Sunday, November 10, 2013

Cheese Fest - the recap - AND recipes from Hosea Rosenberg

I mentioned that I was going to a cheese fest here in Colorado, and said I'd give a recap.

So here it is: I ate waaaaay too much cheese. Is that even possible? Yes, maybe. Although I nibbled some cheese curds at dinner, so I guess I recovered quickly.

There was a huge room full of cheese companies at the fest, with a lot of cheese samples. Some of the vendors were selling cheeses at the fest, others were just displaying. And there were a few related companies, as well.

Mostly cheese, though.

There was a pretty big crowd, and it was orderly, which is a good thing and a bad thing. It seems that even when lines aren't required, people get in lines and follow along. So there was a bit of waiting to get to the cheese samples and the cheese people.

But here's the deal. And this is something I thought about after the event. Some people paid their money and simply wanted to sample the cheeses. Munch-munch-munch. And maybe find some new cheeses they might buy - now or later.

Other people wanted to chat with the cheese people, ask questions about where the cheese was made, how it was made, what sort of milk, how long it was aged. Which is great. But every time a chatty person asked a cheese question, it meant that other people waiting behind them in the line had to wait for the questions to be asked before they could grab their little sample of cheese and move along. It would be rude to bypass a chatter to grab a sample, so people patiently waited in line.

And for the most part, the lines moved quickly enough. But some folks were confused about where lines started and where you were supposed to go at turning points. It was actually announced that there were no actual lines, but still people waited behind whoever was in front of them. Because it would have seemed rude to crash ahead to grab a sample of cheese when someone else was talking, right?

Maybe. I don't know.

Would there be a more efficient way to do this? Maybe a buffet of cheese samples, and a separate section where people could chat with the cheese vendors? Possibly samples there as well, but funnel eaters to the right and chatters to the left? It would mean that the cheese vendors would have to watch their sample supply in one place and chat in another, but many of the vendors had 2 or more people in their booths, anyway. One person could check the cheese supply every half hour, and spend the rest of the time chatting. Or let a volunteer refill all the cheese samples. Or something.

Anyway, that's not a criticism of the event or the venue. This is the same thing that happens at every event like this I attend. It was just something I thought of after I got home.

But I digress. Let's talk cheese.

There was a lot of it. You can see the vendor list in my previous post. I sampled some cheeses I'd never heard of before, a lot of cheeses in the cheddar family, a range of very young to pretty aged varieties. Some were smoked or had herbs or peppers for flavoring. One had green and black olives. I wish I could tell you whose cheese that was, but at this point it's a blur. Or maybe a cheese coma.

There were also cheeses from companies I'm very familiar with that I didn't sample, because I wanted to try as many new ones as possible. And some goats in the parking lot. Yes, goats. Awwww. Goats.

And then there were the speakers.

Best, for me, was Hosea Rosenberg who prepared three quick recipes while he took questions from the audience. A lot of what he talked about was about his experiences on Top Chef, but he also talked about life before and after the show.

And of course he talked about food.

Back when Rosenberg was on the show, he was chef at Jax Fish House. Now, he's got his own catering company in Boulder, Blackbelly Catering. And he seems like he's having a heck of a lot of fun.

Getting Thirsty?

There were small cash bars scattered around for those who wanted to indulge, and one of the speakers at the event talked about beer and cheese pairings. That talk included a chance to sample 7 cheeses along with three beers, a gin, and a coffee liqueur.

The coffee liqueur, made by Spirit Hound Distillers was pretty awesome. I mean, I've made my own coffee liqueur, but I'd buy this stuff. I'm not a huge fan of the commercial gins - too much Christmas tree flavor for me - but I liked the Spirit Hound gin a lot.

I didn't sample the beers - it was early afternoon and the gin had gone straight to my braincase and I was overstuffed with cheese. So I headed home. Mission accomplished.

Would I go back next year? Yep, sure I would. And I'd go hungry.

Want Recipes? I've got 'em!

Chef Hosea Rosenberg kindly offered to let me post his recipes here, which is pretty awesome.

The grape truffles were really interesting - it's simple in terms of ingredients, but the flavors mingled in ways you might not expect. He said the key is to get a super-thin layer of the goat cheese because the flavor of goat cheese is so strong, it could easily overpower everything else.

I wish I had a photo of the finished product, but I didn't take one. But the goat cheese was indeed a tiny layer. Like, the thickness of ... uh... really thin. As thin as you can get it.

Grape, Pistachio  Goat Cheese “Truffles” 
Recipe courtesy of Hosea Rosenberg from Blackbelly Catering
Used with permission; all rights reserved.
serves 4-8

40 fresh, juicy green & red grapes
8 ounces plain goat cheese
8 ounces shelled pistachios, toasted
grey sea salt
truffle oil

1.  Pick grapes, wash gently in cold water and dry on paper towels.
2.  Roll a very small ball of goat cheese in your hands (roughly half the size of a grape) and flatten in the palm of one hand with your thumb.
3.  Place one grape in center of goat cheese and gently work cheese around until grape is entirely covered.  Chill.
4.  Crush toasted pistachios in food processor until very fine.  Place in bowl.
5.  Roll goat cheese grapes in pistachios, gently pressing, until covered in nuts.  Chill.
6.  To serve, slice grapes in half and set on platter with cut side facing up.  Garnish each cut grape with a couple grains of salt and one drop of truffle salt.  Serve immediately.

Beets me

Next up, we have a beet "tartare." But before you start questioning the idea of raw beets, that's not what's going on here. Hosea called it a tartare because it looks like one. The beets are fully cooked.

Beet “Tartare”
Recipe courtesy of Hosea Rosenberg from Blackbelly Catering
Used with permission; all rights reserved.
serves 10

2 pounds large red beets
2 Tbsp mayonnaise
1 tsp lemon juice
1/2 tsp lemon zest
2 tsp  fresh parsley, chopped
2 tsp  shallots, chopped fine
2 Tbsp capers, chopped
hot sauce, to taste (optional)
kosher salt
fresh cracked black pepper

Boil beets in water until cooked through, but still al dente.  Remove from water and chill in ice water until cold.  Peel and dice very small.  Combine with remaining ingredients and season with salt, pepper, and hot sauce if desired.

Serve on crackers with shaved hard cheese (queso de mano from Haystack is our recommended choice).

Grilled and Cheesy

The last recipe is a grilled cheese. Yeah, I know. We all know how to make a grilled cheese sandwich. Even our moms knew how to make them. But this one's got a twist, with apples two ways in the sandwich.

And some spices you might not think of.

As far as the cheese, since Hosea is a local, he chose a local cheese. You can find more info on Haystack Mountain's cheeses here.

Haystack Camembert Grilled Cheese with Apple
Recipe courtesy of Hosea Rosenberg from Blackbelly Catering
Used with permission; all rights reserved.
serves one!

bread of choice
Haystack Mountain camembert cheese, sliced
honeycrips apple, sliced
apple jam (recipe below)

Spread butter on one side of two slices of bread and place in hot pan.  Spread jam on one side, top with cheese and apple.  Place other slice of bread on top and press with spatula.  Flip occasionally until both slices are golden brown and cheese is melted.

apple jam:
2 honeycrips apples diced very small
2 Tbps sugar
1 tsp dry mustard seeds
2 C apple cider vinegar
1 cinnamon stick
1 star anise pod

Combine all ingredients in pot and bring to boil.  Turn heat to low and simmer until thick and jammy. Remove star anise and cinnamon stick. Cool and keep in refrigerator until ready to use.