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Kala NyxKala Nyx finds the science and romance of cheese fascinating. "As Market of Choice's Cheese Merchandiser, I work with amazing people from all over the Northwest and the world to find the finest products for our foodie customers," she says.

160411CheeseBlogLocal is a trendy catch phrase right now and a lot of people are using the term. I want to take a moment to celebrate what local means to me and to your Market Cheese Shop.

With nine stores, all located in Oregon, and a 10th store opening this summer in Bend, Market of Choice is proud to be Oregon grown and Oregon owned! We have three stores in the Portland metro area, one in Corvallis, four in Eugene and one store in Ashland, and we refer to Oregon products as local. We also honor our northern neighbor, Washington, and refer to amazing products from that state as regional items. Our next Savories ad, which begins on April 15, will celebrate the local bounty of Oregon. In the Cheese Shops there will be four great flavors of Portland’s Olympia Provisions salami on sale, along with the fantastic fruit spreads and pâtés from Oregon Growers in Hood River and La Mariposa Chubut cheeses, made in Albany.

Here are some other local heroes in your Market Cheese Shops:

If you are fortunate enough to be in Ashland, stop by your Market Cheese Shop and check out some cheesemakers that are so local, the other stores don’t carry their products yet! Mama Terra Micro Creamery from Williams, Oregon makes fantastic chèvre in innovative flavors, and By George Farm in the lovely Applegate Valley has transformed the creamy goodness of milk from its Jersey Cows into Brie, fromage blanc and feta that will delight your palate! Our Ashland store also sells the largest variety of Rogue Creamery cheeses outside of Rogue’s own cheese shop, so if you forgot to grab some award-winning Blue in Central Point, you can find it in Ashland.

Our stores in Eugene are a stone’s throw from Ferns’ Edge Goat Dairy in Lowell, where some of the mildest chèvre I’ve ever tasted is made, along with some fantastic award-winning aged cheeses.

Our location in Corvallis is lucky to have cheeses from OSU Creamery, which are made on the Oregon State University campus with milk from the OSU dairy. They win the closest proximity award! Albany is nearby—home to La Mariposa and Ochoa’s Queseria—and Willamette Valley Cheese Co. is just down the road in Salem!

Portland is home to Ancient Heritage Dairy and Portland Creamery, which are bringing cow, sheep and goats’ milk cheeses into the area from the center of the city. Fraga Farm and Briar Rose Creamery are just west of Portland and make stunning cheeses in a territory that also produces incredible wines.

I must also mention Face Rock Creamery in Bandon, River’s Edge Creamery outside of Siletz and Tillamook—and anyone else offering the bounty of great cheeses, fine meats and tasty accompaniments that we’re fortunate enough to have in Oregon. The best way to experience them is in person! Come visit your Market Cheese Shop and ask your Cheese Steward for a delectable tour of Oregon. You’ll be pleasantly surprised by the variety this great state has to offer, and you’ll see why Market of Choice is truly grateful to call Oregon home.

DSCN1026Cheese making was resurrected in Bandon, Oregon, with the opening of Face Rock Creamery almost three years ago.

Award-winning cheese
Starting out with a big win at the 2013 American Cheese Society Competition in the cheese curd category for their super-garlicy Vampire Slayer Curds, this little creamery has been bringing home awards and winning over fans since opening its doors!

DSCN1057Face Rock produces a stunning variety of cheddars, cheese curds and creamy fromage blanc. You can buy some fun cheeses that are only available at the creamery in Bandon, where you can also enjoy a great grilled cheese for lunch and ice cream for dessert!

Your Market Cheese Shop carries one of their 2015 1st Place award winners – a fantastic, two-year aged cheddar that reflects the experience and skill of cheese maker Brad Sinko, who left Beecher’s Cheese to return to Bandon.

A history of cheese making
Brad’s father, Joe, was one of the owners of the Bandon Cheese factory that once sat on the same land where Face Rock stands today. Brad started making cheese at the Bandon Cheese factory, so his return to Bandon brought him full circle.

DSCN0993With business partners Greg Drobot and Daniel Graham, this trio has brought cheese making back to Bandon, anchoring Face Rock Creamery into the heart of the community and cheese lovers, alike!

Perfect pairings
Try one of Greg’s favorite combinations–one that reminds him of apple pie topped with cheddar: slice thin Face Rock Creamery’s Extra Aged Cheddar and serve atop Effie’s Homemade Oatcakes with a dab of Oregon Growers Apple Butter.

A Market of Choice Cheese Steward fave is Face Rock Creamery’s Apricot Fromage Blanc on Effie’s Homemade Cocoa-Cakes, which tastes just like cheesecake!

IMG9504771 resizedIMG9504821 resizedOne of the best things about going to a big food show, like the January’s Fancy Food Show in San Francisco, is the amazing people you meet.

I was on my way to check out a shiny, red phone booth at the Somerdale Cheese booth when someone asked me, “Would you like to meet Mary Quicke?” The question stopped me in my tracks, and the fastest “Yes, please!” jumped out of my mouth. Up until that moment, I’d only tasted the fantastic British cheddars that Mary has made on her family farm for the last 29 years, and I was already a fan.

If you look at Mary’s heritage—she’s the 14th generation to live on the 450-year-old Quicke family farm—that’s pretty impressive all by itself. Her father, Sir John, built the dairy 40 years ago, where their cheddars are handmade, clothbound and naturally matured.

While some cheeses are “encouraged” to age quickly to meet shipping deadlines, Quicke’s cheddars are allowed to naturally mature. Mary routinely tastes and selects them when they are ready to be released to market. They are the largest British cheddar maker to produce naturally matured cheeses and also one of the UK’s leading award-winners at competition.

Mary was kind and delightful, leading the happy group of cheese fans I was with through a tasting of her world-famous cheeses and a couple new cheddars she’s working on bringing to market. She referenced the heritage starter cultures that give the cheese the slightly chewy texture that the brand is famous for. We all enjoyed chatting with her and snapped a couple photos before her next round of fans stepped up to the cheeseboard.

If Mary didn’t have enough on her plate with the farm and keeping the cheddar lovers of the world happy, she’s also a regular on the judging circuit at competitions. And although she’s in high demand at cheese competitions, Mary also judges other agricultural competitions and shows. I even found her listed as a judge for a short story competition! With her monthly blog, called Mary’s Dairy Diary, she provides fans updates on how things are shaping up at the farm with the weather, crops, cows and cheese. She tops off the blog with a recipe that is so tempting, I think to myself, “Dinner with Mary?—Yes, please!”

20150529 163747 resizedEDITEDThere’s nothing as wonderful as summer in Oregon – the great festivals, the fresh berries and other amazing produce coming in from local farms, and the fresh air! Speaking of fresh air – who doesn’t love riding a bike with the roses blooming and the sun shining?

Right now, in your Market Cheese Shops, we’re displaying three fantastic Dutch Gazelle cruisers to be given away! These bikes will go to three lucky customers on June 11th, when we hold our drawing. So now is the time to visit your Cheese Steward and sign up!

While you’re there, be sure to taste the amazing Dutch Goudas that are featured in our current issue of Savories, including Rembrandt, Vincent and Vermeer for $2lb off the everyday price. These cheeses are firm enough to take on a day trip and soft enough to break apart for a savory, crystal-studded bite of nutty, caramel toned goodness! The fantastic flavor of these cheeses will prove why this is called the “Master’s series!"

So hurry in, and don’t miss the chance to win a bike and take these masterpiece cheeses home at a great price!

 

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.
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