Hors d'oeurve Soupe Poisson Viande Entre Salade Dessert Fromage

Selection of Northern California Cheeses

Serves 4, 2-3 oz. of each selection per person

Description: White-yellow smooth rind. Firm white pate with some holes, slightly oily and creamy under rind.
Tasting Notes: Smell of fresh white mushrooms and fresh milk. Mild and creamy with an earthy flavor and notes of black pepper and raw mushroom.
Affinage: 3 weeks
Milk: Pasteurized cow's milk from Straus Family Creamery

Description: A cheese based on the Monterey Jack style of California but adapted to perform like a native Parmesan. A dark chocolate brown rind is achieved by rubbing pepper, cocoa, and olive oil into the cheese. Pate is dry and dense, pale yellow with some chipping. Works well as both a grating and snacking cheese.
Tasting Notes: Very full salty flavor with a slightly sweet finish. The pepper and cocoa permeate the flavor of this dense and complex cheese. A balanced, very long full finish. Like an excellent Parmesan exquisitely wrapped in chocolate, which is basically what it is!
Affinage: 3-4 months
Milk: Raw cow's milk

Description: A traditional Portuguese-style cheese made with time-honored techniques. When young, this cheese is not dissimilar to a fine cheddar, and it develops tangy, full flavors with age.
Tasting Notes: Creamy smell of salt butter and pasture. Slightly curdy, but buttery, mouth feel. Tangy and spicy core with distinct notes of dried green peppercorn and a complex salty finish.
Affinage: Aged at the farm for up to seven months in their purpose built aging room. Develops a yellow waxy rind, and a pale yellow curdy pate with some bubbles.
Milk: Raw cow's milk from the farm

Description: A Camembert-style, mold-ripened goat's cheese. The interior becomes soft, ripe and runny as it ages.
Tasting Notes: Rich and creamy, with a smooth mouth feel. Tangy citrus notes give way to full grassy flavors.
Affinage: Six weeks. The outside of the cheese is covered with a white mold, penicillum candidum, which is edible.
Milk: Pasteurized goat's milk

Description: White rind, with a creamy off-white pate both streaked and flecked with blue.
Tasting Notes: Mouth-filling with both a mild blue sourness and a milky sweetness. Very nice creamy finish. A blue that is versatile and lets its great milk source shine through.
Affinage: Aged at the farm for 4 months
Milk: Raw cow's milk from their own herd

red grapes
1 cup sugar
crusty French bread
wild spinach

Nestled in Tomales Bay, a temperate foggy inlet one hour north of San Francisco, Cowgirl Creamery produces artisanal organic cheese using sustainable farming practices. Production takes place in a barn off the main road. The cheese is then shipped to mongers across the country and is also sold at the creamery's storefront in San Francisco's trendy Upper Fillmore district. This plate uses a selection of California cheeses, served with red grapes and figs. Note: If you like your cheeses a little stronger, Murray's suggests leaving the Mt. Tam and the Camelia outside of the refrigerator for several days until they have softened.

Though no credit belongs to me, I am including this five-cheese selection as my final dish. The information below comes from both the Murray's Cheese Shop and Cowgirl Creamery websites, as well as an interview I had with Tony Hall, cheesemonger at Murray's Cheese Shop on Bleeker Street.

  1. Slice cheeses and arrange clockwise, in the order listed above.
  2. Fill a sautoir with figs and fill with enough water to cover. Bring to a boil.
  3. Add sugar and sherry to figs and simmer for 2 hours, replenishing water if needed.
  4. Remove figs and reduce liquid by half.
  5. Place figs in a small poele and spoon with fig reduction. Broil for 2 minutes, until figs are glazed. Add to cheese plate.
  6. Serve cheese atop wild spinach leaves, with grapes and crusty French bread.


wine pairing

David Bruce Petite Syrah

big wine with lots of fruit, a hint of earth and smooth tanins

Northern California produces some world-quality artisinal cheeses, and Murray's Cheese Shop is arguably the best place in New York City to buy cheese. After a visit to Murray's while on a high-calorie culinary tour of Greenwich Village, I was inspired. I started with a terrine. I spent a few hours exploring the Murray's website and then sent an email, asking if they could recommend a California cheese that would compliment the salmon tartare layer in my terrine. The email was brief, but to the point:


italians never use cheese with any kind of fish... but if you want to, i'd go with mild and creamy, and use Teleme from california.


His fear was almost palpable. Never one to argue with those who plainly know better, I decided to forego the salmon, but happily incorporated the Teleme (pronounced tel-EEM) into the terrine. However, after a couple of rash maneuvers with gelatin, I replaced the terrine with the shrimp and quinoa.

I then came across the Cowgirl Creamery, and what I considered to be an interesting selection of cheeses in the traditional styles--Monterey Jack, triple creme, bleu, and Portuguese. This lead to the cheese course. For the salad, I chose the Redwood Farms Camellia.