Published on February 15th, 2011 | by Greg0
Fancy Food 2011: Cheese, Truffles, Oil and Vinegar
Last month, we attended one of the most fun annual tradeshows – the Fancy Food Show in San Francisco, an event we’ve attended in the past and always enjoyed. Held in the Moscone Center over the course of several days, it draws attendees from throughout the world and features a wide variety of foods in every conceivable form. We tried dozens of interesting beverages, including black water, and more chips, cheeses, dips, and dressings than should be legal to have in a single location. We brought back items from four of our favorite exhibitors to our tasting room, where they faced the tough challenge of a panel of hungry writers (and friends).
We skipped as we took home six types of Rogue cheese to try- three blues and three cheddars. Caveman Blue is amongst the more normal of the excellent cheeses from this Oregonian creamery, which has been around since 1935. The Crater Lake Blue was the mild one in the family of blues- one of our tasters declared it “good for people who don’t like blue cheese.” Some of use who adore blue cheese also enjoyed it. We were in intrigued by the Smokey Blue Cheese. According the Rogue’s website it’s the first blue ever smoked. The effect was surprising and delicious- perfect for pairing with meat, though it was a bit overwhelming for some of our eaters. With a focus on blue cheese, we were impressed during our tastings with some of their other varieties- especially the ones that use Rogue Ales. The Chocolate Stout Cheddar was delicious. The Morimoto Soba Ale Cheddar is out of this world, one of the very best cheddars we’ve tried. We happened to have some beer mustard on hand, and indulged in a holy beer trio, pairing it with the liquid version of the Rogue Morimoto Soba. Despite the names and the partnership, the two companies are not affiliated. The Raw Milk Cheddar was nice and solid, not overwhelming, but held it’s own. Some of their more interesting varieties don’t appear to be available online for purchase, sadly, but they do offer several cheese club options.
One of our favorite snacks is good, fresh bread dipped in oils or vinegars. Mia’s Kitchen Balsamic is an interesting change from our normal aged balsamics. This version is much thicker and sweeter, the pear juice and honey it’s reduced with evident. It contrasted nicely with some of our cheeses. We tried it with fresh mozzarella, basil and tomatoes to stunning effect. Such a simple way to impress friends. We’re also looking forward to trying it over vanilla gelato. The “Mia” of Mia’s Kitchen is the newest generation in a family of food enthusiasts – she grew up in Sonoma incorporating wine into her cooking from her family’s Vineyard- Sebastiani.
Most truffle oils are not actually made from real truffles, it seems- but the stuff we tried clearly was. The first all-natural US-produced truffle oil is harvested by the folks behind the Joel Palmer House, a restaurant in Dayton, Oregon. We learned that the distinctive odor is actually an important part of the truffle life-cycle, as it attracts the animals that carry the spores of the next generation. Thus, they claim that of all foods, “truffles are the only ones that must be eaten in order to continue their existence”. We have to admit to finding the oil a bit sharper and more garlicky than expected- not in a bad way, but one that meant some careful thinking about use rather than liberal application or general cooking as one might use olive oil. It’s fairly delicate stuff- great to pour over things or use with good bread or pasta for something different.
We’ll be doing a much broader tasting of olive oils soon, but we managed to grab a bottle of the 2010 Reserve on our way out of the show. This is bottled directly and unfiltered for a pretty distinctive taste- a bit more raw than most EVOO and definitely worthy of tasting. Perfect for non-cooking use, we paired it against the cheese, vinegar reduction, and truffle oil and liked it all the more for holding strong. It’s fruitier than some, and at least one writer commented that it didn’t go as well with some salt, pepper, and good bread as more filtered varieties. But as far as limited edition local foods go, it’s high up on our list of our new favorite annual releases.