February Is for Lovers

by Matt Hart in Cheese

Although I could be wrong, I am fairly certain that February is for lovers.

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Am I too cynical for Valentine’s Day? You can ask my wife Jenean and she will likely say yes. I’ve grown into other holidays as I’ve gotten older with little-to-no resistance, but I’ve yet to fall in love with Valentine’s Day. I don’t skip it by any means, but I must confess that Valentine’s Day is barely a blip on my holiday radar. In fact, I’m not sure I consider it a true holiday at all!

Perhaps I feel this way because February 14 comes so soon after the great big blur that is the Thanksgiving through New Year’s Eve amoebic holiday blob we cheese retailers willingly trudge through each year. Perhaps we see February as this light-at-the-end-of-that-long-holiday-tunnel month and we feel genuinely ripped off when Valentine’s Day rears its ugly little red and pink head, forcing us to dive back into those mucky holiday waters head first? Maybe I spent far too many years avoiding love during my misspent youth? I was, after all, a bit of a punk-obsessed hopeless case who was easily sickened by the idea of celebrating a day which explicitly showcased and exploited romance and relationships so heavily (it still kind of creeps me out to be quite honest). Or maybe friend, just maybe, I simply find Valentine’s Day to be the most boring and loathsome of all boring and loathsome holidays. These are all valid reasons to pooh-pooh this Hallmark-laden, floral-driven holiday.

Don’t you worry cheese lover. The Southern Season cheese counter will NOT be closed on February 14. Despite my personal feelings, we’ll certainly be willing participants in helping you to impress your loved one by giving the gift of cheese! We’ll be ready to woo and wow all of you blind-love lovers with our house-made “Fondue for Two” kits, plus some treats from our favorite goat herding godmother of American artisanal cheese, Judy Schad, via her Pink Peppercorn Chèvre Hearts.

Let’s start this curd-filled love fest with Capriole’s Pink Peppercorn Chèvre Hearts:

Sweet, fluffy, salty and light! This fresh and milky chèvre contains a sizable kick from the pretty pink peppercorns as well as a touch of goat-y tang! This cheese is a sure way to champion your loved one’s affections come 2/14. Pair it with a bottle of bubbly (I’ve seen several Pepto-pink bottles floating around the wine department already) or be a daring darling and pick up one of Rogue Brewery’s Voodoo Doughnut series. Although I’ve not tried it yet, the Voodoo Pretzel, Raspberry and Chocolate Ale sounds promising. Give it a whirl with your guy or girl! 

 Now let us talk kits:

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Last year we launched the “Fondue for Two” kits in honor of hot cheese and its ability to melt hearts! It was a great success resulting in several cheese lovers asking us to offer pre-made fondue kits year ‘round. Although I do love their enthusiasm, me thinks we’d have a tough time pushing piping hot cheese during the hotter months here in the South. I digress…where were we? Right, the kits. Check ’em out:

The “Classic” features shredded 1655 Gruyère, Marcel Petite Comté and Bremenried (a beautiful Bavarian Emmentaler). The kit comes with a lovely bottle of Kean Quenard Chignin Savoie Wine selected by our resident Sommelier Elizabeth Cooper. 

The “Cheap Date,” our most affordable kit, is easily the cheese counter favorite (because let’s face it folks: most of us cheesemongers live on a tight, tight budget and we can appreciate value as well as flavor). Consisting of equal parts shredded French Raclette and Italian Asiago Pressato, this kit aims to please those folks who want their melted cheese for dipping dog garnit, but don’t want said melted delight to put them in the poor house! This kit comes with a light-bodied, low ABV Welsh ale from the Celt Experience called Native Storm (again, chosen by Elizabeth Cooper).

fondue2The final kit is named “Fondue Me”. That’s what she said (I cannot believe I am writing this stuff). By “she” I mean Elizabeth Cooper. Yet again I give credit where credit is due. Thank you Liz Cooper in wine, not only for your vast wine knowledge, but also for your tongue-in-cheek cheese kit-naming skills, however crass they may be. This kit is for those unfortunate souls who cannot ingest cow’s milk cheeses. I experimented with several cheeses in coming up with this blend and arrived at the following three in equal, shredded parts: Abbaye de Belloc, Drunken Goat and 6-month-aged El Trigal Manchego. The kit comes with a 375-milliliter bottle of Kopke Fine Tawny Port (a divine, affordable Port!).

Each of the three kits include a clove of garlic, a pre-measured blend of the appropriate spices, some corn starch (to roll your cheese in before adding to the pot) and a recipe card with instructions. When all else fails, follow the instructions people. They work! Last year we got a few phone calls on the eve of Valentine’s Day from panicky dudes claiming we’d ruined their romantic fondue experience! Yet, when asked if they’d followed the instructions on the recipe card, every single one of them replied with, “There were instructions on the recipe card?” Ha ha. Dudes are the worst!

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On a table this month you’ll find both of Spring Brook Farms Alpine-style cheeses:  Reading and Tarentaise.

Spring Brook Farm is located on 1,000+ acres in Reading, Vermont. Their milking herd consists of 40 Jersey cows, producing approximately 600,000 pounds of milk each year (capable of producing around 3,300 wheels or so)! It never ceases to amaze me how prolific Jerseys are! The farm not only makes cheese, but cares for other livestock and is directly linked to an education-based organization called the Farms For City Kids Foundation which provides an “outdoor classroom where urban youth explore new dimensions of learning as academics are integrated into everyday farm activities that practice and teach sustainability.” Super cool, right? You already love Spring Brook and want to support them, don’t ya? Now check out their cheese:

Reading, a domestic Raclette-style cheese, has a slightly funky aroma and gorgeous buttery, creamy, nutty flavors. This washed rind semi-soft cheese is a perfect melter! Try melting it over vegetables, potatoes, breads or meats. Reading is made from unpasteurized Jersey cow’s milk and per FDA regulations, aged a minimum of 60 days. 

Tarentaise, made in state of the art copper vats and aged a minimum of ten months, is inspired by and made in the style of the great Alpine cheeses of the Tarentaise Valley in the Savoie region of the French Alps. This nutty, fruity complex cheese is turned and washed at least 60 times before it’s released for consumption. Mmm… consumption. Come by for consumption!