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Published on February 15th, 2011 | by Ruth and Greg

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Fancy Food 2011: Cheese, Truffles, Oil and Vinegar

Last month, we at­tend­ed one of the most fun an­nu­al tradeshows – the Fan­cy Food Show in San Fran­cis­co, an event we’ve at­tend­ed in the past and al­ways en­joyed. Held in the Moscone Cen­ter over the course of sev­er­al days, it draws at­ten­dees from through­out the world and fea­tures a wide va­ri­ety of foods in ev­ery con­ceiv­able form. We tried dozens of in­ter­est­ing bev­er­ages, in­clud­ing black wa­ter, and more chips, cheeses, dips, and dress­ings than should be le­gal to have in a sin­gle lo­ca­tion. We brought back items from four of our fa­vorite ex­hibitors to our tast­ing room, where they faced the tough chal­lenge of a pan­el of hun­gry writ­ers (and friends).

Rogue Cream­ery Cheeses

We skipped as we took home six types of Rogue cheese to try- three blues and three ched­dars. Cave­man Blue is amongst the more nor­mal of the ex­cel­lent cheeses from this Ore­go­ni­an cream­ery, which has been around since 1935. The Crater Lake Blue was the mild one in the fam­i­ly of blues- one of our tasters de­clared it “good for peo­ple who don’t like blue cheese.” Some of use who adore blue cheese al­so en­joyed it. We were in in­trigued by the Smokey Blue Cheese. Ac­cord­ing the Rogue’s web­site it’s the first blue ev­er smoked. The ef­fect was sur­pris­ing and de­li­cious- per­fect for pair­ing with meat, though it was a bit over­whelm­ing for some of our eaters. With a fo­cus on blue cheese, we were im­pressed dur­ing our tast­ings with some of their oth­er va­ri­eties- es­pe­cial­ly the ones that use Rogue Ales. The Choco­late Stout Ched­dar was de­li­cious. The Mo­ri­mo­to So­ba Ale Ched­dar is out of this world, one of the very best ched­dars we’ve tried. We hap­pened to have some beer mus­tard on hand, and in­dulged in a holy beer trio, pair­ing it with the liq­uid ver­sion of the Rogue Mo­ri­mo­to So­ba. De­spite the names and the part­ner­ship, the two com­pa­nies are not af­fil­i­at­ed. The Raw Milk Ched­dar was nice and sol­id, not over­whelm­ing, but held it’s own. Some of their more in­ter­est­ing va­ri­eties don’t ap­pear to be avail­able on­line for pur­chase, sad­ly, but they do of­fer sev­er­al cheese club op­tions.

Mia’s Kitchen Bal­sam­ic Vine­gar Re­duc­tion

One of our fa­vorite snacks is good, fresh bread dipped in oils or vine­gars. Mia’s Kitchen Bal­sam­ic is an in­ter­est­ing change from our nor­mal aged bal­sam­ics. This ver­sion is much thick­er and sweet­er, the pear juice and hon­ey it’s re­duced with ev­i­dent. It con­trast­ed nice­ly with some of our cheeses. We tried it with fresh moz­zarel­la, basil and toma­toes to stun­ning ef­fect. Such a sim­ple way to im­press friends. We’re al­so look­ing for­ward to try­ing it over vanil­la gela­to. The “Mia” of Mia’s Kitchen is the newest gen­er­a­tion in a fam­i­ly of food en­thu­si­asts – she grew up in Sono­ma in­cor­po­rat­ing wine in­to her cook­ing from her fam­i­ly’s Vine­yard- Se­bas­tiani.

Ore­gon White Truf­fle Oil from the Joel Palmer House

Most truf­fle oils are not ac­tu­al­ly made from re­al truf­fles, it seems- but the stuff we tried clear­ly was. The first all-nat­u­ral US-pro­duced truf­fle oil is har­vest­ed by the folks be­hind the Joel Palmer House, a restau­rant in Day­ton, Ore­gon. We learned that the dis­tinc­tive odor is ac­tu­al­ly an im­por­tant part of the truf­fle life-cy­cle, as it at­tracts the an­i­mals that car­ry the spores of the next gen­er­a­tion. Thus, they claim that of all foods, “truf­fles are the on­ly ones that must be eat­en in or­der to con­tin­ue their ex­is­tence”. We have to ad­mit to find­ing the oil a bit sharp­er and more gar­licky than ex­pect­ed- not in a bad way, but one that meant some care­ful think­ing about use rather than lib­er­al ap­pli­ca­tion or gen­er­al cook­ing as one might use olive oil. It’s fair­ly del­i­cate stuff- great to pour over things or use with good bread or pas­ta for some­thing dif­fer­ent.

2010 Lim­it­ed Re­serve Olive Oil from Cal­i­for­nia Olive Ranch

We’ll be do­ing a much broad­er tast­ing of olive oils soon, but we man­aged to grab a bot­tle of the 2010 Re­serve on our way out of the show. This is bot­tled di­rect­ly and un­fil­tered for a pret­ty dis­tinc­tive taste- a bit more raw than most EVOO and def­i­nite­ly wor­thy of tast­ing. Per­fect for non-cook­ing use, we paired it against the cheese, vine­gar re­duc­tion, and truf­fle oil and liked it all the more for hold­ing strong. It’s fruiti­er than some, and at least one writ­er com­ment­ed that it didn’t go as well with some salt, pep­per, and good bread as more fil­tered va­ri­eties. But as far as lim­it­ed edi­tion lo­cal foods go, it’s high up on our list of our new fa­vorite an­nu­al re­leas­es.

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