The first selections for my Phoenix metro based cheese biz The Roving Cheesemonger arrived last week. In case you wondered why the radio silence on Cheese Chick Chat, I can say, I’ve been a bit busy in the very best of ways. Since September, I have been in the thick of launching a real, live business bringing fine cheese exeriences to Phoenix, Scottsdale & Cave Creek.
One of the best things about launching is the sense of community I’ve discovered here in the area. Cheesemakers, chefs and writers, homebrewers and baristas, foodies, farmers market and other culinary types, marketing & PR peeps and you quirky, proud Phoenicians… though I never expected to set down roots here, I am excited to be part of this vibrant and fun scene.
Working out of a shared kitchen is a wonderful compliment to the rather solitary “behind the monitor” and “behind the lens” work I do. On my first day in the kitchen I was thrilled to learn I was sharing the kitchen with Gina Buskirk from Gina’s Homemade, who crafts the great Italian cheeses, sauces & biscotti she grew up with.I enjoyed hearing more about her cheese and her approach to food – watching the production of mascarpone, burrata & ricotta (she sources awesome milk from Straus Dairy), I knew Gina didn’t skimp on quality. I felt right at home chatting food, talking cheese and cutting and sharing my first four selections.
Before I left, we traded cheese. Gina’s perfectionist nature and pride in her product were clear when, running short on time and product, she refused to let me take a slightly imperfect specimen. I admire that kind of dedication to quality.
I left with a perfectly formed orb of handmade Burrata. In case you’re unfamiliar, it is an Italian delicacy – a thin layer of fresh mozzarella is stretched into a pillow filled with rich mascarpone and ricotta. Other Burrata I’ve had are filled with shreds of fresh mozz mixed with mascarpone. I much prefer this version with a smoother, richer paste.The rich and creamy filling and outer shell is an ideal blank canvas ready to be enhanced with other, bolder flavors. This is the ultimate in versatile cheese, made for sharing and celebrating. For my recipe, I used what I had on hand: fresh parsley, rosemary and basil (yes, it’s still going strong mid-December in my desert garden) – some jarred, sundried tomatoes and pecorino romano cheese. Next time I might add pine nuts and sauteed Swiss chard to the mix and riff on wilted winter salads.
My prediction: Phoenix will be rich in cheese in 2012!