Tag Archives: cheese

Living Social: Cowgirl Creamery’s Cheese & Beer Pairing Class

Living Social has opened up a live events venue in Washington DC- named 918 F Street– for businesses to provide yet another experience to its costumers.  It’s a beautiful space which has been renovated and updated, and is being used for a number of classes.  So far the events have ranged from pop-up restaurant dinners or tastings, to photography or yoga classes.  It’s a wide spectrum, and I’m sure it’ll continue to grow.

One event which caught my eye was the “Craft-Beer, Cheese and Charcuterie Pairing Class” which was led by Adam Smith, of Cowgirl Creamery.  By now, I’m sure you know that Sam and I are huge fans of Cowgirl Creamery (and cheese!) so we decided to see what this class had to offer.

Cowgirl Creamery, started just north of San Francisco, began making sustainable, artisan hand-crafted cheeses from organic milk in 1997.  Today the store has grown to 3 locations, providing customers with a variety of cheeses from around the world.  In addition, they do have a handful of their own seasonal cheese, all so good I can’t recommend just one.  About 80% of the cheeses at Cowgirl are made in the United States.

Some interesting facts about cheese and beer pairings:
• beer, like champaign, is effervescent; the carbonation cuts through the butterfat
• differently than wine, there are lots of ingredients in beer which can change tastes (hops, malts, yeasts)
• pairings can be done regionally (example below: Colston Basset Dairy Stilton & Crispin’s Browns Lane Cider- both from the UK)
• Proper cheese and beer tasting: 1) taste the cheese- with no bread, cracker or beer; 2) smell the beer; 3) take a small sip of beer; 4) lastly, take a small sip of beer and small bite of the cheese- allow the cheese to melt in your mouth, mixing with the beer

So what did we get to try?



I’ve added some information (and links) to all of the cheeses and beers.  From the pictures above, I started at the top, going clockwise when describing cheeses (although I included an additional picture of the cheese above the description).  For the beers, I began all the way to the left.  I’ve listed the cheese, and then the beer- those two were paired together for this class.

Cowgirl Creamery Red Hawk: made in Pt. Reyes, CA; it’s a year-round cheese; triple-cream; it was washed with a brine solution that tints the rind pink (due to the wild bacteria); it was aged for 4 weeks

The Bruery’s Saison de Lente: brewed in Orange County, CA; this beer is seasonal- available from March to May, but made during the winter; it’s a light blonde; fresh hoppiness; lightly and flowery in flavor; made from Belgian-style yeast

Meadow Creek Dairy Mountaineer: made in Galax, VA; smooth texture; aged in cellars for a minimum of 6 months; the flavor is nutty and sweet, very similar to Gruyere; great cheese for mac ‘n cheese or with figs; it’s a European-style Alpine cheese (which is usually made in: France, Switzerland, or Northern Italy)

Schlafy’s Bierre de Garde: brewed in St. Louis, MO; it’s a traditional French ale; it’s brewed in the early spring, released throughout the summer months; made with Belgian-style yeast; rich, sweet and malty taste

Cabot Creamery’s Clothbound Cheddar: made in Greensboro, VT; made in partnership between Cabot Creamery and Cellar’s at Jasper Hill; traditional clothbound cheese; aged for 10-14 months; has a sweet and nutty flavor; once the cheeses are removed from their molds, they are bandaged with cloth and painted with lard; Cabot Creamery is one of the oldest farmer-owned cooperative creameries; the wheel above is made up of 480 servings

This specific wheel was made in December 2010.

Below is a piece of cloth which was wrapped around the cheese:

Bear Republic Racer 5 IPA: brewed in Healdsburg, CA; IPA’s were brewed by the British while traveling to India in the 19th century, therefore to make the long journey the beers had lots of hops; light-bodied and floral in taste

Essex Street Cheese L’Amuse Signature Gouda: made in Beemster, Holland; the cheeses are aged for 18 months to 2 years; velvety texture with a hazelnut flavor

Founders Porterbrewed in Grand Rapids, MI; creamy with chocolate and coffee notes; malty

Colston Bassett Dairy Stilton: made in Nottinghamshire, UK; Colston Bassett is one of the smallest stilton dairies in the UK; mild and tangy flavor; the rind is dry and tough; after 4-6 weeks the cheese is pierced, air enters the holes and the Penicillium roquefortii begins to grow; a week after it is pierced again, then on sale 3 weeks later

Crispin’s Browns Lane Cider: brewed in Worcestershire, UK; made with traditional English bittersweet cider apples; soft and subtle apple flavors; lightly sparkling and crisp finish

Our last lesson of the class was on storing cheese:
• keep it well wrapped (parchment or wax paper are best)
• scrape mold off, or cut off the moldy piece
• to keep the cheese moist, store it in one of the following: wine cellar, produce drawer, or a cigar box (in the fridge)

If any of you are in the Washington DC area (or in San Francisco), and have a love for cheese, definitely check out Cowgirl Creamery.  The staff is very knowledgeable and helpful in finding pairings, snacks or new cheeses to try.

Mexican Tortilla Cassarole

My weeks either feel slow as a turtle, where I can feel every minute and second on the clock.  It’s terrible!  When Friday rolls around, you breathe a sign of relief!

Other weeks fly by and I don’t feel like I’ve had time to catch my breath.  The time goes by and I don’t know where it went or what I spent doing it.  I often think my coworker feels like this- she has an adorable little boy, a full time job, she commutes and still goes to school.  How does she do it all?

This is one of those recipes which is perfect for her, or for anyone with an upcoming hectic week.  It can be made over the weekend, and then baked right before a Tuesday night dinner.  Or just bake it on Sunday night and enjoy it for lunch throughout the week.

There are only so many tacos or enchiladas we can eat, so I like to mix it up a bit with various dishes.  I liked the idea of a baked dish with layers of Mexican flavors.  And don’t worry, it can be adapted to your favorite veggies.

Mexican Tortilla Cassarole
Adapted from: Vegetarian Times (Jan/Feb 2012 issue)
6 Servings

6 10-inch tortillas
2 tbsp olive oil
1 onion, chopped
4 garlic cloves, minced
2 jalapeños, chopped (optional)
1 tsp chili powder
1 tsp cumin
1 15oz can of diced tomatoes (or 2 cups chopped fresh)
2 zucchini, diced
1 cup corn
2 cups black beans (or 15 oz can, rinsed & drained)
1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp pepper
2 cups cheese, shredded (your choice: Monterey Jack, pepper jack, Mexican)

Preheat the oven to 350ºF.  Place tortillas on a cookie sheet, and bake them for about 3 minutes on each side, or until they are lightly brown.  I ended up using 2 cookie sheets, or you can do them in batches.

Heat olive oil in a pan over medium heat.  Add the onion and sauté for about 5 minutes, or until the onion is translucent.  Then add the garlic and jalapeños.  Cook for another 2 minutes.  Stir in the chili powder and cumin, cook the ingredients for another minute.  Then add the tomatoes, zucchini, corn and black beans.  Cook for about 5 minutes, when the zucchini becomes tender.  Finally, sprinkle in salt and pepper while mixing before turning off the heat.

Coat a 12′ baking dish with cooking spray.  Set 2 tortillas on the bottom (mine overlapped a bit).  Spread about 1/2 the bean-veggie mixture onto the tortillas.  Then, sprinkle a 1/3 of the cheese.  Then do another round of tortillas, bean-veggie mixture and cheese.  Finally, cover the top with 2 more tortillas.  Sprinkle the rest of the cheese on the top.

Bake the Mexican Tortilla Lasagna for about 30-45 minutes, the cheese should be bubbly on top.  Let it stand about 10 minutes before cutting and serving.

Lobster Mac ‘n Cheese

We made this delicious chocolate dessert for Valentine’s Day, so we couldn’t just have a boring entree for dinner, right?

So we decided to make some macaroni and cheese, but spiced it up a bit.  Something different, something special.

Last Sunday we had wandered the aisles of Whole Foods when Sam had a great idea- what about lobster?  Yum.  And then right before we started cooking, we found a package of bacon that we hadn’t used up.  Double-yum!

Rather than going out to eat on Valentine’s Day- which can definitely get overcrowded, we opted for a nice dinner at home.  It was very indulgent, but I enjoyed every bite of it!  (of course rocking out 5 miles that morning also helped).  The next time you’d like to have some comfort food, but with a delicious spin- try this!  (feel free to substitute the lobster for shrimp, it’ll be just as delicious)

Smokey Lobster Mac ‘n Cheese with Bacon and Jalapeños

4 lobster tails, cut into chunks
1 lb pipe rigate pasta (or something similar)
6 oz sharp cheddar, shredded
6 oz smoked mozzarella, shredded (or any smoked cheese)
1/2 lb smoked bacon
2 jalapeños, diced (optional)
1/4 stick unsalted butter
pinch of salt
pinch of pepper
crushed red pepper (optional)

In a large pot, add the pasta to liberally salted, boiling water.

In a skillet, cook the bacon on medium high heat until done, then remove with a slotted spoon and set aside.  Add the lobster and jalapeños to the bacon fat, and cook on medium high for about 4-5 minutes, then remove with a slotted spoon.

Drain the pasta when al dente, then return to the pot you cooked it in.  Add the lobster, bacon, jalapenos, cheese and butter to the pot and mix thoroughly until the cheese and butter are fully melted.  Add salt, pepper, and crushed red pepper to taste.  That’s it!

Goodbye 2011, Hello 2012!

Happy New Year Everyone!  Thank you for all of your support with this blog in the last year, it has been wonderful to document all of our culinary adventures.  We’re looking forward to a delicious 2012!

In the week between Christmas and New Year’s there is a relaxing pace in all of our lives.  People aren’t stressed at work and are enjoying the extra time with family and friends.  We have more time t0 read, sleep and relax.  I always look forward to this quiet time of the year.

In year’s past, Sam and I have gone out to a nice dinner on New Year’s Eve.  This year was similar, but rather than going out, we had two of our friends over for dinner.  While Sam had made the entree (filet mignon, roasted broccoli, shrimp and grits), our friends brought over a cream cheese soup and poached pears with cardamom cream (both were finger licking delicious- I can’t wait to try out both recipes).  It was a peaceful evening: wonderful conversations, mouthwatering food and amazing company!

Everyone has a list of resolutions as a new year begins.  There is something nice about starting with a fresh, new calendar.  Rather than resolutions, I make goals.  I was thinking about the goals I had for this blog, for our kitchen, and I decided to write them out for all of you to see them- then you can hold us accountable!  (these are in no particular order)

1. Make more breads from scratch.  Although we had made some breads (Double Rise Wheat Bread, Dinner Yeast Rolls), I’d like to make them more often, rather than buying.  This includes making bagels from scratch, it’d be a fun weekend project.  Any recommendations on good bread books?

2. Make more pasta from scratch.  Takes times, but it’s well worth it.  Any good recommendations for pasta cookbooks?

3. Try to make some Polish dishes, for example I’d love to make pierogi’s or gołąbki.  I’ve seen my mom make them, and they taste significantly better than store-bought.

4. Have less kitchen waste.  For the most part, I think we’re pretty good, but I would like to have a compost pail.  The problem is that I don’t know where we could drop off our compost (here in DC)- anyone have any ideas?  It’s definitely something I’d like to look into.

5. Take a food photo class.  As we make more recipes, I want them to look as appetizing and gorgeous as they taste!

6.  Try making a yogurt or cheese from scratch.  I’ve seen kits to make various cheeses- has anyone ever tried it?  If so, I’d love to hear recommendations!

7.  Travel more!  I actually make this a goal every single year, but it’s a good one to keep reusing.  What does it have to do with food?  You get to try new dishes, new flavors and enjoy every single bite!  Although it’s only January 1st, we have a couple of trips planned, they are:
a. Boston, MA
b. Charlottesville, VA
c. the Outer Banks (NC)
d. honeymoon (TBD- we’ll keep you updated, but it’ll be someplace warm!)
e. Philadelphia, PA
So if you have any suggestions/recommendations for things to do, places to visit, or foods/restaurants to try, we’d love to hear them!

8.  Grow our readership and community!  Check out our Fifth Floor Kitchen Facebook page!  We hope to do some updates to the blog, which is a day by day learning adventure.  Remember, we’d love to have feedback if you’ve tried a dish, made changes to a recipe, if you have questions or just want to say hello!  The three favorite blog posts from 2011 were: Blueberry-Rhubarb Crumble, Zucchini Enchiladas and Carmel, Pretzel and Nutella Bars (so if you haven’t tried one of these- definitely make them soon)!

Black Bean, Corn and Cheese Enchiladas

As you read many of our blog entries, you’ll know that we’re fans of spicy food.  And although we loved the food in Europe, there was a lack of spiciness in all of the meals that we had eaten there.  So, once we were back we definitely needed something with a good kick.

I really enjoy going to Mexican restaurants- for the chips and salsa.  Although there are great dishes on the menu, too many of them lack the extra bold flavor that resides in Mexican food made at home.  So when trying to make-up for the lack of spiciness, we turned to a great enchilada recipe.

Black Bean, Corn and Cheese Enchiladas
Adapted from: Cooking Light (October 2011)

2 tbsp olive oil
1 onion, chopped
7 garlic cloves, chopped
1-3 jalapeños, chopped (optional)
2 cups of water
2 tbsp oregano, chopped
2 tbsp tomato paste
4 oz can of green chilies (optional)
1 tsp cumin
1 tsp chili powder
1 tsp cayenne pepper
1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp pepper
1 15oz can of black beans, drained & rinsed
2 cups of Mexican cheese, shredded
1 cup of corn (frozen, canned or fresh)
1/8 cup of cilantro, chopped
3 green onions, sliced
6 12-inch tortillas

Heat olive oil in a pan.  Add onion, garlic, jalapeños and sauté for 3-5 minutes.  Once the onion is translucent add water, oregano, tomato paste, green chilies, cumin, chili powder, cayenne pepper, salt and pepper.  Cook for 10 minutes or until the sauce has thickened.

Pour the mixture into a blender or food processor.  Blend/process until smooth.

In a large bowl, combine black beans, 1/2 cup of cheese, corn, cilantro and green onions.  I also added jalapeño, but that’s always optional.  Mix the ingredients together.

Coat a 13×9-inch baking dish with cooking spray.  Then spread about 1/2 cup of the sauce on the bottom.

Spoon about 3 tbsp of the bean-corn mixture down the center of the tortilla (pictured below).

Roll each of the filled tortillas and place them seam-side down in the baking dish.  Continue to do this with all of your tortillas and filling.  Once they are all completed, pour the remaining sauce over the enchiladas.  Sprinkle the remaining cheese on top.

Preheat the oven to 400°F.  Bake the enchiladas for about 15 minutes or until the cheese is lightly brown.