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kalanyx-webFrom pasture to pasteurization, cheese making requires dedication, skill and passion. Considered a science and an art, it’s something Kala Nyx finds both beautiful and endearing. “I work with amazing products from all over the world – It’s pretty romantic, really,” says the Cheese Merchandiser. Kala learns about many types of cheeses, how they’re made and their history. And there are many emotional connections created in the process, she says.

The Inn at the Commons in the heart of Medford, Oregon, was the place to be for great food, wine and beer as part of the Cheesemaker’s Benefit Dinner on Friday March 13th, the evening before the 11th Annual Oregon Cheese Festival.

Eagar to check out this special event for the first time, I was excited to see some of my favorite people from the world of cheese and find out more about the fantastic menu I’d been teased by on the Oregon Cheese Guild’s website.

I immediately ran into Francis Plowman, marketing manager of Rogue Creamery, as well as owner David Gremmels, who ushered me toward an amazing spread of fantastic Oregon cheeses, fresh fruit and nuts. While in the line for the cheese table, I met Katie Bray and was thrilled to learn that she has been named executive director of the Guild, which has always been made up of and managed by volunteers and cheesemakers, who can’t break away from their operations to attend to Guild business during certain times of year.

For anyone who might wonder what in the world a Guild is, it’s an association of people for mutual aid or the pursuit of a common goal. The four major goals of the Oregon Cheese Guild are:
1)    Increasing awareness of Oregon artisanal cheeses.
2)    Education of its members.
3)    As a platform for sales opportunities.
4)    As a forum to interact with other cheesemakers.   

Organizations like this don’t run on passion alone, they need cold, hard cash! Annual fundraisers for the Guild include the Oregon Cheese Festival, held every March at Rogue Creamery in Central Point, and The Wedge, Portland’s Celebration of Cheese. The Cheesemaker’s Dinner kicks off the Festival in a fantastic way, for a lovely start to a weekend of eating well. So, let’s talk about this dinner!

The appetizer hour was fantastic. In addition to Oregon cheesemakers, other fine folks representing California (Peggy & Sue from Cowgirl Creamery) and Vermont (Allison from Vermont Butter & Cheese and Jeremy from Springbrook Farm) were in attendance, as were other retailers, such Gordon Edgar cheese buyer extraordinaire for Rainbow Coop in San Francisco and Sheri LaVigne from The Calf & Kid. There were distributors from New York to the Northwest looking for great new eats to bring to markets.

20150313 193630It was exciting to hear the cheesemakers talk about their new creations, like the cows’ milk washed rinds from Briar Rose in Dundee, known for its fantastic goats’ milk cheeses. Then there was Cheesorizo, a new project of Pholia Farm that’s made with cows’ milk instead of goats’ milk. This is a cheese “sausage” kind of a ricotta with fantastic spices that’s great when cooked in a skillet and added to, well, everything!

My table was a fun mix of Chelsea from Rogue Creamery, a distributor from New York named Dimitri, Lisa Carlson from DPI Specialty Foods, who was my lovely host and car pool partner for the night, Sheri from the Calf & Kid, and two fantastic cheese enthusiasts who are long-time Market of Choice shoppers! Dinner was four courses of fabulous pairings with local fare, cheese and wine beautifully assembled by Chef Chad Smith from Lark’s Restaurant.20150313 200120

Course 1 (above): Confit Organic Chicken with Blackeyed Pea “Risotto” with OSU Beaver Classic Cheese, Tomato-Viognier Sabayon and Watercress. Amazing! The chicken nearly jumped off the bone, and the cheesy “risotto” had the most fantastic texture and lovely balance of salt. What a way to start dinner!

Course 2 (right): Rare Seared Peppercorn-Crusted Ahi Tuna Carpaccio with Shaved Ancient Heritage Hannah Cheese, Dijon Vinaigrette, Fried Capers and Diakon Radish. Holy moly this was good – the contrasting  texture of the ahi and the cheese was delightful, and the peppercorn against the fried capers were so bright and zingy!

20150313 202836Course 3 (left): Braised Kurobuta Pork Cheeks with Bing Cherry-Infused Pan Jus, Arugula and Hazelnut Oil, Grilled Ciabatta and Face Rock Creamery Mozzarella Curds and Fromage Blanc. The combination of pork cheeks and the cherry pan jus was almost enough to make me fall off my chair, but then I tried the Face Rock Mozzarella curds that had been warmed and stretched into a spiral around the Fromage Blanc – that was some genius at work, the way the mozzarella’s salt and structure contrasted against the fresh milkiness of the Fromage. I’m recreating it the next chance I get!

Course 4 (right): Olive Oil Sponge Cake with White Chocolate Sea Salt Mousse, whipped Fern’s Edge Chevre Chantilly, Orange Marmalade and Honey Caviar. I may have said some indecent things when this plate was set in front of me; it’s all kind of a blur at this point. There were moans coming from every table in the room, as we tasted the bliss of this airy sponge cake in combination with the Chantilly and its brush of sea salt that made my head spin – incredible! I’m still a little weak in the knees just thinking about20150313 205913 it.

Punctuating the fantastic food was some great speaking moments by Oregon cheesemakers, vintners, brewers and the sparkling and informative John Greeley, who has experienced an amazing amount of American artisanal cheese history and has the stories to prove it! This evening was so much more than I could’ve hoped or expected.

It was a truly special opportunity to be near people who are doing great work in the wonderful state in which I live, along with guests from near and far who appreciate everything these producers are working so hard to offer. This may have been my first year at this dinner, but it will definitely not be my last!    

For more info about the Oregon Cheese Guild and its members, go to oregoncheeseGuild.org.
141016HarvestCheeseSale-smMaybe it’s the beauty of the leaves turning colors, or the crisp air and return of the rain after a long summer, but to me one of the best things about October is the Harvest Cheese Sale!

Come visit your Market Cheese Shop from October 16-19 to taste some new favorites, and take a shot at the Guess the Weight of the Wheel contest. The grand prize this year is a mini BBQ, a football helmet fondue pot and one of each of the Harvest Sale items.

I’m always thrilled to gather amazing items for the Harvest Cheese Sale. Being able to find tasty things at fantastic prices is your Market Cheese Shop’s way of kicking off the holiday season. This year’s sale features a fun variety of textures and flavors.

Among our cheese selections are a variety of textures and flavors made of cows’ milk. Choose from Marinated Feta from Australia, creamy Joan of Arc Brie, or Rogue Creamery Blue Heaven, a powdered blue cheese that can also be sprinkled over popcorn.

We also have great goats’ milk cheeses available. Look for tangy chèvre and another version of the same spreadable treat rolled in herbs from Vermont. For the goat cheese lovers that like to slice and snack, try Billie’s Goat Cheddar from England.

That’s just a few of the cheeses you’ll be able to snag at great prices, while supplies last! There will also be a couple of fun, non-cheese items on the sale: Columbus Salame from San Francisco and adorable mini toasts from Three Little Pigs.

Mid-October’s shift in the weather is also a get excuse to have your first Raclette dinner of the season! In the 10/17 issue of Savories, our two-week circular, your Market Cheese Shop features three amazing flavored Raclettes from Emmi Roth USA. These cheeses are perfect over a plate of oven-roasted veggies, or melt them easily on a rustic pizza. Emmi Roth USA is a proud partner of the No Kid Hungry campaign, which is dedicated to ending child hunger in America by access, education and awareness. Learn more about No Kid Hungry at www.nokidhungry.org.

For Halloween, our Savories ad offers no tricks, just great prices on some of your favorite cheeses! Parmigiano-Reggiano, Cave-Aged Gruyere and Emmentaler Swiss will all be discounted $2 lb, just in time for fondue, French onion Soup and pasta dinners.

Enjoy the glory of October with all the fun features at your Market Cheese Shop!

140725KalaNyxCheeseBlog2Used by ancient Egyptians as currency and Native Americans to preserve fruit, honey has a wide range of applications, including being used for thousands of years as a base for folk medicinal recipes.

Its long history of being sought after and harvested is ever-present today, with people installing bee hives in their back yards to encourage the growth of honey bee populations and to produce more balance in the local environment, as well as more honey in local markets.

How do people use it? Some fellow Oregonians consume this sweet stuff daily for immunotherapy against allergens, embracing the theory that eating local honey produced by close-to-home can build up, in tiny amounts, the pollen spores within the body, reducing or eliminating allergic reactions people have to the same pollen during allergy seasons.

While I love the history and the fact that honey has lots of healthful, healing and environmental benefits – the truth is, I just want to eat it! I love it in my coffee, drizzled over fresh nectarine slices to top a wheel of Brie, and mixed with spicy, seedy mustard to glaze chicken. Sometimes, I even like a straight spoonful as an afternoon lift. The range of flavor intensity is as stunning to me as the color of a piece of honeycomb paired with great cheese and charcuterie. And it’s the perfect way to top cool yogurt on a hot day.

At your Market Cheese Shops, we are proud to feature honey from around the corner and around the world. Come by and taste a few and bring a little sweetness to your summer!
140725KalaNyxCheeseBlog1
It’s that time again, when Oregonians walk outside, rub our eyes and behold that fireball in the sky called the sun! Along with a slowing in the rain, more sunshine and beautiful blooming trees, it’s also the time of year when calves, kids and lambs appear in the fields.

If you want to behold all that cuteness, check out the pictures of the quintuplets that Terry and Laurie Carlson at Fairview Farm Dairy in Dallas, Oregon, posted to their website. Besides being adorable and entertaining to watch as they frolic and play in the fields, this means an increase in milk and more local, fresh cheese!

At our Ashland store, spring has sprung as chèvre from Mama Terra Micro Creamery has arrived at our Market Cheese Shop. This wonderful soft cheese from Williams, Oregon, comes in unique flavors like Nettle and Bee Pollen. It’s perfect for topping your favorite crackers or broiling with olives on rustic bread. Come in and see all of the exciting additions, as we complete the remodel of our Ashland location this month!

Our stores in Eugene, Corvallis and West Linn are proud to feature fantastic fresh cheeses from Black Sheep Creamery in Adna, Washinton; Fern’s Edge chèvre and goat milk from Lowell, Oregon; and from Fairview Farm Dairy: delicious chèvre, Skyr, milk, drinkable yogurt and ice cream (found in our frozen foods aisle); as well as other Northwest favorites, such Fraga Farm and Portland Creamery cheeses.

I hope this time of year finds you out enjoying the weather and fresh cheeses from our beautiful region.
With the holidays fast approaching, I wanted to let you know about some of the exciting new things at your Market of Choice Cheese Shop that are excellent for entertaining and make great gifts.

131211blacktrufflebutterRegalis Truffle Delights
I have been waiting for more than a year to add Regalis White Truffle Olive Oil ($30.99, 250ml) to our lineup of choices. We also have Regalis Black Truffle Balsamic Glaze ($45.99, 250ml) and Wisconsin Truffle Butter ($10.29, 3.5oz) at your Cheese Shop. This company was founded by Ian Purkayastha, who began importing Italian truffles to the U.S. when he was just 15 years old. Ian has taken sunny California olive oil and creamy Wisconsin butter and blended them with his beloved truffles. I was lucky enough to sample these products and immediately took them to the stores for the Cheese Stewards to try. Everyone was excited, and I literally had to pry the Balsamic Glaze out of the hands of a few of them. I’ve already given a bottle of the balsamic glaze to a foodie friend of mine for his upcoming dinner party.

131211cheesebasketBrooklyn Slate Cheese Boards
When Sean Tice and Kristy Hadeka took a trip to New York to visit a slate quarry owned by Kristy’s relatives, they discovered what would become a burgeoning business. Available in two sizes, Brooklyn Slate Cheese Boards make the perfect contrasting surface for cheese. There’s even chalk provided, so you can write the name of the cheese on the slate. What a fun party idea! (10”x14” ($29.99) and 7”x12”($26.99)

33 Pieces of Cheese Booklets
These helpful little booklets make a wonderful stocking stuffer for your favorite cheese lover! Priced at $4.59 ea, this pocket-size booklet for logging tastings is easy to tuck away in a purse or pocket for emergency cheese-tasting and documentation. This is one in a series of tasting booklets that hail from Portland, Oregon.

Oregon Favorites
With friends and family coming to visit and celebrate this holiday season, here are just a few lovely local products that you can share with your visitors:
jelly1• Rose City Pepperhead’s Pepperjellies – Sweet and spicy pepper jellies made in Portland and available in a variety of flavors.
• Rogue Creamery – Making cheese in Central Point for more than 80 years, this local gem offers a variety of wonderful cheeses.
• Willamette Valley Cheese Company – This family-owned creamery close to Salem, Oregon, produces wonderful cows’ milk farmstead cheeses
• Oregon Growers & Shippers – Fantastic fruit spreads from the Hood River.  
• Market of Choice Charcuterie – Did you know that Market of Choice has its own Charcuterie line? We have proudly produced several flavors of pâtés, a decadent Duck Rillette and Duck Confit.
• Duck Pâté – Tangy green peppercorns and orange zest add zip and zing to seasoned ground duck. This pork-free pâté is perfect for entertaining. Perfect for dinner with roasted veggies!
• Northwest Cherry & Blue Pâté – A delectable blend of seasoned ground pork with brandy, Northwest Bing cherries, hazelnuts and Rogue Creamery blue cheese. This country-style pâté shines as an appetizer and is rich enough to pair with Port wine.
131211dukersdills Duck Leg Confit – Salt-cured and slow-cooked in garlic, shallots, Chablis wine, duck fat and herbs. Simply pan fry until crisp, shred and serve over salad greens. Delish!
• Duker’s Dills – Our favorite pickles from Portland, these spicy delights include Duker’s Dills, Carrots and Green Cherry Tomatoes and tangy Rose’s Rosemary Lemon Beans and Asparagus. Bring some pucker to your Bloody Mary or cheese plates with these pickled pleasures.

From the Market of Choice Cheese Shops, I wish you a very happy holiday season to include many great meals with the ones you love!
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Cheese Merchandiser List