Goats in the Garden!

While the phrase “goats in the garden” may sound like a way to describe a complete disaster, it can actually be a blessing depending on the season. If you have goats in your garden during August you have a major situation on your hands, but you should welcome them in the winter and early spring. Goats will chomp down dead plants, their hooves aerate the soil as they tromp around, and they leave behind a lovely trail of nitrogen rich manure.

Depending on the season, goats in the garden can be a great thing.

Depending on the season, goats in the garden can be a great thing.

All poo is not created equal
According to the Ohio State University Extension, goat manure contains more than twice as much nitrogen as cow manure (22 pounds of nitrogen per ton in goat manure, compared to 10 pounds per ton in cow manure). Goat manure is also much drier, smaller, easier to work with and spread around, and it has much less odor. Cow manure is also widely used as a fertilizer, but considering the size, volume, moisture, and odor it is more difficult to work with. Cow manure is also used as a fuel source and for thermal insulation.

Goat manure (pictured on the right) is smaller, easier to spread, and contains much less moisture and odor as compared to cow manure (pictured on the left).

Goat manure (pictured on the right) is smaller, easier to spread, and contains much less moisture and odor as compared to cow manure (pictured on the left).

In addition to offering a cost-effective way of adding high-quality nitrogen to your garden’s soil, goat manure improves and diversifies soil texture which allows plants to use water more efficiently while allowing more oxygen to reach plants’ roots.

One creatures gathers what another one spills. Goats love plant stalks, particularly woody ones.

One creatures gathers what another one spills. Goats love dead plant stalks, particularly woody ones.

Goat hooves make for great soil aerators.

Goat hooves make for great soil aerators.

Important Considerations
All fresh animal manure can contain harmful pathogens which can potentially contaminate your crops and make people sick. It is recommended to use fully composted manure, but it you must use manure that is not fully composted it is recommended to apply at least 120 days in advance of harvest. Animal manure can also contain unwanted seeds that can sprout in your garden. Fully composting manure kills most seeds, but not all. When using manure as a fertilizer be sure to pull weeds early before they go to seed.

...And did we mention that they look pretty darn cute?!

Oh…and did we mention that they look pretty darn cute while they work?!


Sense and Sustainability at Boulder Ice Cream

Today was a special day for Boulder Ice Cream: it was the first day of production at their sweet new creamery in Boulder. We stopped in for a visit with president and founder, Scott Roy. Scott and his team have been making ice cream in Boulder since 1992 and they have continued to innovate and organically grow over the years. I wanted to take some photos of the facility and asked Scott what he was most proud of. I was assuming that he would point me toward the gleaming stainless steel tanks, or the gorgeous new pasteurizer, or perhaps the intricate network of copper piping whose beauty rivals some art installations I’ve seen. I was pretty surprised when Scott told me that what he was most proud of was in the mechanical room.

Scott and his design team built the production facility with sustainability in mind. The most energy intensive aspects of ice cream production are keeping finished product frozen, like really frozen at -20, and heating water to wash down the make room after production. If only there was a way to somehow harness the heat generated by the refrigeration systems to heat the water needed to clean… Well, that’s exactly what they did.

There's cold and then there's cold. The blast freezer is set to a frosty -32. This refrigeration equipment throws off quite a bit of heat.

There’s cold and then there’s cold. The blast freezer is set to a frosty -32. This refrigeration equipment throws off quite a bit of heat. The heat is captured and used to reduce the heating loads of the domestic hot water system.

These are the hot water heaters which consume a lot less energy due to the heat generated by the refrigeration equipment. In the winter when production slows the heat from the refrigeration units is diverted into the building and then circulated to reduce heating costs.

These are the hot water heaters which consume a lot less energy due to the heat generated by the refrigeration equipment. In the winter when production slows the heat from the refrigeration units is diverted into the building and then circulated to reduce heating costs.


Big Ass Fan

When Scott told me he installed a “big ass” fan he wasn’t joking around. Big Ass Fans is a division of Big Ass Solutions based in Lexington, Kentucky. Their fans offer a way to move a massive volume of air very quietly and without consuming much energy.


Testing out the sweet new batch dating machine. We all had a good laugh when we realized that it actually worked as designed! Anyone who has ever commissioned a production facility knows that sophisticated systems often require as much care and feeding as a baby goat to get on their feet.

Testing out the sweet new batch dating machine. We all had a good laugh when we realized that it actually worked as designed! Anyone who has ever commissioned a production facility knows that sophisticated systems often require as much care and feeding as a baby goat to get on their feet.

Cheers to Scott and his team for building out this smart, sustainable creamery – we have a huge culinary crush on you guys! Wishing you years of sustainable production in your beautiful new home!




7 Things You Probably Didn’t Know About Pacific Northwest Cheese, Courtesy of Tami Parr’s New Book.

As American cheesemakers it’s always fascinating to learn about the evolution of our industry. It’s particularly interesting to learn about regional sub-markets like the Pacific Northwest. We hope that the Rocky Mountain region will someday have enough cheesemakers to warrant a book on the region!

PNW Cheese

Here’s one interesting thing we learned from Tami’s research:

Coos Bay could have been Tillamook. Except Tillamook learned the lessons of Ray Kroc before Ray Kroc: Standardization and branding breed trust in the American heart. At the turn of the 20th century, Coos Bay and Tillamook both had a shot at becoming major cheese powers—Big Cheeses, if you will. But Tillamook farmers formed a collective called the Tillamook County Creamery Association and standardized the cheese’s name and texture, so people knew what you were talking about when you said “Tillamook cheese.” 

Read six more interesting facts about cheese in the Pacific Northwest in the Willamette Week. 

Drynuary Survival Guide for the Cheese Lover

Enjoying cheese with an alcoholic beverage is an age old tradition, practiced all over the world. However, if you’re like me, the thought of taking a break from booze in January might be appealing. After the indulgence and excess of the holiday season, it seems downright reasonable to allow your waistline, your wallet, and your liver a month to recover. Some call this month Drynuary. In honor of abstinence, we’ve collected a few “mocktail” recipes that we think would pair nicely with cheese, to help get you through the month.  After all, just because you’re taking the month off of one vice, certainly doesn’t mean you have to give up the rest.

Photo credit: Emily Ho

Photo credit: Emily Ho

The first recipe comes from the geniuses over at The Kitchn.  They think of everything. They even came up with a non-alcoholic recipe for sangria!  This recipe features black tea and pomegranate juice, which they claim “approximate[s] the sweetness, acidity, and tannins of red wine.”  ‘Nuff said!  This recipe pairs nicely with our raw milk cheeses, Queso de Mano and Sunlight.  It brings out the naturally fruity side of Sunlight and punches up the earthy quality of Queso.  Give it a try:

Non-Alcoholic Sangria
Serves 8

2 cups boiling water
2 black tea bags (or 2 teaspoons loose-leaf tea in an infuser)
2 cinnamon sticks
1/2 cup sugar
3 cups pomegranate juice
1 cup freshly squeezed orange juice
1 orange, sliced into thin rounds
1 lemon, sliced into thin rounds
1 lime, sliced into thin rounds
1 apple, cored and cut into 1/2-inch chunks
3 cups carbonated water

Pour boiling water over tea bags and cinnamon sticks and steep for 5 minutes. Discard tea bags and stir in sugar to dissolve. In a large jar or pitcher, combine tea, cinnamon sticks, pomegranate juice, orange juice, orange, lemon, lime, and apple. Refrigerate for at least 1 hour and preferably overnight. Just before serving, stir in carbonated water. Serve in glasses over ice.

The second recipe plays on a classic cheese pairing: apples!  Sean Beck, beverage director at Backstreet Cafe in Houston, created this recipe after a spirited conversation with a winemaker about apples.  The acidity of Fuji apples and effervescence of the club soda will cut through the richness of our softer cheeses like Camembert and Snowdrop, cleansing the palate between bites.  Start by making the Apple-Ginger Syrup, then adding ice and club soda, and garnishing with fresh apple slices.

Fuji Apple Syrup
Makes 22 ounces, or enough for 10 drinks

1 tablespoon, plus 1 teaspoon, finely chopped ginger
5 ounces cranberry juice
1/3 cup honey
16 ounces Fuji apple juice

In a jar, combine ginger, honey, and apple juice.  Allow to sit overnight.  Strain, and add cranberry juice.  Syrup will keep for up to one week.



Insider’s guide to “Neditation”

Meditation is an ancient practice designed to promote relaxation, mindfulness, compassion, and a sustainable sense of well being. Neditation, by contrast, is a modern practice that also targets relaxation and well being, but unlike meditation which is often done sitting in silence and is followed by a cup of green tea, Neditation involves extreme sports in Nederland, Colorado, smoked chicken wings, and hoppy craft beer. While my friends and I have some fun with the play on words, Neditation really has become an important part of our lives and how we live and grow together.

Ned Town HallBoulder County

Perched 20 miles west of Boulder, Nederland, Colorado — “The Other Windy City” — is home to such outdoor recreational treasures as the Fourth of July trailhead, the West Magnolia mountain biking area, and of course, Eldora Mountain Resort. While they certainly take some liberties with the use of the word “Resort” in their name, Eldora seems to be a “love it” or “hate it” ski area. The lovers love it because it’s a short drive from Boulder, there is some great terrain, and never a lift line. The haters say it’s small, cold, windy, and that the lifts are slow. Us lovers jokingly tell the haters to tell everyone how terrible it is so that it won’t get overcrowded, but we kid.

Eldora received 18 inches of snow last weekend so a serious Neditation session was most certainly in order. As soon as we saw the weather forecast the texts started flying and a plan was quickly formed. The morning started with a visit to my favorite new spot in Nederland, Salto Coffee Works. Considering that the City of Boulder is a mecca for tech startups, creative types, trustafarians, and spandex-clad cyclists, Boulder boasts a very rich cafe culture which has made most Boulderites coffee snobs — present company most certainly included. Life for a coffee snob can be challenging when venturing out of the Boulder bubble. As I approached Salto I got that anxious feeling I get when I walk into a new coffee shop. I start to think of how I’m going to explain to them what a Cortado is, while battling some negative self talk about why I can’t be satisfied with mediocre coffee like so many others are. I looked up on the menu board and there it was “Cortado”. It was love at first sight. The decor is warm, rustic, and elegant, and not only do they know what a Cortado is, they make a damn good one.

I pulled this picture off of Salto's website. I was too overwhelmed with joy while inside to have the wherewithal to take a proper photo.

I pulled this picture off of Salto’s website. I was too overwhelmed with joy while inside to have the wherewithal to take a proper photo.

I was instantly obsessed with the place and the cheese hustler in me immediately awakened. I looked up at the menu board and the first item on the menu was “Mountian Goat Grits” organic corn grits, topped with Haystack Mountain chevre and basil. A tear of joy ran down my cheek! (While it may sound a little crazy that the head of sales didn’t know they were using Haystack cheese, when we sell cheese to our distribution partners it can be unclear where it actually goes from there). A proper Cortado, an epic breakfast sandwich (try the one with bacon), and learning that this wonderful establishment is a Haystack supporter, I quickly realized that this Neditation session had the potential power to usher me directly to the kingdom of enlightenment.


With a fully belly and a heart welled up with joy, it was time to work up an appetite for lunch, and a powder day at Eldora would sure do the trick. The crowds were mellow, the wind wasn’t that bad, and all of my secret powder stashes were waiting for me untouched. While there is normally some macho thing that prevents us from wanting to be the one that says, “Can we go now?” I proudly declared that for me, the time for wings had come.

Salto Glades

My good buddy Roger poised at the top of the Salto Glades at Eldora. This is one of the steepest runs in the state of Colorado! You’ll never guess the favorite run of the Salto Coffee Works proprietor…

The wings I speak of are none other than those served up by Tom Boogaard and his wife Cori at Wild Mountain Smokehouse and Brewery. A former head brewer at Avery, Tom makes a variety of flavorful beers that beautifully compliment his smoked meats. The Hop Diggity IPA is a personal favorite. All brewing and smoking is done on site. If you’re cool about it and he’s not too busy, Tom’s happy to show you around. I was lucky enough to get a behind-the-scenes tour once with some friends and we all developed an intense man crush on old Tom.

Wild Mountain: the undisputed champion of wings in Boulder County. I might  go as far as to say, the West.

Wild Mountain: the undisputed champion of wings in Boulder County. I might go as far as to say, the West.

They magic of the wings is that they are not fried like most chicken wings you encounter out in the world. They are smoked for a few hours, finished on the grill when ordered, then tossed in a blend of Franks Red Hot and honey. The wings are fall-off-the bone tender, and the flavor is deep and complex, drawing from not just the incredible sauce, but from the two ways they are cooked. The spice and tang of the Franks Red Hot is nicely softened by the honey, while echos of smoke and char from the grill linger in the background.

Nederland makes for a great day trip up from Boulder, and even though it’s only a half hour away, you will feel like you are in another world. I encourage anyone visiting Boulder to take a drive up to Nederland to experience the magical wonder of Neditation for themselves!

Salto Dawg

No coffee shop in a mountain town is complete without a massive dog chilling out front unleashed.



Last-Minute Gifts for the Turophile in Your Life

Ah the holidays.  A cheesemonger’s favorite time of year!  The shop is bustling and the cheese is flying out the door.  If you’re anywhere near as busy as I am right now, you probably haven’t even started shopping yet.  Here are a few of my favorite cheese tools that would make amazing gifts for any cheese lover out there.

Laguiole knives: I received a pair of these for my birthday and was blown away by their beauty and quality.  From the Laguiole region of France, they are styled after knives used by shepherds in the region 200 years ago.  The original model is a folding pocket knife, but there’s now a whole range of styles and tools out there, including a selection of stunning cheese knives.


Formaticum cheese paper: “If you’re wrapping cheese in plastic, you’re doing it wrong. This coated paper works like a Gore-Tex jacket to protect and extend the life of that $24-a-pound clothbound Vermont Cheddar.” –Hunter Lewis, Food Editor, Bon Appetit Magazine.  This stuff is a must for anyone bringing artisan cheese home.  Its two ply construction allows cheese to breath, while protecting it from drying out and absorbing unwanted flavors in the fridge.


Brooklyn Slate: These beautiful slate boards are the perfect palette upon which to craft an elegant cheese plate.  Pro tip: use a piece of chalk to label your cheeses, and easily wipe the names off when you’re done.

slate 1


Microplane Grater: I would literally be lost without my Microplane.  You can use it to grate everything from cheese to spices to fresh ginger and garlic. Be advised that these graters are equally effective at grating skin off your knuckles so be sure to warn the recipient!


Swissmar cheese plane: Make perfect slices of your favorite hard cheeses with this tool.  I literally use mine every day.  Pro tip: use your cheese plane to slice cold butter to top your grilled cheese, or thinly slice apples for a sandwich.


The Truffle Table

Last week, I had the sad (for me) task of going to Denver to say goodbye to my mentor, cheese guru Saxon Brown, who is headed out on a definitively non-cheese related adventure to Asia for an indeterminate period of time.  I’m so happy (for her) that she has the chance to explore this dream, but of course I’m sad that one of my best, most trusted cheese pals won’t be close by for awhile.  After a few glasses of wine with Saxon, it was time to pull off the band-aid and say goodbye.  After we parted ways, I decided to comfort myself with all-you-can-eat Raclette at the Truffle Table.  Cheese heals all wounds.


The Truffle Table, owned by Rob and Karin Lawler, who also own the Truffle Cheese Shop, is a new wine and cheese bar in the Highlands neighborhood of Denver.  The Lawlers have cultivated a loyal base of turophiles in Denver, and were looking for a new way to spread the curd. Enter the Truffle Table.  Opened last May, the restaurant allows the Truffle to serve a whole new clientele in a unique new way.  The thrill of scoping out such a great new place was the only thing that could put a smile on my face after bidding Saxon adieu.  And for a total bonus, it was Wednesday, and Wednesdays at the Truffle Table mean one thing: all you can eat Raclette.

Raclette is a Swiss cheese that is best known for it’s ability to melt.  The word “raclette” means to scrape in Swiss, and refers to the tradition of heating the cheese and then scraping the melted portion over potatoes, pickles, and cured meats.

When I arrived at the Truffle Table, I was excited to see another cheese pal of mine–Miguel Vera.  Miguel and I became friends a few years ago when we both competed in the Cheesemonger Invitational.  Miguel set me up with a beautiful glass of something crisp and bubbly, and only moments later owner Rob Lawler brought me out a gorgeous plate of illegal cheese–a few rare, raw milk selections secreted back from a recent trip to France.  It was unexpected and so delicious!


Illegal cheese!

Once I had worked my way through the illegal cheeses, Miguel and his team of mongers-turned-servers delivered plate after plate of melty deliciousness, and with eat bite I felt a tiny bit better.  Each plate was laden with small boiled potatoes, pickled carrots and cornichons, crisp veggies, cured meats of all kinds, and thick slices of crusty bread.  The portions were beyond generous, and even after all of that food, they give you a dessert.  It nearly broke me to decide between the incredible sounding selections but I ended up going with some sort of delicious blondie/brownie concoction.  I left content, full, and feeling re-connected with some pretty awesome cheese pals.  All-you-can-eat Raclette night at the Truffle Table is definitely at the top of my list of for great ways to spend an evening in Denver.


All-you-can-eat deliciousness!


Know if you go:

$40/couple gets you all you can eat Raclette and dessert, every Wednesday
Located at 2556 15th St., in the Highlands
They can be busy, but if there’s a wait, trust me, it’s worth it
They have an amazing selection of cheeses besides Raclette, and an incredible chef who creates food other than cheese, so definitely pop in Tuesday-Saturday to indulge

Day-After Quiche with Mushrooms and Buttercup

It seems that every year at Thanksgiving, I get tasked with bringing the pie.  I don’t mind, because when it comes to baked goods, pie has my heart.  Sure, cakes and cookies are tasty, but there’s something about that flaky crust and gooey filling that just speaks to me.  Apple pie is my all time favorite and my go-to pie for all occasions.  You can’t have Thanksgiving without pumpkin, so of course I make one of those.  I usually make a third to round it out, and the last few years I’ve made a ridiculously simple salted caramel pie that always makes at least one person weep.

But this isn’t a post about pie.  This is a post about what to do with the extra pie crust that is leftover when you make one double crust and one single crust pie.  I’ll tell you a secret.  This is hard for me to admit, so please don’t judge me.  I use store bought pie crusts.  They are just so good and so easy and so much better than I can do at home. Trust me, I’ve tried.  But there’s always the extra crust.  Enter one of my favorite Thanksgiving traditions–the day-after quiche.

The day-after quiche accomplishes so many things.  First, you make good use of the extra pie crust.  Secondly, when you wake up starving with a terrible headache, breakfast is already made.  Third, it’s a delicious, nutritious alternative to eating more turkey.  And it’s so easy.  So easy.  I made it in about 5 minutes flat yesterday at the tail end of the pie making extravaganza and baked it with the pies.

The beauty of quiche is the endless combinations of flavors that you can create.  The one I made yesterday is a simple and tasty blend of sauteed onions, mushrooms, a little bit of thyme and paprika, and of course my favorite melting cheese–Haystack Mountain Buttercup.

What you will need:

8 oz baby bella mushrooms
1 small onion
A spring of fresh thyme, or a 1/2 tsp of dried
1/2 tsp paprika
salt and pepper
8 eggs
1 C milk
8 oz Haystack Mountain Buttercup, grated
1 9-inch pie crust

Melt the butter in a pan and sauté the onion and mushrooms.  Season with the thyme, paprika, salt, and pepper.  Cook until the mushrooms have softened up and released their liquid.  In the meantime, mix the eggs and milk together and season with salt and pepper.  Place the pie crust in a baking dish.  Put the cheese on top of the crust, scrape the mushroom mixture on top of the cheese, and then pour the eggs in.  Bake at 375 for 40-50 minutes.  Serve warm or at room temperature, and enjoy!



Help Me, Help You: A Guide to Talking to Your Cheesemonger

MollyWhen I’m behind the cheese counter, I often hear from people that they don’t know how to talk about cheese, or don’t know what to ask for, or how describe what they like.  Unfortunately, a lot of people feel insecure at the cheese counter, and for good reason–cheese can be a formidable subject.  Knowing a few basic terms will help you better communicate with your cheesemonger, so I’ve put together a list of cheese terminology for you to study up on before you hit the cheese counter this holiday season.

Artisan cheese: Cheese that is produced in traditional ways, by hand, by skilled cheesemakers.  The opposite of industrially produced cheese.  There has been a proliferation of artisan cheesemaking in America over the last 25 years, and by and large if you are shopping at a cheese shop or specialty food counter in town, you will be dealing with artisan cheeses.

Rennet: Rennet is an enzyme used in cheese production to coagulate the milk, allowing the solids (curds) to be separated from the liquid (whey).  Rennet is traditionally synthesized from the lining of a calf’s stomach, however, many cheesemakers today use rennet that is derived from thistle or microbial sources. Haystack uses microbial rennet in all of our cheeses.

Vegetarian cheese:  Cheese made using thistle or microbial rennet.

Fresh cheese: Cheese that is made for immediate consumption.  These cheeses don’t have a rind and tend to have a short shelf life, and include types of cheese like mozzarella and chévre.

Bloomy rind: The soft, powdery, fuzzy rind found on cheeses like Brie and Camembert.  The “bloom” is caused by a culture called Penicillium Candidum.  Candidum ripens cheese from the outside in, causing a layer of gooeyness (known as the creamline, or if you really want to nerd out, proteolysis) under the rind that will eventually permeate the entire cheese.  These cheeses are also called soft-ripened cheeses.  The cheeses are best known for mild, milky flavors and a sometimes mushroomy aroma.  A few of my favorite American bloomy rind cheeses right now are Haystack Mountain Camembert, Nettle Meadow Kunik, and Sweet Grass Dairy Green Hill.

Washed rind: Washed rind = stinky cheese!  Washed rind cheeses are typically washed in brine, wine, or beer as they age.  The washing cultivates bacteria called Brevibacterium Linens (called B. Linens for short), which is closely related to the bacteria found in human sweat.  Hence why some people say cheese smells like feet!  While the rind on a washed rind cheese will sometimes be overwhelming aromatic, the paste of these cheeses actually tends to be fairly mild.  Washed rinds can be yeasty, meaty, and funky–great to try if you like a little personality.  Look for Meadow Creek Grayson if you like it stanky, and Von Trapp Farm Oma if you like it a little on the more buttery side. Haystack Mountain Red Cloud and Sunlight are great examples of this style as well.

Alpine style: This refers to the cheesemaking traditions found in the high mountain regions of France and Switzerland.  These cheeses are typically large, aged wheels with a firm texture.  Think Comté, Gruyére, Emmentaler, and Appenzeller.  Flavor profiles in this category of cheese can range from buttery to grassy to brothy.  These are typically great melting cheeses, and there are many very sophisticated Alpine styles that have their place on a cheese board as well. Some great American Alpine styles to try right now are Jasper Hill Farm Alpha Tolman and Spring Brook Farm Tarentaise.

Raw milk cheese:  Cheese made from unpasteurized milk.  In America, raw cheese must be aged for a minimum of 60 days.  Haystack Mountain’s blue ribbon-winning Queso de Mano is great raw milk cheese for holiday cheese boards because of its versatility and ability to pair well with craft beverages. For the adventurous among us, note that as a result of the 60-day rule, it’s virtually impossible to find soft, bloomy rind, raw milk cheeses here in America.  A few artisan cheesemakers are beginning to experiment with soft, washed rind, raw milk cheeses aged just over 60 days.  Look for Uplands Rush Creek Reserve, Jasper Hill Farm Winnimere, and Sequatchie Cove Dancing Fern if this style of cheese sounds appealing.

With a few of these terms in your back pocket, talking to your cheesemonger should be a breeze.  Most importantly, remember that your cheesemonger is there to help guide you, so don’t be scared to ask questions, or try another sample if you didn’t love the first one.  My favorite part of the job is sharing knowledge with people and knowing that I’ve helped a delicious cheese find it’s way to the right home.  At the end of the day, we’re all here because we love cheese!

Life hack: Mac and Cheese Edition

So it’s a typical Thursday night: you grab a roasted chicken and ‘taters from your neighborhood rosticceria and you’re looking for one more side dish that you can prepare at home to round out the meal. Enter mac and cheese. Sure you could whip up a bechamel and get fancy with a unique blend of spices and all that jazz, but the key to grab-and-go night is minimizing cooking and clean up time. We are fans of Annie’s mac and cheese, but feel that it can often be dry and lacking the melty, oozy goodness that is at the very heart of mac and cheese. Adding all the butter and heavy cream in Normandy will not help you achieve the melty sensation you’re aiming for. Enter Buttercup. Buttercup is our easygoing Monterey Jack style made with a mix of cow and goat milk. You will be amazed by how well Buttercup improves the situation.


You’ve been here a million times: wanting to keep it simple, yet yearning silently for a more fulfilling mac and cheese experience. If only there was a way a way to make it infinitely better without much hassle…

After you have incorporated the powdered cheese, toss in a handful of cubes of Buttercup and begin stirring. Be sure to cubes. They melt in more of a gooey fashion and you won't have to clean the cheese grater.

AFTER you have properly incorporated the powdered cheese, toss in a handful of Buttercup cubes and begin stirring. Be sure to use cubes. They melt in more of a gooey fashion and you won’t have to clean the cheese grater.

Be mindful of the temperature. At this point remove the pot from heat and continue stirring to ensure that you don't lose all that magic you just created.

Be mindful of temperature. When it starts to look like this, remove the pot from heat. You don’t want to lose all that magic you just created. At this moment you can also take things to new heights by tossing in a few smashed up pieces of crispy Tender Belly bacon. Major bonus points.


Voilà! Behold the difference a handful of Buttercup cubes can make!

TGIF! (Friable)

TGIF! For most people, the “F” in TGIF is for Friday.  For us at Haystack, “F” is for “friable,” which is our cheese vocabulary word of the day.  According to maître-fromager, Max McCalman, friable “refer[s] to a cheese’s suitability for cooking in the sense that the lower its melting point is, the more ‘friable’ it is considered.  A cheese whose curds are cooked and pressed–Sbrinz is a good example–is less friable than one whose curds are uncooked–say Cheshire. Cheeses with rougher textures and harder consistencies are less friable than smoother, softer ones.” So which of our cheeses are the most friable? Buttercup and Chile Jack are top in this category, so grab yourself some this weekend for some super melty, gooey goodness. Here is some inspiration:

K.I.S.S. - Keep it simple sweetheart, as our friend Adam Moskowitz says. We are traditionalists when it comes to grilled cheese. This one was made with Buttercup and a slathering of our award-winning Chèvre en Marinade.

K.I.S.S. – Keep it simple sweetheart, as our friend Adam Moskowitz says. This beauty was made with Buttercup and a slathering of our award-winning Chèvre en Marinade.


Lazy casserole: broccoli, Buttercup, elbow macaroni, and a few eggs.

Lazy casserole: broccoli, Buttercup, elbow macaroni, and a few eggs.

Pasta al Forno: Penne, tomato sauce, cubes of fried eggplant, Buttercup, and a few shavings of Queso de Mano.

Pasta al Forno: Penne, tomato sauce, cubes of fried eggplant, Buttercup, and a few shavings of Queso de Mano.

I call this photo, "A Ham and Cheese." Cheers to our pal Allison at VT Creamery for going after the Fondue pot with gusto.

I call this photo, “A Ham and Cheese.” Cheers to our pal Allison at VT Creamery for going after the Fondue pot with such gusto!



Go West

As anyone in the cheese industry will tell you, one of the best parts of living and working in the world of cheese is being able to frequently connect with so many extraordinary people. A few weeks ago, I made a trip out West–to the Western Slope of the great state of Colorado.   I traveled a great distance to bring Haystack cheese to the Colorado Makers harvest party, hosted by Anna and Lance of Jack Rabbit Hill Wines and Peak Spirits at their family farm in Hotchkiss. Colorado Makers is a group that highlights the efforts of local artisans, craft makers, small business owners, and entrepreneurs. The event was a celebration of the culinary arts and crafts we create, and a celebration of Colorado and the abundance the state offers.

Lance of Peak Spirits lead the group on a tour of the biodynamic vineyards then fired up the still and made a batch of peach eau de vie.

Lance of Peak Spirits and Jack Rabbit Hill Wines lead the group on a tour of his biodynamic vineyard, then fired up the still and made a batch of peach eau de vie.

Any time I head out West I stop in and see Haystack Mountain Goat Dairy founder and chairman of the board, James Schott. James and his wife Carol moved to a small farm in Paonia after retiring from the day-to-day operations at Haystack in 2008. When I arrived, I found James knee deep in an ambitious bean-canning project, fielding phone calls from milk share members, while a batch of handmade, raw milk feta drained on the kitchen counter. Clearly he hasn’t slowed down one bit since retiring from Haystack.

Schott's Highland cattle looking a bit flummoxed.

Schott’s Highland cattle looking a bit flummoxed.

Always eager and willing to share his experience and expertise, James took some time to show me around the farm.  James and Carol raise a handful of dairy goats and Highland cattle, and grow some of the most gorgeous and fragrant lavender I’ve ever experienced.  I was even lucky enough to help him wrangle a few of the goats out to his back pasture. Watching him interact with the goats is like watching LeBron James dribble a basketball – a man living his truth to the highest level.

Schott's hay barn, stocked and ready for the winter.

Schott’s hay barn, stocked and ready for the winter.

Spending this time with James, contemplating how far the craft food industry has come in our state since the founding of Haystack Mountain Goat Dairy nearly 25 years ago, I realized that I was talking to the original ‘Colorado Maker’ himself. A champion of local agriculture, education, and entrepreneurship, James’ founding vision of making high-quality cheeses according to old world traditions still shapes Haystack today.  He has made a lasting impression on the state of Colorado and American cheese industry, and has inspired a new generation of Colorado artisans. I am proud to be a member of this new generation and feel a deep sense of pride and duty in helping to share his pioneering spirit.

Recipe: Beet and Goat Cheese Chile Relleños with Roasted Red Pepper Sauce

Alright gang–this recipe has a lot of moving parts, but let me tell you, it’s worth it.  Full of warming fall flavors, these relleños will satisfy your soul on these cold nights.  For me, melted cheese is the ultimate cold weather comfort food.  In this dish, the creaminess of the chévre, paired with the gooey-ness of the melted Chile Jack is, simply, irresistible.  If you can prepare some of the components ahead of time, it will cut down on the time you need to put it all together.  Best of all, you should still be able to find these ingredients at your local farmers market!


Our award-winning Chile Jack really brings this recipe together

Start by making the sauce.  Roast your red pepper however you like–under the broiler, on the grill, or over a gas burner.  Pop it in a paper bag to help the skin steam off, and once it’s cool enough to touch, rub the charred skin off with your hands.  To save a little time down the line, roast your poblanos at the same time.  While the pepper is doing its thing, sautee some onion and garlic in a saucepan, add the seeded and chopped red pepper and the pureed tomatoes, and allow the mixture to simmer.  Once the sauce begins to thicken, add the cilantro, season with salt and pepper, and set aside.  I used an immersion blender to smooth mine out a touch, but this isn’t necessarily necessary.

While your sauce is cooking, you can prepare the poblanos.  Remove the skin the same way that you did with the red pepper, taking great care not to tear the pepper.  Leave the top of the pepper, with the stem, intact.  Make a slit down one side of the pepper and carefully remove the seeds from inside.  A note here–poblanos do have capsaicin (the compound that makes peppers spicy) and if your hands are sensitive, you might feel a tingle, depending on the pepper.  Wear gloves for extra precaution.


Next, prepare your filling.  Peel and dice a roasted beet (400 degrees for 20-30 minutes), and mix with cilantro, fresh chévre, and shredded Chile Jack.  Season to taste with salt and pepper.  If you want to mix it up with some meat, throw some dry-cured chorizo in there.  Place about 3 tablespoons of the filling in each pepper.


Once the peppers are ready to go, make your batter by whisking the eggs and beer together.  I like a spicy, savory beer like Hazed and Infused, but anything will work.  Add the flour a bit at a time until you have a nice, gloppy consistency.  If it gets too thick, thin with a little water.  Season with salt and pepper.  While you’re making the batter, heat the oil in a deep dutch oven.  I like to heat mine to about 350 degrees, but if you don’t have a good kitchen thermometer, test the oil by dropping a few drips of batter into it.  If it gets all bubbly and starts to fry, you’re good to go.  Batter the stuffed peppers and drop them, carefully, into the oil.  I would only fry two at a time, or you’ll overcrowd the pot.  You can keep the finished relleños warm in in a low-temp oven until you are ready to serve.

To plate, spoon some sauce on to a plate, nestle the relleño atop the sauce, garnish with a sprig of cilantro, and dig in!  Enjoy!


What you need:

For the relleños:
8 Poblano peppers or Anaheim peppers, roasted, seeded and peeled
4 cups peanut or other suitable frying oil

For the filling:
1 large beet, roasted, peeled and finely diced
1/2 cup crumbled Haystack Fresh Chévre
1/2 cup grated Haystack Chile Jack
1/4 cup finely chopped cilantro
Salt and freshly ground pepper

For the roasted red pepper sauce:
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 medium onion, finely chopped
2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
1 large red bell pepper, roasted, peeled, seeded and chopped
2 cups plum tomatoes and their juice, pureed
3 tablespoons chopped cilantro
Salt and freshly ground pepper

For the beer batter:
1 bottle beer
2 eggs
2 cups flour
Salt and pepper



Recipe: Greek Orzo Salad with Haystack Feta

Feta SaladThis salad is my current lunch obsession.  Brad Lynch, Culinary Director of Cured, churns out a few big batches a week. If you can’t make it into the shop to pick some up, it’s easy to make at home.  And then you don’t have to share it with anyone. Packaged in a brine of whey, Haystack Mountain Feta adds just the right amount of salt, tang, and texture to the dish.

½ lb dried orzo, cooked

8 oz cherry tomatoes, halved

1 small cucumber, diced

2 oz basil, thinly sliced

½ C pitted Kalamata olives, whole or chopped

¼ C capers

¼ C olive oil

8 oz Haystack Mountain Feta, crumbled

Allow the pasta to cool after cooking.  Add the olive oil, cherry tomatoes, cucumber, olives, capers, and basil, and mix well.  Season with salt and pepper, and garnish with Feta.  Makes 4 side servings.

Haystack Mountain Feta is available in Boulder at Alfalfa’s, Cured, and Boulder County Farmer’s Markets.Feta Salad

Fresh Chévre and Zucchini Lasagna

Last week I was relishing in the bounty of gorgeous squash blossoms my garden was producing, now I’m deep in the flip side of that reality with what appears to be thousands of pounds of zucchini on my hands.  Did I say thousands?  I meant millions.


That’s a lot of zucchini!

So I’ve been indulging in nightly zucchini feasts–raw zucchini salads, grilled zucchini, roasted zucchini, zucchini omelettes, and my new favorite–zucchini lasagna.  Like every good Boulder-ite, I’m trying to live a gluten-free existence and I’ve found that this dish gives me all of the satisfaction of the real thing with none of the ill-effects of a gluten binge.  With some fresh chévre and a few other veggies in there, this is a wonderfully simple, light, and seasonal dinner you can even put together on a school night.

I start by slicing the zucchini on a mandoline slicer.  Please be very, very careful when using one of these puppies.  I had to lose a few fingertips before I learned where the safety zone is.  If you don’t have one and/or are too terrified (rightfully so) to use one, then just slice your zucchini nice and thin with a good chef’s knife.  I’ve tried slicing the zucchini both the long and short way, and have found that slicing into rounds is easier and ensures a more consistent cut, but doesn’t look as much like lasagna noodles.  So you pick which way works for you.


Be very careful with your fingertips when using a mandoline slicer.

Next I consider my filling.  My favorite is a ragu of onions, mushrooms, and roasted red peppers. Roast the pepper if you’re so inclined (or go ahead–use a good quality jarred version, no one will ever know), sautee the onions in some olive oil, toss in the ‘shrooms and peppers, and let the whole thing cook down to your desired consistency.  You can either make an easy, fresh tomato sauce or use a jar of your favorite–I’m still working through last year’s tomato harvest which has been tucked away in the freezer.  To make the cheese filling, I blend some softened fresh chévre with a touch of ricotta, olive oil, and fresh herbs.  The tang of the chévre brightens up the creamy ricotta and keeps the dish nicely balanced.  I like a little meat in my lasagna, but since I’m trying to keep this dish light and fresh, I use just a touch of thinly sliced prosciutto or salami as one of my lasagna layers.


Pre-heat the oven to 425 and build your lasagna while it’s warming up.  I always put a little tomato sauce on the bottom of the dish, then a layer of zucchini, then a layer of filling, then some glops of cheese, then sauce, then meat, then zucchini, and so on.  The final layer should be zucchini, then sauce, topped off with a delicious melting cheese.  I recommend Haystack Mountain Buttercup–a wonderful mix of cow and goat milk that is both buttery and tangy, and an excellent melting cheese.

Pop the whole thing in the oven, pour yourself a glass of wine, and relax while your healthy, light, locally sourced, gluten-free, Paleo-friendly, delicious dinner cooks for 20-30 minutes.  You can thank me later.


Buon Appetito!

Don’t Rind if I Do!

As a cheesemonger, people ask me every day whether or not to eat the rind of cheese.  My answer is always, “rind your own business!”  Some people love the rind, others loathe it.  Truth be told, there’s no right or wrong answer to the rind question.  With the exception of cloth or wax rinds, the rind is generally edible.  It is, however, not always enjoyable.  Here are a few things to keep in mind when you rind.

The rinds on soft cheeses like Brie and Camembert are called bloomy rinds and are made up a soft, downy mold called Penicillium Candidum.  These rinds are meant to be eaten with the cheese.  At their peak, these rinds are thin and delicate, and lend flavors of mushroom and earth to the cheese.  I highly recommend enjoying the rind at this juncture.  However, as the cheese ripens and the rind develops further, it can become leathery and take on a slightly ammoniac quality.  In this case, you have my full permission to peel the rind aside to get to ooey-gooey goodness underneath.

Washed rinds, the tacky, orange-rinded cheeses that are best known for their pungent aroma, might be the most controversial of rinds.  People who love them, really love them, and wouldn’t dream of eating the paste without the rind.  I, however, have found that washed rinds can be gritty and a tad bitter when not in perfect condition.  It’s good to keep in mind that even when the rind is suffering, or just too smelly to entertain in your mouth, the cheese inside is still sweet, creamy, and mild–not what you’d think of when you see that stinky little rind!

Natural rinds on hard cheese form as the cheese ages, and are made up of the molds within the cheese, as well as other molds present in the aging room.  While eating these rinds can be educational, it’s not always enjoyable.  I know many cheese professionals and enthusiasts who eat these rinds in order to be able to profile the cheese better.  However, most people will find these rinds unpalatable.  They may be chewy, bitter, “dirt-like,” or otherwise unpleasant tasting.  If you are into that kind of thing, by all means, munch away!

At the end of the day, the decision to rind or not to rind can only be answered by you.  Whether you choose to eat the rind for enjoyment or education, or you’d just rather not–it’s all good!


For the Love of Cheeses: A Re-cap of the 2013 American Cheese Society Conference

Wisconsin: the land of cheese and beer.  The land of a thousand lakes.  Also the land of my birth.  Wisconsin holds a special place in my heart, so I couldn’t have been more excited to spend five glorious days with the Haystack team on the shores of Lake Monona in Madison attending the 30th annual American Cheese Society (ACS) conference.  Cheesemakers, mongers, shop owners, writers, educators, distributors, and other industry professionals gathered at the gorgeous Monona Terrace to learn, network, and of course- eat a lot of cheese.

Next stop: Madison.

Next stop: Madison.

I arrived in Madison a day ahead of the big crowd, since I was taking the Certified Cheese Professionals Exam (CCPE) and wanted extra time to settle in and do some last minute review.  Almost immediately upon arrival, my friend and fellow cheesemonger Ali Morgan of Scardello Cheese in Dallas, and I set out for some pre-exam-cram nourishment.  We headed to The Old Fashioned, a Madison institution known for their selection of Wisconsin craft beers and deep-fried cheese curds.  Ali had never had a fried cheese curd before, a fact that I’m still wrapping my head around.  Fried curds are a regional delicacy that you will find on essentially every menu in the state.  What exactly is a curd?  Imagine standing next to a vat of freshly coagulated milk, dipping your hand into it, and pulling out a watery mix of well–curds and whey.  The curds are the all of the solids (protein, fat, and minerals) in milk that form the basis of cheese.  What’s a deep-fried curd then?  It’s sort of a like a mozzarella stick, but so much better.  The curds at The Old Fashioned were brown and crispy on the outside, but tender and gooey in the middle.  Washing it all down with a cold Spotted Cow from New Glarus Brewery, we decided to make it our mission to sample fried curds wherever we could find them and see which restaurant boasted the best.

You would be hard pressed to find a more awesome random picture than this one when searching the Instagram hashtag #cheesesociety13.

You would be hard pressed to find a more awesome random picture than this one when searching the Instagram hashtag #cheesesociety13. Photo credit: Instagram user cheesemee33

On Wednesday July 31, I joined 180 other cheese industry professionals in taking the second ever CCPE.  And–thankfully, that’s over.  By the time the exam let out on Wednesday afternoon, there was a whole lotta cheesin’ going on in Madison.  The first stop after the test was the hotel bar, natch.  Then a quick stop at the post-test party hosted by Roth Kase, where peppercorn raclette was droozled over pickles and fresh bread, and the Spotted Cow flowed like wine.  From there, it was over to The Merchant, a hip little restaurant/shop nearby the conference center for a fabulous party hosted by Culture Magazine.  Their spread was incredible, and although there were no fried cheese curds, they did have two chefs making fresh burrata balls right in the middle of everything.  From here things devolved quickly, thanks to the ACS sponsored pub-crawl through the streets of Madison.

Cheese Sale

The cheese sale to end all cheese sales at the end of the conference. It would be a sin to toss out all of the leftover cheese! Photo credit: American Cheese Society

On Thursday morning the conference started in earnest, with a keynote address by Odessa Piper, a Wisconsin-based chef best known for launching L’Etoile in Madison, and a leader in the farm-to-table food movement.  She lauded the cheese industry for embracing and promoting sustainable practices, calling “cheese…the poster child for…artisanal food culture.”  All of this over breakfast, which included heaping trays of Vermont cheese on every table.  Thank goodness–cheese is an excellent hangover cure, and there were plenty of bleary eyes (mine included) amongst the crowd.

Each day of the conference was filled educational sessions, with topics ranging from “Encouraging Flavor: Flora Farming and Soil” to “Rumplestilton: Weaving Waste into Wealth.” With more than ten different sessions a day, there really was something for everyone.  I couldn’t honestly tell you which session I liked the most- each one I attended fascinated me more than the one before.  The unifying theme for me, the thing that made me stop and say “Holy cow (or goat, as the case may be) this is amazing!” periodically throughout the week, is that the mission and core values of the ACS came flowing through every session like a river tearing down a mountainside.  The organization, and the conference, exist solely to elevate the industry, to help small cheese companies like Haystack and mom-and-pop-cheese shops like Scardello, be better at what they do.  Ah-maz-ing!  What a valuable resource for the cheese industry–we are so lucky to have such an incredible organization supporting us–a huge thank you to the staff and volunteers of the ACS who put this event on each year.

All of the cheeses entered in judging and competition on display at the Festival of Cheese. Photo credit: Instagram user magnoliacheez

All of the cheeses entered in judging and competition on display at the Festival of Cheese. Photo credit: Instagram user magnoliacheez

Equally as fun and educational as the day sessions, were the evenings spent making new friends and rubbing elbows with cheese celebs all around Madison.  The theme of the week: “How many dinners can you fit into one night?” Madison is home to a bounty of incredible restaurants, and I did my best to try each one.  My tops picks were The Merchant, Graze, and Nostrano, but I can’t say I had a bad meal anywhere.  Ali and I stuck to our mission, sampling a variety of fried cheese curds throughout the week.  And, drumroll please….the crowning glory goes to…Graze!  Their curds were nicely battered, almost crunchy on the outside and super meltygooey inside–never rubbery.

Hometown hero Bleu Mont Dairy sampling their cheeses at the Dane County Farmers Market. Photo credit: Instagram user golda78

Hometown hero Bleu Mont Dairy sampling their cheeses at the Dane County Farmers Market. Photo credit: Instagram user golda78

Possibly the most exciting element of the conference (besides getting to spend 5 days eating and drinking with people who love cheese as much as you) is the annual competition.  This year, almost 300 companies entered more than 1700 products in 92 different categories.  Talk about stiff competition.  Haystack is proud to announce that we brought home three ribbons this year.  Our Queso de Mano took best in category for Goat’s Milk Aged Over 60 Days, Chile Jack took 2nd in Monterrey Jack with Flavor Added, and ‘A Cheese Named Sue’ took 3rd in the American Originals Made from Goat’s Milk. Our fellow Colorado cheesemakers at MouCo and Avalanche Creamery also brought home several ribbons–’twas a good day for Colorado cheese.


Haystack Mountain Sales and Marketing Director John, and Cheesemaker Jackie post all aglow after the awards ceremony.

Haystack Mountain Sales and Marketing Director John, and Cheesemaker Jackie after the awards ceremony.

Haystack Mountain's winning cheeses: Queso de Mano, "A Cheese Named Sue", Red Cloud, and Chile Jack.

Haystack Mountain’s winning cheeses: Queso de Mano, “A Cheese Named Sue”, Red Cloud, and Chile Jack. Photo credit: Lucky Malone Photography

A beautiful sunset toast to Best in Show winner Winnemere from the Cellars at Jasper Hill. Photo credit: Instagram user curdwise

A beautiful sunset toast to Best in Show winner Winnemere from the Cellars at Jasper Hill. Photo credit: Instagram user curdwise

I’m already counting down the days until next year’s ACS conference in Sacramento, CA.  I wonder if they have fried cheese curds there…



Recipe: Fresh Chévre Stuffed Squash Blossoms

This morning I was delighted to find no less than twenty bright yellow squash blossoms scattered about the zucchini patch.  Some were still furled into themselves, huddled up against the brightness of the day while others were flaunting their gorgeous color for all to see.  Bees buzzed in and out of the flowers, the birds were chirping, a light breeze ruffled the leaves of the nearby apple tree…the whole scene was rather idyllic.

Bees at work

So I did what any good Boulder-dwelling nature lover would do, I grabbed my garden shears and cut those beautiful blossoms right off, loaded them into my basket, and hauled them up to the kitchen. After reading a few recipes, I decided to go with what is apparently the most traditional approach to cooking squash blossoms- fill them with cheese and fry them.  It’s hard to go wrong with this particular combination of culinary actions.

I made the batter first, so it could set up a bit before I used it.  I combined 3/4 cup corn starch with 1/4 cup flour, 1 teaspoon of baking powder, and some salt and pepper, in a square pan so I could easily dredge the blossoms. I lightly beat one egg with some sparkling water, and whisked it into the dry mix.  Once all of the ingredients were incorporated, I stuck the pan in the fridge.

Next, I prepped the blossoms.  I needed to remove the inner workings of the flowers, and try as I might to not tear the petals in the process, those suckers are delicate!  I ripped most of them, but I figured that both the chévre and the batter would act as a sort of paste to hold them together, and I was right, so do be careful, but if you rip the blossoms- all is not lost.  Once the blossoms were prepped and ready to go, I made the chévre filling by combining the cheese (just about a half pound, and well-softened) with a squeeze of lemon, chopped fresh basil, and a touch of salt and pepper.

squash blossoms

After that, I got to work stuffing the blossoms.  I read somewhere that piping them with a pastry bag is the best way, but since I had already conveniently ripped most of my blossoms open, I found that I didn’t need to go to that extent.  I used a small spoon to scoop the yummy stuff into the blossoms and used the cheese to “glue” the torn petals together once they were stuffed.  Next I heated up some coconut oil in a deep skillet on the stovetop over medium-high heat.  Once it was hot enough, I dredged the blossoms in the batter and popped them in the skillet.  A couple minutes on each side is all it took to get these beauties golden brown and delicious looking, with little bits of chévre filling oozing out the tips.


Cheese for Life: The 2013 Cheesemonger Invitational

Two weeks ago, I had the esteemed opportunity to attend the 4th Annual Cheesemonger Invitational, an event so rare and so magical that I used vacation time to fly all the way to New York City to work the event, and support my shop, Cured.  I competed in the event last year, and wanted to participate in a different context this year, so I offered up my mongering skills as a volunteer for the daytime prep shift.  What did this entail exactly?  Basically, cutting the cheese–a lot of cheese, as well as other items like bread and salami, and a few other gritty kitchen jobs that don’t need to be revisited here.  As excited as I was to support the event by helping with the preparations, the real highlight was getting a behind-the-scenes look at the most awesome cheese party on the planet.

Mongers sat at attention as master of ceremonies Adam Moskowitz described the competition.

Mongers sat at attention as master of ceremonies Adam Moskowitz described the competition.

The Cheesemonger Invitational was started four years ago by Adam Moskowitz, the owner of Larkin Cold Storage, a logistics company for the specialty food industry.  He wanted to create an event to celebrate the cheesemonger, who he considers a critical part of the supply chain.  According to Moskowitz, all of the dedicated hard work of the cheesemaker and importer is for naught if the cheesemonger isn’t up to snuff. As the crucial link between cheesemaker and consumer, the monger possesses all of the power to make or break the customer’s experience with cheese.  So Moskowitz started the Invitational as way to champion the monger, as well as bring cheesemongers from around the country together for education and community building.

The competition is held at Larkin’s refrigerated warehouse in Long Island City.  This year, 55 mongers from around the country gathered at 9am to show off their knowledge and skill.  The preliminaries, which are closed to the public, included a blind tasting, a knowledge test, a pairing round, and a selling round.  Between rounds, the mongers got to participate in education sessions led by the event’s sponsors, such as Columbia Cheese, Creminelli, Vermont Butter and Cheese Creamery, McClure’s Pickles, Neal’s Yard Dairy, and The Cellars at Jasper Hill, to name a few.

The preliminary rounds were tough and the mongers had to throw down everything they had to make it into the top ten.  It was awesome to watch such talented people duke it out over cheese all day long.  By 7pm, the event was open to the public, the finalists were announced, and the party was just getting started.  Thanks to all of the hard-working volunteers (myself and Haystack Mountain Sales and Marketing Director John Scaggs included), the spread was impressive.  Tables flourished with cheese, pickles, charcuterie, popcorn, burgers, fondue– the list goes on.  The wine flowed like beer, the beer flowed like wine, and water was scarce.  As the crowd built to capacity, the top ten took the stage once again for the final challenges.

A brain shockingly good combo put together by Laura Heifitz of XXX

A truly brain shocking combo arranged by Laura Heifetz of Greene Grape Provisions.

The final round of challenges included cutting a perfect quarter pound of cheese by eye and steel,  wrapping and labeling said cheese in under a minute, creating compelling cheese selling signage, and verbally hustlin’ cheese to a panel of judges.  While the finalists got down and dirty, the crowd enjoyed the abundance of vittles and libations, and of course, the fun of being packed into a warehouse full of turophiles.

Around 10pm, when the party had reached a fever pitch, the finalists came back to the stage to announce the winner.  The 2013 Cheesemonger Invitational victor: Justin Trosclair, of St. James Cheese Company in New Orleans.  Justin’s career in the cheese industry also includes a two-year stint in the cheese room at Haystack Mountain.  Justin is no stranger to the intensity of the CMI competition levels, having come in second last year.  His victory was hard-earned and well-deserved. Justin walked away with all of the glory, $1000 cash, and tons of swag.  Yea Justin!

A huge thanks to Adam Moskowitz, Liz Thorpe, Michele Pulaski, and everyone else who worked tirelessly to organize this awesome event.  The Colorado cheese crew had so much fun, and we appreciate the dedication to education and community that this event represents.  Until next year!

Click here to watch the mongers arranging their perfect pairings: Prep Madness 


Recipe: Pimento Cheese

Pimento cheese is classic Southern fare that has recently started popping up on menus north of the Mason-Dixon line. Pimento cheese is essentially a spread made from shredded cheese, pimento peppers and mayo, but everyone’s grandma has her own secret recipe so variations are innumerable.  Pimento cheese became iconic in the early 1900s as a spread for tea sandwiches, served on crustless white bread.  It was regarded as a delicacy because of the high price of cheese and pimento peppers, which were imported from Spain.  Pimento cheese maintained this exclusive status for several decades, but when farmers began to grow the peppers locally and cheese production exploded on an industrial scale in the 1920s, it became everyday fare.  Today, pimento cheese is commonly used as a dip or spread, and as a delicious  grilled cheese filling.  We like to use our 100% goat cheese version as a topping on burgers, or as a creamy dip for crisp radishes and peapods fresh out of the garden.

Pimento Cheese


Pimento Goat Cheese


12 oz Boulder chevre, softened

8 oz Chile Jack, shredded

3 oz jar pimentos, drained

3 green onions, thinly sliced

¼ C mayonnaise


In a medium bowl, mix all ingredients with a wooden spoon.  Serve at room temperature.  May be stored in an airtight container for up to 4 days.

Feeling adventurous? Try adding pickle relish, Worcestershire Sauce, onion powder, Tabasco, smoked chevre (instead of plain), jalapenos, or fresh herbs.