October 28, 2014

The Board and Wire Goes to Ireland: Part Three in Pictures.

    A selection of things I ate (because we all know what my main goal in life is) and the amazing places we went while touring the west of Ireland.

October 27, 2014

The Board and Wire Goes to Ireland: Part Two

    I know that when one thinks "cheese" Ireland does not immediately spring to mind.  More likely you'll conjure up the image of a beret topped person tucking into a slice of creamy white Brie in France, or a massive bowl heaped with spaghetti and piled high with fluffy shaved Parmigiano Reggiano in Italy.  These countries are generally what most people think of when it comes to cheese in Europe.  Yes, there are many great cheese making nations (England, Switzerland, Spain, etc.) but my point still stands.  Ireland is vastly underrated when it comes to cheese.  
    Sheridan's Cheesemonger does seem to have quite the focus on Irish farmhouse cheeses.  I was only familiar with a fraction of what they offered in that range.  Sure there was the ever popular Cashel Blue, unctuous washed rind Gubbeen, and crunchy semi-firm Coolea.  Of course what intrigued me the most was the cheese that was completely new to me; Lavistown, Diliskus, and Glebe Brethan to name but a few.  I settled on purchasing a slice of the Glebe Brethan.  It was very alpine in style.  The texture reminding me of a very well aged Gruyere.  The flavors however were much more herbal, earthy, and extremely grassy.  Not quite with the nuttiness and cream of a true Gruyere.  Still I thoroughly enjoyed this cheese (sadly no photos survived my sudden case of blurry pictures).
   Sheridan's also had a well curated core list of quality European cheeses as well (which I mentioned some of in last weeks post). Which brings me to one of the main points of my visit to Sheridan's; raw milk Brie from France.  As an American Cheesemonger there are many types of cheese that I do not have access to due to the laws set down by the F.D.A.  Raw milk Brie, which is made from milk that has not been pasteurized, is illegal for sale in the U.S.A.  By law all cheese made from raw milk must be aged for more than 60 days.  Which is why you'll see some hard as well as blue cheeses made from raw milk in the States.
    Hence raw milk Brie was a sort of a Holy Grail for me.  Well, and for my fellow Cheesemongers, judging by the envious groans when I told them about finally getting to try A.O.C. protected Brie de Meux.  Yes, Brie de Meux is what I spotted in the case at the end of my previous post.  It really was everything I'd hoped for, wished for, dreamed about in finally getting to taste the real deal.  Its texture was silky and slightly fudge-y, turning to a slow, decadent ooze as it warmed up.  Classic flavors of butter, olive oil, herbs, and forest floor were heavy and well balanced.  I have to say not pasteurizing the heck out of milk really, truly makes a difference in the quality and flavor of the cheese.  This was probably one of the best parts of my time in Ireland.  
    Oh, and I may or may not have had tears of joy in my eyes as I reverently scooped spoonful after spoonful of that Brie de Meux onto pieces of warm, crusty bread.  

October 23, 2014

The Board and Wire Goes to Ireland: Part One

    So to share a bit of personal news 2014 was a big year for me.  Not only did I get married back in April (yay!), he and I got to go on honeymoon to western Ireland (double yay!).  Needless to say it was a trip we had been dreaming about for ages.  We stayed in the quirky, cobblestone paved city of Galway, in County Galway.  Which just so happens to be the birthplace of a dream of a cheese shop, Sheridan's Cheesemongers. Coincidence?  A bit.  I am not ashamed that part of my motivation to honeymoon in Europe was to eat all the fabulous, bloomy-rinded raw milk and Irish farm house cheeses that I could stuff in to my face.  Let me tell you, as you'll see in a later post, I succeeded in my mission.  But I digress.
     Sheridan's.  Packed virtually floor to ceiling with high quality, hand selected, and on occasion house-made cheese, cured meats, jam, chutney, bread, wine, veg, and crackers of all shapes.  Basically everything that makes specialty foods absolutely, well, special.  
    The Galway shop is tucked down a narrow lane that snuggles up to the church yard of the massive (and bejeweled with stained glass) Church of Ireland.  The building Sheridan's occupies is a big stone affair partitioned off into shops, and most likely older than the country I live in.  Its store front is wide and welcoming, trimmed with a deep dignified green and through large sunny windows peep the best of what Sheridan's Cheesemongers has to offer.  Being, cheese.
    I walked into Sheridan's with a mixture of church-like reverence and classic kid-in-a-candy-store exuberance.  My darling husband was on hand with the camera to catch that moment, natch.  As I think any Cheesemonger could understand, one of the best smells in the world is walking into a cheese shop.  That wonderful earthy, damp, pungent (yet clean) scent of several dozen well cared for cheeses occupying the same room just fills me with an almost embarrassing bubbly joy.  
    This is my element.  This is what I know.  This is what I love.  
    Once inside Sheridan's I apparently got tunnel vision when I spotted some long lost "friends" stacked neatly on the counter.  There they were, aged Mimolette and washed rind Morbier.  Just hanging out waiting to be cut to order for somebodies pre-dinner party nosh.  Just like they should be in the States, but alas, the FDA has different ideas about what cheese we should be eating.
    Carefully, slowly, I picked, squeezed, and sniffed my way across the huge mound of cheeses.  Marveling at how they are able to keep all but the freshest of cheeses out of the fridge case.  Also, notable was that all cheese is directly cut to order.  No piles of pre-cut pieces languishing in plastic wrap.  The selection of cheese available was impeccably curated.  The focus being on Irish cheese of all types, mixed with a good core selection of European offerings.  Not only could you find your Cashel Blue there but also your Parmigiano Reggiano or French Comte.  
    After more poking about and several good natured photos snapped by my husband I spotted my personal holy grail of cheese...but more on that next time.
*The photos inside Sheridan's Cheesemongers are all courtesy of Ian Hawkins
*All other photos are works of the author's