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FOOD FUN: Cheese Omakase, A Cheese Tasting Dinner

Like sushi? Like cheese? In honor of National Cheese Day, June 4th, combine them both.

We don’t mean the Philadelphia roll, the only mainstream sushi with cheese (Philadelphia cream cheese and smoked salmon, to be precise.

But last year, Rachel Freier, a cheese monger at Murray’s Cheese Bar in Greenwich Village, created a whimsical yet sophisticated 10-course cheese dinner—an omakase, as it were.

Inspired by an omakase she had recently enjoyed at a sushi restaurant, her 10-course tasting dinner did not seek to emulate sushi, although one course is an homage.

Here’s the cheese omakase menu, which is simple enough to copy at home:

  • Amuse Bouche: Milk punch made with chamomile, sweet vermouth and some sweet hay from Jasper Hill Farm in Vermont. It was inspired by a visit to the dairy, where, Freier said, “We sat on a hay bale inside a hay dryer just licking the air it smelled so good.”
  • First Course: A dish called Salting the Curd, made from squeaky fresh curds with fried curds (not shown in photo).
  • Salad Course: A goat cheese salad that featured St. Maure, a bloomy-rind goat cheese from France’s Loire Valley that Murray’s coats with ashes to help it ripen. Looking like a piece of pressed sushi, the rectangle of cheese sits atop a shiso leaf. Instead of soy sauce, there’s a vinaigrette made from pickled cherries and honey, and instead of wasabi, there are wasabi peas. Freier paired the course with a Loire Valley chenin blanc.
  • Pasta Course: Reverse ravioli, two squares squares of mozzarella (instead of pasta dough), filled with tomato sauce, garlic and basil. It was paired with lambrusco, a red wine from Italy (not shown).
  • Frisée aux Lardons With Poached Quail Egg: A spin on the classic, cubes of cheese rind (Spring Brook Reading raclette from Vermont; and Hollander, a sheep’s milk cheese from the French Pyrenees) standing in for the bacon lardons, along with some sautéed mushrooms.
  • Alpine Fondue: A blend of three mountain cheeses, Etivaz, Vacherin Fribourgeois and French raclette. Served with toast fingers and the cornichons, dates and julienned green apples.
  • Palate Cleanser: A shot of whey mixed with apple, ginger and spinach (not shown).
  • Main Course: A mini pot pie filled with Ardrahan, a washed-rind cow’s milk cheese from Ireland. Pungent washed rind cheeses are meaty and brothy (some call them stinky) and should be paired with a hearty wine: In this case, Bordeaux.
  • Cheese & Fruit:Tarte tatin” with cheese; Norway’s national cheese, gjetost, with the apples and crust of the tarte tatin. Gjetost is a caramelized cheese, cooked from goat’s milk cream. It substituted for the caramelized apples of tarte tatin. This course was paired with Eden ice cider.
  • Dessert: Ice cream bon bon, a stilton center, enrobed in chocolate.
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    Cheese Omakase

    Cheese Sushi

    [1] Some of the courses in the omakase dinner (photo courtesy Murray’s Cheese). [2] A close up on the “sushi” course: Saint Maure cheese from France, the second item in the top photo (photo courtesy Chopsticks and Marrow).

     
    Here are close-up photos of the courses.
     
    MORE

    Cheese Glossary: The Different Types Of Cheese

    Sushi Glossary: The Different Types Of Cheese

      

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    TIP OF THE DAY: Champagne Jell-O Shots…Or Maybe Beer

    How old can you be and still enjoy Jell-O shots?

    Erica of Erica’s Sweet Tooth adapted this recipe from Bakers Royale.

    Point of accuracy: This recipe is made with plain gelatin, not flavored Jell-O, so it’s not really a Jell-O shot.

    Another point: Everyone responds to the word “champagne,” but pricey champagne at $30 and up is not the best wine to use in recipes. Instead, use another sparkling wine for one-third of the price.

    Don’t Like Champagne?

    If the dad-of-honor prefers beer, substitute fruit beer in the recipe…or go bold with an IPA or stout. Guinness shots, anyone?
     
    RECIPE: CHAMPAGNE JELL-O SHOTS

    Ingredients For 15 Jello Shots

  • 10 ounces plus 5 ounces champagne (or cava, prosecco or other sparkling wine)
  • 1 tablespoon sugar
  • 3 envelopes Knox plain gelatin
  • Optional garnish: white sparkling sugar (sanding sugar)
  •    

    Champagne Jell-O Shots

    Champagne gelatin shots for any festive occasion (photo courtesy Erica’s Sweet Tooth).

     
    Preparation

    1. COMBINE 10 ounces of the champagne with the sugar in a saucepan. Sprinkle the gelatin on top and let it soften for 2 minutes.

    2. PLACE the saucepan over low heat and stir until the gelatin has completely dissolved, about 2-3 minutes. Remove from heat and add the remaining 5 ounces of champagne; stir to combine.

    3. POUR the mixture into a brownie pan or other square/rectangular container, and chill for at least an hour until firm.

    4. CUT: First dip the pan into warm water and use a knife along the sides to gently release the gelatin. Use a sharp knife to cut squares. Before serving, dip the tops in the sparkling sugar and serve with a festive toothpick.

    (Or, for the tongue-in-cheek approach described below, serve a square or two in champagne coupes, with an optional strawberry or raspberry.)

     

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    Champagne cupcakes—to serve with the shots? (Photo courtesy Cook Craft Love.)

     

    RECIPE: RASPBERRY CHAMPAGNE CUPCAKES

    Another celebratory treat: champagne cupcakes. Why are they shown in champagne coupes (photo at left)?

    Decades ago, it was established that the champagne coupe—also called sherbet champagne glasses because they were popularly used to serve scoops of sherbet—were not ideal for sparkling wine.

    The wide surface area of the bowl—allegedly modeled after Marie Antoinette’s breasts—enables the bubbles to dissipate more quickly than they do in a flute or tulip glass.

    While the photo shows them tongue-in-cheek, serving champagne cupcakes instead of champagne, you can serve equally tongue-in-cheek champagne shots in them.

    If you want to bake the raspberry champagne cupcakes in the photo, here’s the recipe from Meaghan of CookCraftLove.com.

    You don’t have to open a new bottle: You can make this recipe with leftover champagne. It doesn’t matter if it’s flat: It will become flat quickly enough when mixed into the batter.

     
    You can serve the cupcakes with a glass of sec or demi-sec champagne, which are sweeter than brut champagne. Here are the levels of sweetness in Champagne.

    If you’re planning to buy champagne, check out our champagne buying tips.

      

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    TIP OF THE DAY: Mashed Potato Bar

    Mashed Potato Bar

    Mashed Potato Bar

    Mashed Potato Martini

    Mashed Potato Bar

    [1] Who can resist a mashed potato bar (photo courtesy Betty Crocker)? [2] Use whatever dishes you have for the toppings. They don’t have to match (photo courtesy Hormel Foods).[3] If your guests can cope with glass, use your Margarita and Martini glasses (photo courtesy Hormel Foods). [4] Keep the potatoes warm in a slow cooker (photo courtesy Tip Hero).

     

    Whether you like to grill for Father’s Day or prepare everything in the kitchen, a fun, interactive addition to the festivities is a mashed potato bar.

    Our dad loved our cold green bean salad. With a bowl of that, and a cucumber salad or a special slaw, the only other side you need is the mashed potato bar.

    It’s a treat for guests to customize their toppings. For you, everything can be prepared ahead of time, including the potatoes, which are kept warm in a slow cooker or other device.

    Don’t want potatoes? Substitute mashed cauliflower.

    PREPPING THE MASHED POTATOES

    Make the mashed potatoes with or without skin, using your choice of red, white or golden potatoes.

  • Use a tried-and-true recipe.
  • If you like to load up the groaning board, offer mashed sweet potatoes as well.
  • If you don’t have a slow cooker to keep the potatoes warm, use aluminum foil pans with steam warmers underneath. For a fancier event, use chafing dishes. If you don’t have any of these, see what you can borrow.
     
    MASHED POTATO BAR TOPPINGS

    DAIRY

  • Butter
  • Cheeses: blue, cheddar goat, parmesan; crumbled, grated or shredded
  • Sour cream, plain Greek yogurt
  •  
    PROTEINS*

  • Bacon
  • BBQ pulled pork
  • Chili
  • Sausage, sliced mini pepperoni or crumbled whole sausage
  • Anything else you like
  •  
    SEASONINGS

  • Prepared seasonings
  • Salt and flavored salts
  • Heat: dried chipotle, hot sauce, red chili flakes, peppermill
  •  
    VEGETABLES

  • Onions: caramelized, onion rings, sliced scallions
  • Mushrooms, sautéed
  • Steamed medley: broccoli, carrots, zucchini, etc.
  • Tomatoes: diced fresh tomatoes, halved cherry tomatoes, chopped sundried tomatoes
  •  
    TOPPINGS

  • Cheese sauce (if you can keep it warm)
  • Corn chips
  • Fresh herbs: chives, dill, shredded basil, parsley
  • Gravy
  • Olives
  • Sliced jalapeños
  •  
    PARTY ON!
     
     
    MORE DIY FOOD BARS

  • DIY Bacon Bar
  • DIY Bloody Mary Bar
  • DIY Breakfast & Brunch Bar
  • DIY Dessert Bar
  • DIY Jambalaya Bar
  • DIY Stuffed Avocado Bar
  • DIY Taco & Wing Bar
  • DIY Wedge Salad Bar
  • 20 More Food Bars
    ________________

    *Assumes beef and chicken are main courses from the grill.

     
      

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    TIP OF THE DAY: Garnishing With Lilacs

    White Wine With Lilacs

    Cake With  Fresh Lilac Garnish

    [1] White wine with a scattering of lilac blossoms (photo courtesy Tay Tea). [2] Decorate desserts and other foods. Check out these recipes from Brit.co.

     

    We received the top photo from Tay Tea, a lovely tea salon in Delhi, New York, some three hours northwest of New York City. The proprietor spent years as a blender of premium teas, and departed from owning tea salons in New York City to the country.

    Fortunately for her fans, she sells her teas online. The blends are beautiful to look at, and you can’t make a wrong choice.

    Back to the lilacs:

    Lilac blossoms are edible, though they smell better than they taste, so are best used in small amounts as a garnish (only use those that have not been sprayed with pesticides). They typically blossom in April and May.

    According to an article on Care2.com, you can “drink in the beauty and aroma” by making a cold-water infusion.

  • Add washed lilac blossoms to a pitcher and fill to the top with spring water. Steep for an hour or more.
  • Strain, chill and serve.
  • You can make multi-note flavors by adding citrus slices, strawberries, herbs, etc.
  •  
    MORE WAYS TO CONSUME LILACS
    You can also:

  • Garnish wine and cocktails, iced tea or other nonalcoholic beverages.
  • Scatter atop green salads, crêpes, desserts, etc.
  • Candy to preserve as decorations for cakes and cupcakes (also called crystallized or sugared flowers; here’s a recipe).
  • More uses for edible flowers.
  •  
    Check out these nine lilac recipes, from cocktails to desserts.
     
    THE MYTH OF THE LILAC

    The common lilac (Syringa vulgaris), one of 12 species of lilac, is a member of the Oleaceae family, commonly called the olive family.

    The family comprises flowering aromatic woody plants that includes, among others, ash, forsythia, jasmine and privet. Lilac is native to Eurasia.

    And it has a legend.

     
    In Greek mythology, a beautiful nymph named Syringa had caught the eye of Pan, the god of the forests and fields. He chased her through the forest; but she eluded him by turning herself into a lilac bush. Pan found himself holding hollow reeds instead of Syringa.

    (Note that in real life, lilac twigs are not hollow. They can, however, be easily drilled out.)

    Pan’s sighs, combined with the wind and the reeds, made harmonious sounds. Hermes, the fleet-footed messenger and god of boundaries and transitions, suggested that seven reeds of different lengths, bound together, could make what we now call pan pipes, an early flute. The flute was called Syrinx in honor of the nymph.

    Did Syringa spend the rest of her life as a lilac bush, to avoid Pan? The record is silent; but we thank her for inspiring the flute and other hollow tubes, such as sryinges for medicine and mechanical uses.

     
      

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    FOOD FUN: Fried Eggs (And More) In Pepper Slices

    We saw this photo on Tajín’s Facebook page, but couldn’t find a recipe.

    Fortunately, it’s not too difficult to slice bell peppers and drop an egg inside each slice—along with some mildly spicy Tajín seasoning (it’s a cayenne, lime and salt blend).

    We thought: What else can we make with a bell pepper rim?

    Cooked Foods

  • Burger patties
  • Melting cheeses (see list below)
  • Grains (mounded inside)
  • Savory pancakes
  •  
    Uncooked Foods

    If the food isn’t cohesive enough to be mounded, make the slices taller; or trim a bit of the bottom of a half or whole pepper so it will stand.

  • Ceviche
  • Sashimi
  • Tuna and other protein salads
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    ABOUT TAJÍN SEASONING

    In Mexico, this spice blend of cayenne, lime and salt is used on just about anything, savory and sweet:

  • Fruits: raw, cooked, sorbets and ice pops: citrus, cucumber, melon, and tropical fruit (mango, papaya, pineapple, etc.)
  • Beverage glass glass rimmers
  • Eggs, grains, potatoes (including fries), vegetables
  • Snacks: popcorn, mozzarella sticks
  • Proteins: fish, meat, poultry, tofu
  • Just about anything else, from angel food cakes to salad dressings
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    GOOD MELTING CHEESES

    Good melting cheeses include, among others:

  • American muenster
  • Asiago
  • Cheddar
  • Colby
  • Edam
  • Gruyère and other Alpine cheeses (e.g. emmental, comté)
  • Fontina
  • Havarti
  • Hispanic melting cheeses (asadero, queso blanco, queso chihuahua, queso di papi, queso oaxaca, queso quesadilla)
  • Monterey jack
  • Mozzarella
  • Provolone
  • Reblochon
  • Taleggio
  •  

    Fried Eggs In Bell Pepper Slices

    Fried Egg Veggie Bowl

    Tajin Seasoning

    [1] Slice the pepper, drop in the egg. [2] Enjoy as is, or in the center of a yummy bowl of greens (photo courtesy Hope Foods). [3] Tajín seasoning: cayenne, lime and salt (photos courtesy Tajín.

      

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