter and egg shop a few doors up Cornelia street in 1940…
You know it’s going to be good. And it is.
Listen to how they lovingly describe Murcia al vino (a cheese which I could barely find any info about anywhere on the web):
D.O.: Maybe it was another one of those farmhouse accidents: a little too much vino, a wheel of cheese rolls off the table into barrel, two days later somebody finds themselves decanting the first wheel of Cabra al Vino! Literally meaning “goat with wine,” this semi-firm pasteurized goat from Spain’s Mediterranean coast is cured for 48-72 hours in Doble Pasta red wine. The paste remains nearly pure white and the rind absorbs a lovely violet hue. The paste is sweet and smooth, delicately grapey, with a gentle, pliable texture and mild fruity flavor.
So all you cheeselovers, break out and try something new. World class expertise is in your backyard and at your fingertips.