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Norbert's Cheese Bytes
Norbert Interviews Chef John Folse - 2004
Owner of Bittersweet Plantation Dairy in Gonzales, Louisiana, Chef John Folse is all about old fashioned Southern charm, and his cheeses are a fine example of America's artisanal cheese renaissance.
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Norbert Interviews Chef John Folse - 2004
Chef John Folse has to be one of the nicest men we have ever talked to!  He is all about old fashioned Southern charm, and his cheeses, from his own Bittersweet Plantation Dairy in Gonzales, Louisiana, are a fine example of America's artisanal cheese renaissance.  Gonzales is about midway between Baton Rouge and New Orleans, a seemingly unlikely place to discover an artisanal cheese producer. 
**Unfortunately, in 2012 Bittersweet Plantation Diary ceased production of it's cheeses and closed down after John's Bulgarian cheesemakers retired and moved back home.  John was quoted as saying "Honoring them, the best thing I could do is close the dairy, going out on top of the game.  My passion right now is Restaurant R'evolution in New Orleans," the restaurant at the Royal Sonesta Hotel he opened with celebrity chef Rick Tramonto.  Folse said he is keeping the dairy intact, although closed.  He said that someday he "might feel like I want to do something with it." 
We sure hope you do! And much luck with your many other culinary endeavors!

Norbert:  Tell me about yourself. I’m from New Orleans but I've only been to Gonzales once or twice.  What's it like? 

Chef John:  Well, I built my first restaurant in 1978, called Lafite's Landing, in Donaldsville, Louisiana.  It was in an old plantation house which burned to the ground.  Six months later, I opened up again in another 200 year old house and we just celebrated our 20th anniversary in 1998.  So we've been in the same area for a long time.
 
N:  How'd you get into cheese making? 

J:  I've written seven cookbooks on Louisiana cooking, and I'm about to publish my eighth, The Encyclopedia of Cajun & Creole Cuisine, which will coincide with my PBS Series Taste of Louisiana.  During my research, I discovered that the Europeans who settled in this area had cheese stands in the 1700s and 1800s, and I wondered what happened to this cheese industry. 
There wasn't a lot written about it, but each group of people brought their traditions to New Orleans, which became part of the culture of the city.  The French brought some French cheese making, and the Germans, too.  So, we did what they did, starting with a triple creme style like the French.  I hired an LSU graduate and we spent two years in R&D.  Then we built a small plant and made some Creole Cream Cheese.  Borden was interested in that, which gave me the cash flow to keep on researching.  I was excited about what each nation brought to the area and I thought, let's resurrect it, we'll recreate it!<

N: Well done, I might add. 

J:  I was lucky.  Now we are R&D on a cheddar, a blue, and we're about to have a goat cheese. 

N:  We are very anxious to see that. 

J:  We are waiting for our first goat milk, which should be in a month or so.  We have 200 head of goat outside Baton Rouge and it's going really well.  The Triple Cremes are taking off.  We have three cheese caves where we can age 1000 wheels at a time.  And we are experimenting with a Brie, too.

N:  What kind of a goat cheese will it be? 

J:  I think there is so much fresh chevre and flavored chevre on the market right now, who needs more?  So, I thinking of trying a triple creme or a drier aged goat, but we'll see. 

N:  Any plans for sheep's milk cheese?

J:  As much as I would love to, because there's tremendous excitement about sheep's cheeses, no one has sheep within three or four states!  A guy came to me recently about opening a goat dairy and I said what about sheep?  I've got goat.  He's got 500 acres, so he may be my man! 

N:  Sheep are the most popular cheeses in our store right now. 

J:  We would be happy to fill that niche! 

N:  So the obvious question is, when ya'll coming out to Beverly Hills? 

J:  I am coming out to the West Coast a couple of times this year, to wine country near Seattle, and to Monterey and Carmel.  It would be fun to come and do a demo in your store. 

N:  That would be great!  It's been a pleasure. I must tell you that Spago, Water Grill, and Patina have all bought the Bittersweet Triple Creme and have given it rave reviews, love the ash. 

J:  That's fantastic to know. It's our most popular!
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Erik's Weekly Pairing
Cantina Damiano Ciolli & Caciotta with Black Pepper
Cantina Damiano Ciolli & Caciotta with Black Pepper
Cantina Damiano Ciolli
"Silene"
Olevano Romano
D.O.C.
2011
$20.00

Rome is one of the most magical, beautiful cities in the world to me.  I love the food, the wine, and the lifestyle.  Damiano Ciollli captures many of the things that make Rome wonderful with their Cesanese (a red grape variety grown primarily in the Lazio region).  Cesanese is rooted in centuries of viticulture history; the ancient Romans drank it, and the folks at Ciolli make a wonderfully updated version.  Simple yet complex, it’s rich without being overpowering or harsh.  It is this balance that is so very Italian. 

The commune where the wine comes from is also a D.O.C., meaning that the Italian wine governing body has imposed specific rules for the production of the wines.  It’s a beautiful part of the country:  45 kilometers southeast of Rome and worth a visit next time you’re there. 

Pair this wine with traditional Roman dishes like braised oxtail, or pasta all'Amatriciana. 

Caciotta with Black Pepper
Cow
Italy
$30/lb

This cheese is soft, slightly sweet, and lively with the addition of the black peppercorns.  Made in Trentino, a northern region of Italy near the Alps, caciotta is great by itself, with salumi, or melted on toast.
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Erik's Weekly Pairing
Le Vigne Le Vigne Bianco Paso Robles 2013 & Le Fournols
Le Vigne Le Vigne Bianco Paso Robles 2013 & Le Fournols
Le Vigne
Le Vigne Bianco
Paso Robles
2013
$20 each

The Cheese Store of Beverly Hills has a wonderful long standing relationship with our friends the Filippinis of Le Vigne Winery in Paso Robles.  We have worked with them for decades producing blends for our house wines.  This new release of theirs is truly one of their greatest, and in my opinion, one of the best white wines out of Paso Robles.  The wine is a blend of Viognier, Chardonnay, and a hint of Sauvignon Blanc.  It is excellent with stronger cheeses and baked shellfish.  It is fast becoming a store favorite. Le Fournols
Cow
France
$35/ lb

Le Fournols is a wonderful large soft-ripening cheese that is washed in the local Eau de Vie. It is rich, pungent, and perfect for wines that have a slight touch of sweetness and lots of mouth-feel.  It is named after the commune of Fournols, where it is produced in the Auvergne area in the center of France.
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Recipes
Classic Cheese Fondue
Classic Cheese Fondue
By:  Norbert Wabnig
Classic Cheese Fondue (4 Servings)

COMMENT:  Since cheese contains fat, and wine is basically water, there is an obvious problem:  water and fat do not mix well.  So what do you do to guarantee a velvety Fondue?  You must use natural and well aged Swiss cheeses that will melt smoothly.  We recommend a combination of our aged Emmenthaler, Gruyere, and Appenzeller.  Also, be sure to select a sufficiently dry white wine that will blend successfully with the cheese.   If these basic ingredients are used, you will never be disappointed with a lumpy or stringy fondue. 

INGREDIENTS: 

1 clove garlic
1 1/2 cups dry white wine
1 Tbsp lemon juice
3 Tbsp Kirsch
2 pounds grated Swiss cheese (Emmenthaler, Gruyere, and Appenzeller combined)
1 Tbsp flour
Pepper
Nutmeg
2 loaves crusty Italian or French bread
Dredge cheese with flour.  Cut bread into 1-inch cubes.   Each cube should have crust on one side. 

Rub the inside of your 'caquelon' (fondue pot) with cut garlic clove and add wine and Kirsch.  Heat on stovetop over medium flame until wine is hot but not boiling.  Add lemon juice.  Add handfuls of cheese, stirring constantly with wooden spoon until cheese is melted and cheese-wine mixture has the appearance of a light creamy sauce.   Add pepper and nutmeg to taste.   Bring to a boil, then remove the caquelon and place on lit burner on table and enjoy. 

TIPS:  To thicken a thin Fondue, add a little bit of cheese dabbed with flour.  Mix well while it is melting.  To lighten a thick fondue, add some lukewarm wine and mix well again. 

FUN FONDUE RULES: 
One of the most popular Fondue customs is if a lady loses her bread cube in the Fondue she owes the man to her right a kiss.  If a man has such a mishap when dining in a restaurant, he should buy the next round of drinks.  At home, he owes his hostess a kiss! 

Another fun Fondue tradition is to leave a thin layer of Fondue at the bottom of the caquelon.   By carefully adjusting the heat, this layer will form into a crust known as "la religieuse" - the religious one.  Lift it out and distribute among your guests.  It is considered a delicacy.
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Erik's Weekly Pairing
Dragonette Cellars & Toma from Pt. Reyes
Dragonette Cellars & Toma from Pt. Reyes
Dragonette Cellars
Rosé
Happy Canyon of Santa Barbara
2013
$22 for 750ml

Rosé wines take me to my happy place, because at their best they are light, fun, and refreshing.  Dragonette cellars makes one of my favorite domestic rosés from the 2013 vintage.  They're a consistent winery that does a great job showing off some of Santa Barbara's best terroirs and their Happy Canyon Rosé does not disappoint.  Enjoy Draggonette Cellars Happy Canyon Rosé with grilled shrimp and some local California cheese.
Toma from Pt. Reyes
Cow
California
$30 per pound

Pt. Reyes makes some of the best California cheeses we've tasted, and their cow's milk Toma is no exception.  It's creamy and mild, yet flavorful with a distinct tang that goes well with hamburgers or in a grilled cheese sandwich.  Toma from Pt. Reyes is also a great accompaniment to a glass of Rosé!
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Recipes
Bacon, Cheddar, and Cauliflower Soup
Bacon, Cheddar, and Cauliflower Soup
By:  Erik Kelly

1.5 lbs Bacon cut in 1/4 inch cube
3 lbs Aged Vermont white cheddar Shredded
1.5 lbs Cauliflower chopped
1 potoato peeled and cubed in 1/4 inch brunoise
1.5 qts water
2 cups pedro jimenez sherry
4 crushed garlic cloves
2 pinches ground nutmeg. 

In a dutch oven add cool bacon to cool pan. 
Turn pan on low and render until immersed in fat. 
Remove bacon. 
Add potatoes, cauliflower, and garlic. 
Cook on high until tender and brown. 
Add 2 cups sherry and bring to boil.  Add 1.5 quarts water and hold boil for 3-5 minutes until all ingredients are tender. 
Bring to simmer ad 3 pounds of shredded vermont cheddar, whisk till smooth. remove from heat.  
Take soup and strain through a fine chinois until all liquid is out. 
Remove solids and disgard. 
Add soup back into pot.  
Add bacon and 2 pinches nutmeg and allow to simmer and thicken 5-10 minutes. 
Serve warm. 

Serves 8-10
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Recipes
Watercress, Frisee, and Shaved Fennel Salad with Black Walnuts
Watercress, Frisee, and Shaved Fennel Salad with Black Walnuts
By: Jennifer Naylor
Serves 6

1 bulb fennel
juice of 1 lemon
1 bunch watercress, trimmed and washed
2 heads washed frisee, white inner leaves only
1 cup toasted black walnuts, roughly chopped
3 pomegranates, 1 for garnish and 2 for vinaigrette
1/4 lb Tartufato cheese (may substitute Reggiano), thinly shaved
salt & Tellicherry pepper
Pomegranate vinaigrette
Using kitchen mandolin or very sharp knife, shave fennel as thinly as possible. Soak fennel in ice water and lemon juice to crisp. Drain shaved fennel. Dry watercress and frisee well and mix together with well-drained fennel.

Make vinaigrette. Toss mixed greens with the vinaigrette and add chopped walnuts. Season with salt and pepper and arrange in center of serving plate. Garnish with pomegranate seeds, chopped walnuts, and shaved cheese. Serve.

Pomegranate Vinaigrette
Pomegranate juice from 2 pomegranates
3/4 cup water
sugar to taste
1/4 cup walnut oil
1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
1 teaspoon chopped shallots
1 teaspoon chopped parsley
1 teaspoon chopped thyme
1/8 cup champagne vinegar
Clean pomegranates and place seeds in deep bowl or pot. Add water and pulse gently with hand mixer just enough to break seeds. Over blending will make juice bitter. Add sugar if needed. Strain juice into saucepot and reduce to glaze over low flame. Cool and then mix rest of ingredients together with whisk until blended.
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Tony's Wine Corner
Tony's Wine Corner
Daring Pairings Cocktails and Cheese - 2009
Daring Pairings Cocktails and Cheese - 2009
We've got a long standing camaraderie with Nic's Martini Lounge and Restaurant in Beverly Hills. Larry Nicola's our friend in the ongoing pursuit of good food, good wine, good spirits...So you shouldn't be surprised to learn we are in cahoots on four martinis featuring cheese.

DARE TO GO THERE!
1. Wine & Cheese Martini: Idol Vodka (made from Chardonnay and Pinot grapes) with Pinot Noir juice, served up with a slice of Morbier cheese. Idol Vodka is a French vodka made from Pinot Noir and Chardonnay grapes from Burgundy, France. Morbier is a creamy cow's milk cheese from Franche-Comte, France, characterized by the flavor of nuts and fruit and an aroma of fresh hay.The yellow-brown or pale gray rind is thick, moist and leathery with a creamy brown crust and the interior is comprised of two layers of glossy, yellowish-ivory paste, separated by a thin flavorless layer of ash, which separates the morning milking from the evening milking.

2. Maytag Repair Man: Skyy 90 Vodka served up with a Maytag Blue Cheese Stuffed Olive.

3. The Popes in Town: Mezzaluna Vodka served up, with blueberries and garnished with Gorgonzola. Mezzaluna is an Italian vodka made from Semolina grain.

4. What a Nice Pear You Have: Grey Goose La Poire Vodka. Add pear juice and top with a shave of Parmesan cheese.
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Tony's Wine Corner
Tony's Wine Corner
Hello Boys and Girls! 2007
Hello Boys and Girls! 2007
Hello boys and girls. I’m am back in my little wine corner.

We have been busy with the re-launching of our website.

We have been busy with the holidays, both over the counter and in basket land.

I have been busy with my own wine- “Little Anthony” Syrah. I am a “Garagist”, and have been making wine since 2003. Every year I get ½ ton, or 2 rows, of Syrah from the Larner vineyard in Santa Ynez. The late Mike Bonaccorsi helped me to get started. He was my teacher. I still miss his friendship and wine knowledge……….

Here are the wines that I’ve chosen to kick 2008 off with:

Stadt Krems- 2006 Gruner Vectliner, $18
A wonderful “Cheese Store House Wine” from Krems, 60 miles outside of Vienna. Light/ Medium bodied. Fruity but dry white wine. Excellent with cheese, and all types of Asian Cuisine

Redwood Red 2005- Mendocino Field Blend, $18
Made by Nick Stietz of Woodhead Cellars. When I visited him last January, this was his “House Wine” It is a field blend: 78% Early Burgundy
12% Zinfandel
8% Carignane
2% Barbera
Smooth, balanced; ready to drink

El Nogal Ribera del Duero 2003, $80
Made by our favorite Spanish producer; Pago De Los Capellanes100% Tempranillo from their El Nogal Vineyard. Aged 22 months in French Oak barrels- lightly toasted flavor. A sensational wine that is ready to drink, or keep up to 5 years. Pago De Los Capellanes is a favorite of all the wine writers; the new hot wine. We have been with them since the beginning, so we get the first crack at of everything they bring in.

It is the power of “Cheese people” that allows us to get some great limited fine wines, that we can in turn share with you.

See you next month,
Tony
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Norbert's Cheese Bytes
Norbert Interviews Chef Jennifer Naylor - 2000
We use a lot of Parmigiano Reggiano for example on antipasto and pasta dishes. I have a Four Cheese Pansotti with Robiola, Pecorino, Parmesan, and Ricotta Buffala. That's one of my signature dishes.
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Norbert Interviews Chef Jennifer Naylor - 2000
Norbert: Tell us a little bit about yourself. 

Jennifer Naylor:  I was born and raised in Los Angeles.  I am the third generation in a restaurant family also from LA.  My grandfather was Tiny Naylor and started the Tiny Naylor's restaurant chain, one of California's original family-style restaurants.  I've been cooking for 16 years, the last 11 under Wolfgang Puck.  I spent a year in Italy cooking in Umbria at Vissanni under the most famous chef in Italy right now, Vissanni, and then in Lombardia at Dal Pascatore with Nadia Santini.  I am currently the Chef at Granita in Malibu where I cook California Mediterranean with an Italian influence. 

N:  How do you work cheese into your menu and what are some of your favorites? 

J:  We use a lot of Parmigiano Reggiano for example on antipasto and pasta dishes.  I have a Four Cheese Pansotti with Robiola, Pecorino, Parmesan, and Ricotta Buffala.  That's one of my signature dishes.  Also, we use a lot of the Tuscan Pecorino, shaved and grated over the pastas and risottos.  I like it better than the Romano.  It's sweeter and nuttier and not as aggressive. 

N:  Are you using more cheese now than 10 years ago for example when you opened? 

J:  Yes, because of my Italian influence.  And in the winter months especially. 

N:  Do you find that people are eating more cheese as a cheese course for example? 

J:  I think people are more accepting of how lovely that can be instead of or before dessert. 

N:  Do you think that is because people are traveling more? 

J:  I think it is because chefs are traveling more really.  You see cheese courses on the menus at Spago and Melisse for example.  And, yes, people are traveling more. 

N:  How receptive are people to new foods on menus?  More open?  J:  At Granita, I have a lot of regulars, and I like to send out new things for them to try.  They might order it the next time they come in.  Sweetbreads, cheeses, whatever it is. 

N:  If you are relaxing at home with a glass of wine, what kind of cheese would you have? 

J:  Well, right now I have a wonderful piece of Cargnavecchio that a customer brought me back from Italy.  I like to have shavings of that with a glass of wine.  In the wintertime, I like to buy the Fontina Val d'Aosta to make the Fonduta with the shaved white truffles.  When they are in season, we like to do a special truffle dinner every year. 

N:  Do you see the concept of truffle dinners and truffle season becoming more popular?
 
J:  Yes, people are understanding the seasonality and the perishability of it.  It is a fleeting thing, and they want to partake of that.  We did a salad with Pomegranates, Black Walnuts and shaved Truffle Pecorino over the salad.  It was a nice wintry dish.  I had Wolfgang going around and shaving truffles table to table. It was very exciting!
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Recipes
Spaghetti with Butter and Cheese
Spaghetti with Butter and Cheese
1 pound spaghetti, cooked according to package
1 cup freshly grated Parmigiano- Reggiano cheese
3 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened
3 tablespoons whipping cream
Salt, freshly ground pepper to taste
1/4 cup freshly grated pecorino Romano cheese
Heat a ceramic pasta bowl in oven set at lowest setting. When pasta is cooked and drained, place it in the heated bowl.
Immediately add half of Parmigiano-Reggiano and toss with two forks until cheese melts. Add butter and toss to melt. Add the cream, remaining Parmigiano-Reggiano and salt and pepper. Toss 6 to 8 times. Sprinkle pecorino Romano over the top, add additional pepper and serve at once.

Recipe from Pasta One, Two, Three
recipe and picture from: http://saycheesemedia.com
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Recipes
Onion Soup with Gruyère Toast
Onion Soup with Gruyère Toast
Recipe from Go Go Gruyère!
Makes 4 servings

2-1/4 pounds yellow onions, halved lengthwise
6 tablespoons unsalted butter, divided use
2 sprigs fresh thyme
1 bay leaf
1 tablespoon flour
1 cup dry white wine
4 cups beef stock
1 cup water or as needed
Freshly grated nutmeg
Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
4 1-inch-thick slices rustic bread
2 cups grated Gruyère cheese
Cut onion halves lengthwise into thin slices. Melt 4 tablespoons butter in a heavy pot over medium heat. Add the onions, thyme and bay and stir well. Reduce heat to medium-low and cook onion, stirring occasionally, until they are a rich, caramel color. This will take 30 to 35 minutes and shouldn’t be hurried; it is the basis on the soup’s flavor.

Sprinkle flour over onions and stir in. Cook 1 minute then add white wine. Let it simmer for 1 minute then add stock and 1 cup water. Cook gently for 25 minutes. Season with a pinch of fresh nutmeg and salt and pepper to taste. Remove thyme and bay. Soup can be refrigerated for up to two days; reheat gently before finishing. Thin with additional water if needed.

At serving time, divide soup among four heatproof bowls. Spread remaining butter on bread slices and place a slice atop each bowl of soup; sprinkle with cheese. Place under heated broiler until cheese melts and is bubbly and golden. Serve at once.

Recipe and picture found on http://saycheesemedia.com
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Erik's Weekly Pairing
Hannes Reeh
Hannes Reeh
Hannes Reeh
"Unplugged"
Chardonnay
2012
$20 for 750ml

Hannes Reeh is a part of the new guard of winemakers in Austria. His line of "unplugged" wines receive no fining, yeasts, or enzymes. What occurs in the vineyard is what you get in the bottle. Hannes' training was in Australia which was excellent preparation for winemaking in the town of Andau in Austria. Andau is the warmest town in the country receiving 2,400 hours of sun exposure. The sun exposure helps create a Chardonnay that’s more Californian, or Aussie, in style than the type of wine I normally associate with Austria. Hannes Reeh’s "Unplugged" is wonderfully delicious and unctuous. It’s rich yet balanced and excellent with food. If you are averse to Grüner Veltliner, let this be your introduction to great Austrian wines.

Tomme de Chèvre de Montagne
Goat
France
$35 per pound

This delicious natural rind goat’s milk cheese is aged for at least 6 months before we receive it. The taste is of mountain grasses, pepper and green peppers. It is typical of the area around Lyon. It is also a great cheese for melting.
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Recipes
Farmer’s Mac & Cheese
Farmer’s Mac & Cheese
The James Beard Foundation Recipes (JBF Recipes)
Joanne Bondy
Old Hickory Steakhouse at the Gaylord Texan Resort
Dallas

Yield:

6 servings
Ingredients:

1/2 pound dry pasta, such as rigatoni
1/2 head cauliflower, cut into small pieces
1 cup heavy cream
2 teaspoons whole grain Dijon mustard
2 pinches of fresh grated nutmeg
2 dashes of Tabasco sauce
2 cups grated Swiss cheese
1/2 wheel garlic and herb Boursin cheese
Basil pesto, to taste (optional)
1 egg, beaten
1/2 cup grated Parmesan
2 cups panko breadcrumbs
1/2 stick butter, melted
1 tablespoon Hungarian paprika
Fresh herbs, such has parsley, basil, or chives, chopped (optional)
3 tomatoes, sliced
Salt and pepper, to taste

Method:

Preheat oven to 350°.

Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Add the pasta. When the pasta is a few minutes away from being done, add the cauliflower. When al dente, drain both together in a colander.

Heat the cream in the same pot over medium heat, transfer the cauliflower and pasta back to pot with the warm cream. Add the mustard, nutmeg, and Tabasco. Stir over medium heat and allow to thicken slightly, stirring occasionally. Fold in the Swiss cheese and Boursin. You may add a small amount of basil pesto here if you’d like.

Mix the egg into the pasta and transfer to a buttered 9 x 13-inch baking dish. Mix together the Parmesan, bread crumbs, butter, and paprika. Include the herbs if you are including them. Top the pasta with the breadcrumb mixture. Garnish with slices of tomato. Bake for about 30 minutes, or until the edges are bubbly and brown.
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Norbert's Cheese Bytes
Norbert Interviews Chef Giacomino Drago - 2004
Giacomino is involved with multiple restaurants, and has his own line of authentic Sicilian products including pasta sauce and olive oil.
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Norbert Interviews Chef Giacomino Drago - 2004
Norbert interviews Giacomino Drago, partner in Il Pastaio, Piccolo Paradiso and Il Buco restaurants in Los Angeles. The youngest member of the renowned Drago restaurant family, Giacomino is now launching his own line of authentic Sicilian products including pasta sauce and olive oil. Norbert is currently working with Giacomino to put together his Fall cheese course.

N: What inspired you to create your own pasta sauce?

G: At my restaurants, I received such a demand for my sauce that I decided to bottle it. I also created a box with exactly the right amount of pasta to sell with the sauce.

N: I carry your sauce at The Cheese Store and it's very popular with my customers. You also have a very fine olive oil.

G: My goal is to introduce authentic Sicilian products to the American consumer. The secret of good Sicilian cooking is to keep everything very simple, using only the freshest ingredients. The flavors should be balanced and the seasoning should enhance, not mask the natural essence of the ingredients.

N: As a member of the Drago family, you must have literally grown up with food.

G: In Sicily where I was raised, my family owned a restaurant in the mountains. After school I worked in the restaurant and learned a lot about the business.

N: Do you have any formal culinary training?

G: After 8th grade, I decided to go to cooking school. In Italy, you have the option of going to a trade school instead of a traditional high school. During that time, I continued to work in the family restaurant for another year. Then I decided I wanted to go to America.

N: What made you decide to come here?

G: My brother Celestino had already established his restaurant, Celestino, in Beverly Hills. I was only 15 when I arrived, but I had already finished my schooling in Italy and was ready to work. After two years, Celestino opened up Drago and I became the pasta chef.

N: How long did you stay at Drago?

G: I worked with my brother 2 years and then I got drafted in the Italian army.

N: What did you do when you returned to Los Angeles?

G: Celestino opened up Il Pastaio and turned it over to me. After four years, I found a location on Robertson and Wilshire and opened Il Buco, which is a cozy little New York style trattoria. Then in January 2002, I started Piccolo Paradiso in Beverly Hills.

N: Now that we’re moving into fall, are you planning on doing any special menus?

G: Well Norbert, as you know, it's truffle season and I plan on using them in many dishes. I make a homemade tagliatelle with fresh white truffles and a poached egg on top. Of course, truffle oil can be drizzled on everything. And for you Norbert, I will create a special truffle fondue!
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Erik's Weekly Pairing
Domaine de Montfin & Vallée d'Aspe
Domaine de Montfin & Vallée d'Aspe
Domaine de Montfin
Corbiéres
2013
$16 per 750ml

With the 4th of July holiday just around the corner it's time to start thinking about refreshing wines that pair well with BBQ, hamburgers and my personal favorite hot dogs. While I usually prefer my Rosé super light and leaning towards a white wine I think this Corbiéres is a perfect compliment to meats traditionally served inside a bun or the slow cooked and smokey flavors of BBQ. This wine is the color of watermelon and smells of cassis and strawberry jam. This and all rosé are best served chilled.

Domaine de Montfin is a blend of 50% Grenache, 40% Cinsault and 10% Syrah. It comes from the Corbiéres appellation in the Languedoc. Corbiéres takes up 46% of the entire Languedoc, with most of that devoted to red wines. Whites and roses are usually reserved for the locals so this is a special opportunity to try something that rarely leaves France. Pair your next glass with some French cheese.
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Tony's Wine Corner
Tony's Wine Corner
Summer 2004
Summer 2004
Charbono, an almost unheard of Italian/Franch varietal, is rapidly becoming the hottest artisanal grape variety.  Derived from the Latin "Carbonarius" meaning "maker of wood coal", Charbono probably received it's name from the very dark color of the wine. Usually full bodied and tannic, Charbono is similar to a cross between a Syrah and Sangiovese. Cultivated on only 100 acres in California and made by no more than six producers in the state, the majority of the grapes are grown in the Northern part of Napa Valley and Mendocino, as the hotter drier climate further from the ocean benefits these grapes.

On my visits to Napa in the last three or four years, I've noticed that producers such as Robert Foley, Vince Tofanelli. Fife and Chameleon, have gotten very good at handcrafting this interesting wine. In addition to the old adage "practice makes perfect", new winemaking techniques such as cold maceration and extended fermentation allow for extracting fuller, darker yet softer, rounder flavors. Charbono is a great wine to pair with salty, mountain cheeses from France and Italy. From France, I recommend Abondance, a cows milk cheese from the French Pyrenees. Of the Italian cheeses, be sure to try Piave, a sweeter, nuttier version of Parmesan Reggiano from Trentino; Testun Barricato, a very seasonal, very rare cheese aged in wine must of the Nebbiola grape from Piedmonte; and a Pecorino Staginato from Tuscany.

Tony's Wine Pick: Chameleon (2001) from Napa Valley ($20).
This Charbono has a very intense black purple color with aromas of blackberry and black plum.  A very rich and hearty wine, it is excellent with full flavored cheese, grilled meat, and robust stews.

From Tony's Kitchen: Pork Roast Stuffed with Rosemary, Garlic and Parmesan.
Select the freshest, most nicely colored pork roast from a reputable butcher. Cut slits in the meat and insert sprigs of fresh rosemary, slivers of garlic and chunks of Parmesan cheese. Roast on a spit over your barbecue grill. When the cheese begins to melt, the roast is done. Serve with Rapini seasoned with garlic, white wine and the best olive oil along with a Tomato Salad - the very best tomatoes you can find seasoned with sea salt, fresh crushed pepper, olive oil and sherry or wine vinegar. For dessert, treat your guests to homemade or store bought Lemon Ice.
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Erik's Weekly Pairing
Feudi di San Gregorio & Taleggio D.O.P. (Arrigoni)
Feudi di San Gregorio & Taleggio D.O.P. (Arrigoni)
Feudi di San Gregorio
"Sirica"
I.G.T.
2010
$69.00

Feudi di San Gregorio has been at the forefront of winemaking in the southern Italian region of Campania for as long as they’ve been making wine. They have strong roots, making wines from indigenous plantings like "serpico" and "sirica", and a vision for the future with their ultra high tech winery that combines old and new schools of winemaking.

The original vines for Sirica were found growing wild in Taurasi, an area famous for its Aglianco grapes. However, upon testing, the two-century old Sirica vines were found to be a varietal of its own, consisting partly of Refosco, Teroldego and Syrah - vines that have nothing to do with Aglianco.

The word Sirica comes from the Latin word syricum, a thick red dye that was used in the time of Pliny the Elder and described in his writings. This wine is clearly from another time both in its composition and nature. It pairs perfectly with lamb; preferably large cuts such as leg or shoulder and cooked slowly over open fire. Cheese is also a great companion to this wine.

Taleggio D.O.P. (Arrigoni)
Cow
Italy
$35/lb

Arrigoni is a fantastic cheese producer. In our opinion they make one of the best Taleggios you can get. Taleggio is a soft ripened washed rind cheese made outside of the town of Bergamo in northern Italy. This is also the area where the aforementioned grapes Teroldego and Refosco come from. When young, the cheese is pink and sweet before ripening into a stronger cheese that smells of forest mushrooms. This pairs well with wine and fresh bread.
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Recipes
Mark Peel's Macaroni and Cheese With Mushrooms
Mark Peel's Macaroni and Cheese With Mushrooms
Mark Peel: October 7, LA Cooking Examiner Erika Kerekes
(serves 8)

Béchamel

½ ounce dried porcini mushrooms
3 tablespoons unsalted butter
3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1/3 cup minced onion
1 dried red chile (preferably Japanese), whole
1 small bay leaf
Kosher salt
2 cups whole milk
Macaroni

¾ pound penne
1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
½ ounce dried morels
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
½ cup finely chopped onion or shallot
Kosher salt
2 fat garlic cloves, halved, green shoots removed, and minced
6 ounces fresh wild mushrooms, such as hedgehogs, maitake, or oyster mushrooms, washed and quartered or cut into thick slices
1½ teaspoons chopped fresh thyme leaves
2 tablespoons chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
Freshly ground black pepper
3 ounces Gruyère cheese, grated (¾ cup, tightly packed)
1½ ounces Parmesan cheese, grated (1/3 cup, tightly packed)
3 ounces fresh mozzarella cheese, finely chopped (about ¾ cup)
¼ cup fresh or dried bread crumbs

1. Make the béchamel: Place the porcini in a bowl and pour in 1 cup hot water. Let sit for 30 minutes. Drain through a cheesecloth-lined strainer. Squeeze the mushrooms over the strainer to extract the soaking liquid, then rinse well in several changes of water, swishing them around in the water until you no longer see any sand. Squeeze dry, chop coarsely, and set aside. Measure out ¾ cup of the soaking liquid.
2. In a medium saucepan over medium heat, melt the butter and add the flour. Stir together with a wooden spoon until the roux is just barely golden and has a popcorn aroma, 3 to 5 minutes. Add the onion, chile, and bay leaf and continue to cook, stirring, until the onion softens slightly and the raw onion smell is gone. Add ¼ teaspoon salt. The popcorn smell will dissipate and the roux will thicken, then loosen up.

3. Change from the wooden spoon to a whisk and whisk in the milk and the mushroom-soaking liquid all at once. Bring slowly to a simmer, whisking constantly.
4. Turn the heat to low and simmer, stirring very often with a wooden spoon or a heatproof rubber spatula so that nothing sticks to the sides and bottom of the pot. If the flour sticks and scorches, the béchamel will be ruined and you’ll have to begin again. It helps to cook the béchamel in a wide pan you can tip to see the bottom to make sure the sauce is not sticking. Simmer for about 15 minutes, until there is no raw flour taste and the sauce is quite thick.

5. Remove from the heat and press through a sieve immediately, while hot. You can store the béchamel for a few days in the refrigerator. Place a piece of plastic directly over the surface to prevent a skin from forming. When you reheat it, whisk it vigorously.

6. Make the macaroni: Bring a large pot of water to a boil and add a generous tablespoon of salt and the penne. Cook for a minute less than usual. It should be cooked through but a little more al dente or chewy than you’d like it if you were serving it right away. Drain and toss with a tablespoon of olive oil. Set aside.

7. Preheat the oven to 400ºF and butter a 2-quart gratin or baking dish. Place the dried morels in a bowl and pour on 1½ cups hot water. Allow to soak for 20 to 30 minutes. Agitate the mushrooms in the soaking water to release more sand, then lift them from the water and let the water sit for a few minutes. Strain into a bowl through a cheesecloth-lined strainer. Rinse the mushrooms, swishing them around in several changes of water to release more sand. Slice lengthwise and set aside with the reconstituted porcini.

8. Heat 1 tablespoon unsalted butter in a wide, heavy saucepan and add the onion and ½ teaspoon salt. Cook gently until tender, about 5 minutes, and add the garlic. Cook for another minute, until the garlic is fragrant, and stir in the reconstituted morels and porcini. Cook, stirring for a minute or two, until the liquid cooks out. Add the fresh mushrooms and ¼ teaspoon salt, and cook, stirring, until the mushrooms are tender and have cooked down somewhat, about 5 minutes. Add the strained soaking liquid from the dried mushrooms and stir together. Bring to a boil and cook until the liquid has reduced by about three quarters, to a thick gravy coating the mushrooms and the bottom of the pan. Rub the thyme between the palms of your hands to release its aroma and stir into the mushrooms along with 1 tablespoon of the parsley; add salt and pepper to taste. Stir in the béchamel and remove from the heat.

9. In a large bowl, toss together the cooked penne, the béchamel and mushrooms, the Gruyère, all but 2 tablespoons of the Parmesan, and the mozzarella. Spoon into the buttered baking dish. Combine the bread crumbs, the remaining Parmesan, and the remaining tablespoon of parsley and sprinkle over the top in an even layer. Dot with the remaining butter.

10. Cover the macaroni with foil and place in the oven. Bake 40 minutes, or until bubbling. Uncover, turn the heat down to 375ºF, and bake another 10 to 15 minutes, until the top has browned. Remove from the heat and, once the macaroni has stopped bubbling, serve.
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Erik's Weekly Pairing
Elena Walch Gewürztraminer Alto Adige D.O.C. 2013 & Asiago Vecchio
Elena Walch Gewürztraminer Alto Adige D.O.C. 2013 & Asiago Vecchio
Elena Walch
Gewürztraminer
Alto Adige D.O.C.
2013
$27 for 750ml

Elena Walch is a super star in the Alto Adige. Her wines are precise and taste like the varietal they are made from (often a rarity). There is no manipulation that takes place in the wine making process. It is pure excellent fruit. Her Gewürztraminer is the benchmark for all Italian winemakers who work with that varietal. In fact it may be the benchmark for all Gewürztraminers. Notably, Gewürztraminer comes from Italy, from the town of Tramin not so far away from the Walch winery. It literally translates to the “spicy Traminer” a varietal with honeyed aromatics that is a perfect match for cheese, or rich creamy foods. Try it with a nice piece of cheese and some rustic bread. I like it with a little shell fish cooked with Thai spices.

Asiago Vecchio
Cow
Italy
$30 per pound

Asiago is another benchmark of the Italian food and wine experience. It is probably the most famous and possibly the best cheese from the Trentino-Alto Adige region in the north of Italy. It can be used in place of Parmigiano or just crumbled on a plate with a little bread. The Vecchio receives an extra year of aging creating a cheese slightly more salty on the palate. And just a quick bit of trivia: where does the name Asiago come from? Asiago is the town in which its namesake cheese is made.
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Erik's Weekly Pairing
Jardesca Blanco California Apertif Wine
Jardesca Blanco California Apertif Wine
Jardesca
Blanco
California Apertif Wine
$28

The perfect wine for the perfect moment is something to consider when having a gathering. There is a charming alternative between a nice refreshing white wine and a cocktail -- an apertif, something that is common in Europe but hasn't quite caught on here in the US. Jardesca is the just right combination of refreshing and wine-like, but fortified for a little extra kick. I like it over ice with a twist of lime.

Want to try it? Come by The Cheese Store of Beverly Hills on Monday May 5th (Cinco de Mayo) for a taste and maybe a bite of a delicious quesadilla to celebrate the holiday.

Try our quesadilla recipe!
4 ounces of Boschetto al Tartufo (cow and sheeps milk from Italy $50/pound) sprinkled between two corn tortillas for a perfect cheesy appetizer. Heat in a pan 'til melted.
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Recipes
L.A. Sates’ Ultimate Mac & Cheese
L.A. Sates’ Ultimate Mac & Cheese
Sinful is the word to describe this incredible mac and cheese recipe. There are many out there, but LASates is offering you the be-all and end-all of mac and cheese recipes. Add ingredients, remove ingredients, do what you will. With the basic steps in mind, you can never go wrong with this recipe. Bon apetit, LASaters!

Active Time: 1 hrs
Bake Time: 30 mins

Ingredients
6+2 T Butter
6 T Flour
½ t Cayenne pepper
Salt
Freshly ground white pepper
3 ¾ c Hot whole milk
2 c Sharp cheddar, grated
1 c Gruyere
1 c Fontina
1 lb Elbow macaroni, cooked
½?1 head of garlic, roasted
6 slices bacon, coarse crispy crumbles
½ c Heavy cream
½ c Fresh bread crumbs

Instructions
Preheat oven to 350°.

Optional: Steep warm milk with bay leaf and a couple of cloves of raw garlic for 30 mins.

Melt 6 T butter in a med stainless steel saucepan over LOW heat. Add flour, whisking constantly for 2?4 mins. Stir in cayenne and season to taste with salt and pepper. Whisk in hot milk, 1/2 cup at a time, stirring constantly, until sauce thickens. Stir in 2 cups of cheese (1 c cheddar, ½ c Gruyere, ½ c Fontina). Cook, stirring, until cheese melts, about 2 minutes.

Combine pasta and sauce in a large bowl, and season with salt. Sprinkle 1/2 cup mixed cheese, some roasted garlic and bacon crumbles over the bottom of a buttered casserole dish. Place 1/3 of the pasta mixture in the baking dish, top with 1/2 cup of cheese, roasted garlic and bacon, then repeat, layering pasta and cheese, ending with just the cheese, making three layers in all. Pour heavy cream over mac and cheese.

Melt remaining butter in a skillet. Add fresh bread crumbs, coat with melted butter, and sprinkle over macaroni
and cheese.

Bake until crust is golden, about 30 mins. Rest for about 15 mins before serving.

Serves 8.

LASates Note
No fear, we have a simpler version! You can warm the milk without the steeping elements. Cut out the extra types of cheese and use 4 cups of cheddar instead. Replace fresh bread crumbs with panko or dried bread crumbs. You can also forgo the heavy cream.

L.A.Sates 19 July 2009
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Erik's Weekly Pairing
Monteraponi Chianti Classico D.O.C.G. & Bianco Sardo
Monteraponi Chianti Classico D.O.C.G. & Bianco Sardo
Monteraponi
Chianti Classico
D.O.C.G.
2011
750ml
$35

Chianti in fiasco is back. Through many years of terrible wines in basket covered bottles, a top tier producer has stepped up and offered their bottling of Chianti Classio in a fiasco. Monteraponi has sent a scant 9 cases of their delicious Classico to California dressed in this traditional bottle. They are my current favorite Chianti producer, and this is a fun way to get back into one of Italy's most classic wines. Try it with grilled steaks and aged cheeses and get your Sangiovese on!

Bianco Sardo
Sheep
Sardinia, Italy
$35/lb

Bianco Sardo is a fantastic cheese that is both sharp and sweet. It is aged for a minimum of 6 months before it is released. The cheese is aged in a basket, and the impression it leaves produces the heavily textured rind. Try it with a nice glass of Chianti.
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Norbert's Cheese Bytes
Norbert Interviews Susan Spicer - 2007
In this edition of Cheese Bytes, Norbert interviews Susan Spicer about cooking in New Orleans, her new book and her restaurants.
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Norbert Interviews Susan Spicer - 2007
Norbert: Hi, we’re upstairs at The Cheese Store of Beverly Hills and we have Susan Spicer with us. Hello Susan.

Susan: Hello Norbert. It’s been many, many years.

Norbert: How many years?...

Susan: We decided we wouldn’t say.

Norbert: Susan is here signing books. She now has a new one called “Crescent City Cooking.” Tell us a little bit about it.

Susan: Ok. Well, "Crescent City Cooking, Unforgettable Recipes From Susan Spicer’s New Orleans" is sort of the culmination of my 29 years of cooking professionally, and it contains family recipes, it contains the signature recipes of my two restaurants, Bayona and Herbsaint in New Orleans, as well as other things I learned along the way cooking with other people and at some of the other restaurants I worked at while I was learning.

Norbert: What are some of those influences?

Susan: Well I am a product of a father from Georgia, and a mother from Denmark, so we grew up eating a lot so different kinds of food in my household. My mom is a great cook. Right before we moved to New Orleans, we lived in Holland, so she learned some of the indigenous dishes that were popular over there, and I trained with French chefs, and grew up in New Orleans. So it’s New Orleans from a global perspective I suppose you would say.

Norbert: Well, New Orleans is sort of a global perspective…

Susan: It is. The Creole cuisine is a blend of French, Spanish, West Indian and all that, and we have a big Vietnamese population in New Orleans now, so really there are a lot of influences and factors, and of course, that’s all on top of having the great seafood: oysters, crawfish, shrimp, and all that. My style is probably using traditional ingredients in non-traditional ways.

Norbert: Susan and I actually grew up together in New Orleans, went to school at LSUNO. You know that I have to say that New Orleans has the best kitchens, the best restaurants in the United States. Hate to say that, being here in LA…

Susan: Well, it’s a very strong and indigenous cuisine.

Norbert: Right.. And the influences are incredible: the Italian, the Spanish, the French, and its own sort of Creole thing. What are some of your favorite dishes in the book?

Susan: Well…

Norbert: Signature dishes...


Susan: Well signature for the restaurant. One of the ones I like the most is a goat cheese crouton with mushrooms and Madeira cream. I use a fresh goat cheese, mixed with a tiny bit of butter, spread on a piece of multigrain bread and we trim the crust on that, pop it into the broiler at the last minute till it’s really bubbly and brown. I serve that with oysters and shiitake mushrooms, and when I can get some chanterelles we throw those in too...but the mushrooms are sautéed until they are sort of crispy and a nice rich brown. Then we put garlic, shallots, Madeira, kind of a medium dry Madeira, in a pan, the Madeira sort of reduces and the mushrooms absorb it, and you hit it with a little bit of cream at the last minute. Then pour that over the toasted goat cheese, and it’s one that you can prepare in a lot of different stages. You can prepare almost all of it ahead of time, then put it all together at the last minute, so it’s great for entertaining.

Norbert: Sounds great. What did you make for us here today? That was incredible.

Susan: Thank you. That was a little goat cheese mixed with some fresh herbs and garlic confit, and then spread on a crouton with a little roasted tomato compote.

Norbert: Where are you getting your goat cheese from?

Susan: We buy Judy Schad’s Capriole goat cheese that’s from right outside Louisville, Kentucky. She’s actually in Indiana. So we buy her fresh goat cheese. We use that for several different dishes, and we buy some of her aged goat cheese like the Wabash Cannonball and her old Kentucky Tomme.
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Recipes
Rialto's Grilled Prosciutto-Wrapped Figs
Rialto's Grilled Prosciutto-Wrapped Figs
Ingredients
¾ c. sheep’s milk ricotta
¼ c. finely grated pecorino
¼ tsp. ground fennel seed
1 tsp. grated lemon zest
1 tsp. grated fresh ginger
2 tbsp. green olives, rinsed and coarsely chopped
Kosher salt and ground black pepper
16 ripe figs, cut in half
8 super-thin slices prosciutto
4 tbsp. balsamic vinegar
2 tbsp. honey
1/8 tsp. cracked black pepper

1. Preheat grill to medium heat.

2. In a bowl, mix ricotta and pecorino with fennel, lemon zest, ginger, and olives. Season with salt and pepper.

3. Smear 16 fig halves with the cheese mixture and place other halves on top (like a little fig sandwich).

4. Wrap each fig with ½ slice of prosciutto, making sure to cover seam to hold sides in place.

5. In a small saucepan, combine vinegar, honey, and black pepper and bring to a boil over medium-high heat.

6. Reduce heat to low and cook for three minutes.

7. Grill wrapped figs for about four minutes per side or until prosciutto is nice and crispy.

8. Transfer grilled figs to plate and drizzle with balsamic honey.

9. Slice in half and serve with a simple green salad.

Rialto's Grilled Prosciutto-Wrapped Figs
Rialto owner and chef Jody Adams, Picture off DailyCandy.com
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Recipes
Super Simple Mac & Cheese with Sage
Super Simple Mac & Cheese with Sage
MAC & CHEESE RECIPE
1/2 lb. of your favorite pasta (macaroni, penne, farfalle, etc.)
1 c. gruyere cheese, grated*
sea salt
fresh black pepper
5 or more fresh sage leaves
olive oil

RECIPE
1. Prepare sage oil. Drizzle olive oil into pan and gentle heat over medium flame. Add sage leaves to infuse into the oil. Once you smell the sage and right before they turn brown, it's ready! Set aside for pasta topping later. Let the oil slightly cool.
2. Meanwhile, cook pasta until al dente. Add pasta into the sage oil.
3. Add the cheese and stir.
4. Sprinkle sea salt and fresh black pepper before serving.
5. Bon appétit!

*Note: Other good cheeses to try with this dish are young Fontina, Comte, young Gouda, Jack Cheese, or any good melting cheese.
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Erik's Weekly Pairing
Villa Dora Vesuvio D.O.C. Rosso & Caciocavallo Silano
Villa Dora Vesuvio D.O.C. Rosso & Caciocavallo Silano
Villa Dora
Vesuvio
D.O.C.
Rosso
2011
$18

Naples is home to some of the most storied and beautiful places from antiquity to modern day. The volcano Vesuvius, which erupted in the year 79 C.E. and destroyed the city of Pompeii as well as neighboring villages, shadows the area. The land has always been well thought of for its ability to grow some of the best wines in Italy. The whites are some of Italy’s best and their reds are wonderful in their own right as well.

The D.O.C. for Vesuvio reds is made up from local varietals Piedirosso and Aglianico, both of which are fairly robust when planted in volcanic soils. They pair well with grilled meats such as lamb or slow cooked meat dishes like Braciole. In fact, many of the foods you find in American Italian restaurants originate from the Naples area and this red goes perfectly with those dishes.

Caciocavallo Silano
Cow
Italy
$30

Caciocavallo is made in many parts of southern Italy, from Molise all the way down to Sicily. It is a "pasta filata" cheese like those found in the Mozzarella family. This one in particular comes from the Silano breed of cows in the Molise area.

A century ago, the cheeses were tied together and hung over a rafter. The appearance of the hanging cheese resembled saddlebags on the back of a horse giving the cheese its name: Cacio (cheese) Cavallo (horse). Try it sliced thick and grilled with eggplant and tomatoes or with a slightly chilled glass of Vesuvio red.
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Erik's Weekly Pairing
Liquid Farm FOUR Chardonnay Santa Rita Hills 2012 & Sheep Milk Curds with Spices & Oil
Liquid Farm FOUR Chardonnay Santa Rita Hills 2012 & Sheep Milk Curds with Spices & Oil
Liquid Farm
FOUR
Chardonnay
Santa Rita Hills
2012
$80

Liquid Farm has a minimalistic winemaking style that shows off the purity of the fruit they source. Their FOUR Chardonnay is a tribute to their first vintage in 2009 where they started out with a scant 4 barrels of wine. They have since grown - not only in production but also as wine makers, becoming sure handed and confident in the fantastic wines they produce. FOUR comes from a few vineyards famed for Chardonnay in Santa Barbara’s Santa Rita Hills (Clos Pepe, Rita's Crown, Bentrock and Zotovich.)

FOUR is long on the palate and rich yet refreshing. The wine is delicious and I expect it to age another decade. Try it with local crab and drawn butter.

Sheep Milk Curds with Spices & Oil
Sheep
California
$10 for 6 oz

A wonderful accompaniment to any antipasto spread. The squeaky cheese curds are tossed in dried herbs, peppercorns and then marinated in local olive oil from Paso Robles. Try them with a glass of wine and some fresh bread.
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Norbert's Cheese Bytes
Norbert Interviews Celestino Drago - 2004
Renowned restaurateur Celestino Drago (Drago, Il Pastaio, Celestino's) has a line of artisanal breads made at his new Dolce Forno bakery.
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Norbert Interviews Celestino Drago - 2004
Renowned restaurateur Celestino Drago (Drago, Il Pastaio, Celestino's) has a line of artisanal breads made at his new Dolce Forno bakery. After baking for his own restaurants for four years, he recently acquired a 6000 square foot bakery in Culver City, producing an extensive selection of Italian breads for the wholesale trade. Recognized by Food & Wine magazine as one of "The 10 Best Chefs" in the country, Celestino's new bakery will be a welcome contribution to our culinary community. We prefer to carry breads by small bakeries such as Dolce Forno, which offers us exclusive selections including olive bread, foccacia, ciabatta, filoncino baguette, and brioche. Norbert: Celestino, we are so excited about carrying your breads in the store. With all of your wonderful restaurants, what inspired you to start selling breads?

Celestino: Bread is very important to the success of any meal, it's a very important element in our daily diet. You can usually tell a good restaurant by their bread...that's why I watch very closely the quality of my breads for every restaurant, so I represent them in the best way possible.

N: When did you start making breads here?

C: When I opened Drago, I began baking breads just for Drago: Ciabatta, Focaccia, and breadsticks. When I opened the Steakhouse in West Hollywood, I was able to have a larger oven and then bought the best oven possible on the market for baking bread. The result was ten times better than what I had been able to make at Drago. Little by little, by word of mouth, the bread got attention by other restaurateurs, caterers, and hotels. We did what we could from the Steakhouse, but in order to keep up I needed to find a larger place. That's when we opened Dolce Forno.

N: What makes your breads so distinctive?

C: We try to create the best breads from all the regions in Italy: Carta De Musica from Sardinia, Semolina breads from Sicily, and of course, our best seller, Ciabatta. I come up with my own specialty recipes like the Caramelized Garlic Balsamic Vinegar Loaf, and I’m developing one with Dominico's Pomodori Secchi for The Cheese Store. It's still in development, but it's coming soon!

N: Do you do the baking yourself?

C: I've been very lucky to have a great lead baker for the past 5 years, who has worked at some of the best bakeries in the area. Also, my dear friend Sandro Comacchia comes over twice a year from Sicily to consult for a month and check the quality of the breads.

N: Where is the new bakery located? Can customers shop there?

C: Dolce Forno is in Culver City. It's 6000 sq. ft so we can do a lot of production. Very soon we will be offering retail and "will call" for our customers.

N: Any other exciting news going on?

C: Yes, I am opening Enoteca Drago at the end of June on Canon Drive in Beverly Hills (where La Scala used to be.) It will be a wine bar and pizzeria with a small retail storefront for the bakery. We'll be open for breakfast, lunch, and dinner so you can try our breads at any time of the day!

N: Thank you Celestino!
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Erik's Weekly Pairing
Cenatiempo Vini d'Ischia Ischia D.O.C. Bianco Superiore 2012 & Mozzarella di Bufala
Cenatiempo Vini d'Ischia Ischia D.O.C. Bianco Superiore 2012 & Mozzarella di Bufala
Cenatiempo Vini d'Ischia
Ischia D.O.C.
Bianco Superiore
2012
$18 per bottle

Ischia D.O.C. is made up of local varietals: 40% Biancolella, 45% Forastera, and 15% various old mixed plantings such as Collionara and Biancolellon, all from the island of Ischia. Ischia has long been a source of excellent wines, notably their whites. They tend to have a flinty nose and taste to them, which is consistent with most wines grown on or near volcanoes. Truly ancient, the wines of Ischia were favorites of Caesar Augustus and later Popes and Princes.

Enjoy this piece of ancient paradise in the warmth of the sun with family and friends as if you were drinking and eating on a small island off the coast of Italy. I suggest a nice mixed grill of small fish, finished in a great olive oil, or a little pasta and some marinated vegetables. The wine, of course, should be from Ischia, that small island in the shadow of Capri in the Tyrrhenian Sea off the coast of Naples.

Mozzarella di Bufala
Water Buffalo
Campania/ Lazio in Italy
$12 each for 8 ounces

Mozzarella is one of Italy’s most famous and finest cheeses and so much more than a topping for pizza. Mozzarella is from a cheese family called pasta filata, the same family that provolone, caciocavallo and scamorza comes from. Pasta filata literally means to stretch the curd. To make mozzarella, you pull and stretch the curd until it you are able to work it into a ball. At that point you turn the top into a knot and lop off the head, in Italian that would be the verb "mozzare" meaning “to lop off” hence the word mozzarella. The key to enjoying Mozzarella is good bread and olive oil. Try it sliced with roasted artichokes, tomatoes, or a great farmers market find.
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Erik's Weekly Pairing
Purlieu Le Pich Cabernet Sauvignon 2010 & Rogue River Creamery
Purlieu Le Pich Cabernet Sauvignon 2010 & Rogue River Creamery
Purlieu
Le Pich
Cabernet Sauvignon
2010
$38 per bottle

Lately, I’ve been enjoying the Napa Valley cabernet sauvignon from Purlieu’s sister label, Le Pich (a Wappo Indian word meaning "golden eagle"). This wine displays great Napa character, dusty and rich in fruit. It is classic in the best sense of the word.

The winemaking team is all-star. Winemaker Julien Fayard has worked at famed Bordeaux estates such as Lafite-Rothschild and Smith Haut-Lafite. Julien’s impressive resume continues in California with Dalle Valle, Lail, Gemstone and Atelier Melka as Director of Winemaking. The other half of the team is equally notable. Vineyard manager Steve Matthiason has worked with Robert Sinskey, Long Meadow Ranch, Araujo and has his own label.

Purlieu wines have a sense of place and are made by people who are passionate not only about the terroir they work with but the wine they create. Try the Cabernet Sauvignon with BBQ steaks and some smokey cheese.

Rogue River Creamery
Smokey Blue
Cow
Oregon
$40 per pound

Rogue River Creamery’s Smokey Blue is probably my favorite smoked cheese. It’s good by itself but great in a Cobb salad. The cheese is smoked over hazelnut shells at a very low heat that gently incorporates the smokey smell. It is then aged at least six months and happens to be vegetarian friendly. Try it warmed on good bread with a little honey, melted over your favorite steak or, my favorite, in a Cobb salad.
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Erik's Weekly Pairing
Habit Pinot Noir La Encantada Vineyard Santa Rita Hills 2012 & Golden Valley Farm
Habit Pinot Noir La Encantada Vineyard Santa Rita Hills 2012 & Golden Valley Farm
Habit
Pinot Noir
La Encantada Vineyard
Santa Rita Hills
2012
$50

Habit Winery makes some of my favorite wines in Santa Barbara county. Winemaker and owner Jeff Fischer transforms wonderful fruit from great vineyards into excellent wines. His Pinot Noir is from La Encantada vineyard, which is one of the coldest sites in the region. Planted in the year 2000 and certified organic, La Encantada fruit is a hot commodity among winemakers.

This Pinot Noir is well crafted and pure, bright in flavor as well as in the nose, and tastes like the great Pinot Noirs from Santa Barbara county used to taste - delicious. Neither over done nor excessively nouveau (it doesn’t have that stem-like taste), it’s a truly balanced wine.

Habit only produced about 5 barrels of this Pinot Noir and CSBH is lucky to be one of the few retailers to carry it!

Golden Valley Farm
Sheep
Chowchilla, CA
$35 per pound


Last week we met a gentleman named Mario, a farmer from Golden Valley Farm in the San Joaquin Valley, who happens to make some of the best sheep’s milk cheese I've tasted in a long time. There is a wonderful soft-ripening cheese, a pepato, and a few drier cheeses aged for various amounts of time. Golden Valley Farm delivers their delicious cheeses to us every other week. Come in and try one today!
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Erik's Weekly Pairing
Joh. Jos. Prüm Bernkasteler Badstube Kabinett Riesling 2012 & Mont des Cats
Joh. Jos. Prüm Bernkasteler Badstube Kabinett Riesling 2012 & Mont des Cats
Joh. Jos. Prüm
Bernkasteler Badstube
Kabinett
Riesling
2012
$27

German wines are a thing of wonder. Frequently misunderstood, as they have odd names most people can’t pronounce, they’re a great value and Riesling is truly the most noble of grapes.

J.J. Prüm is one of the greatest wineries in the world and some would argue, the greatest winery in the Mosel. Let’s break down the label. The order is village - vineyard - style.

Bernkasteler is a wine from Tephra village of Bernkastel. Badstube is the vineyard. Kabinett is the style. Kabinett is the lowest rung of the "pradikat" system of German wine classifications. Kabinett wines are dry (unless otherwise stated) and from mature grapes. Low in alcohol, with no sugar added, they are fruity, perfumed, and balanced for everyday consumption. Try it with cheese, sausage or a schnitzel.


Mont des Cats
Cow
France
$35 per pound

This is very good washed rind cheese made by Trappist monks at the Abbaye du Mont des Cats in French Flandres. The cheese has been in production since 1890 and is named after the hill where the abbey is located. The hill name itself is derived from the name of a Germanic tribe known as Chatti (French: Chattes; Dutch; Chatten), living in the area after the fall of the Roman Empire (5th century). It has a pungent salty taste which pairs perfectly with German Riesling.
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Palmina Malvasia Bianca Santa Barbara County 2011 & Il Tartufaio
Palmina Malvasia Bianca Santa Barbara County 2011 & Il Tartufaio
Palmina
Malvasia Bianca
Santa Barbara County
2011
$27

You’ve probably had Malvasia Bianca even if you’ve never heard of this grape. Grown from Sicily all the way into the Balkans in Europe, Malvasia is the white grape that’s traditionally blended into Chianti (which is usually 90% red and about 10% white.)

Palmina Winery in Santa Barbara specializes in Italian varietals and makes a wonderful wine of Malvasia Bianca. The winemaker, Steve Clifton, does a masterful job producing wines of class, elegance and place that taste like their Italian counterparts with some California flair. Palmina’s Malvasia Bianca comes in at a scant 12% alcohol yet delivers big on flavor and mouthfeel. This wine pairs wonderfully with baked oysters and a touch of cream or steamed mussels in white wine sauce.

Il Tartufaio
Cow + Sheep
Italy
$50 per pound


Il Tartufaio comes from Emilia-Romagna, which is Italy’s gastronomic center, and is my new favorite truffle cheese. It’s light and fairly soft...a perfect cheese to melt over potatoes or even a steak.
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Château Roumieu-Lacoste Sauternes 2011 & Shaft's
Château Roumieu-Lacoste Sauternes 2011 & Shaft's
Château Roumieu-Lacoste
Sauternes
2011
375ml $25 and 750ml $42

Sauternes is very special. In the world of wine, Sauternes has one of the most seductive noses of honey, earth and apricot jam. This Hervé Dubourdieu production is exquisite and made from 100% Semillon grapes that are 100% affected by botrytis. The "noble rot" (botrytis) that covers the grapes dries and concentrates the flavor, turning the Semillon into unbelievable nectar that can easily last decades in the bottle. Sauternes is an intense wine experience and a glass could be dessert all on its own. This is the perfect way to end your holiday dinner, either with some pecan pie or a nice piece of blue cheese.

Shaft's
Cow
California via Wisconsin
$35

A true American cheese, made by hand in Wisconsin then sent to age in old mine shafts in Roseville, California. The blue mold is Penicillium Roqueforti -- the same mold that is harvested from the caves of Roquefort to give that distinctive blue flavor and coloring to the cheeses. It pairs perfectly with a sweet wine.
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