Excerpt from Ari’s Top 5 enews
Raw milk, handmade, and marvelously delicious
One of the tastiest blue cheeses in our Deli cases right now is the Bayley Hazen from Vermont, handmade by Mateo Kehler, Andy Kehler, and the caring crew at Jasper Hill Creamery. You’ll know why we get along so well when you see their slogan: “Meaningful Work in A Place That We Love.” The quality of their milk is at the core of what they do—the Ayrshire cattle they raise have particularly rich, raw milk that’s high in fat and protein. As Mateo told me once, “There’s a direct and linear correlation between the microbial diversity in milk and the diversity of flavor in finished cheese. At Jasper Hill we milk cows, but farm microbes. Our practices produce the fundamental flavors and define the potential and deliciousness of our cheese.” And, as Andy, added, “You can’t make good cheese without good milk.”
Bayley Hazen has a thin natural rind, somewhat like what you’d find on a traditional British Stilton, and a lovely, full flavor that’s won it an array of awards over the years. It has a complex, full meaty flavor and a smooth, memorable, long finish. It hints of butter and delicately smoked bacon, with an anise-like sweetness, a wisp of walnut, and a bit of a lovely bitterness to boot. The cheese does really well when you serve it with some of those delicious Rancho Meladuco dates we have at the Deli and at Mail Order. It’s awesome on crackers (I do love the Potter’s Crackers from Wisconsin we have at the Cream Top Shop) and super fine melted atop a steak. Bayley Hazen is a near-perfect pairing with the Pecan Raisin bread from the Bakehouse. Really good after dinner with mandelbread and a couple handfuls of dried fruit. The California dried pears we have at the Cream Top Shop are terrific! Super nice on the salad I wrote up below. It goes well with dessert wines and dark stouts. Oh yeah—it’s also pretty darned good paired with a piece of the Bakehouse Perky Pecan Pie!
In case you were curious, the cheese is named for an old military road—named for two officers from the area—that was commissioned by George Washington during the Revolutionary War.
Ari’s recipe for Fresh Spinach Salad with Sweet Potatoes, Blue Cheese, and Red Walnuts
A beautiful bit of salad making to brighten the start of March. Fresh spinach is one of the few local greens we can get year round now. Thirty years ago, that would have been unthinkable—now you can find it pretty consistently at the Farmers’ Market and at Argus. I’m partial to larger leafed spinach from local farms—the tiny leaves in the plastic containers at the supermarket are OK, but the salad will be much better with something more substantial in flavor and texture both.
This is a great easy winter salad to make. To start, wash a big bunch of fresh spinach. Cube up some cooked sweet potatoes. You can roast them, or steam them, or you can do what I did and cut up sweet potato fries from the Roadhouse, and toss them onto the salad. Add some sliced roasted red peppers—I’m partial the Basque Piquillo or the Catalan Crystal peppers. Toast some of the really good red walnuts at the Deli and coarse chop them. Crumble on a good bit of blue cheese. The Bayley Hazen is ideal. (If you don’t like blue cheese, feta works well too). Drizzle on some good vinegar—Sherry vinegar, Banyuls, or honey vinegar are all high on my list. Add some extra virgin olive oil (we use the Moulins Mahjoub oil at our house). Sprinkle on some ground black pepper and some flakes of sea salt. Toss well and let sit for a couple minutes so the flavors come together!
The vitality of the spinach, the sweetness of the sweet potatoes, the earthy pleasant umami bitterness of the blue cheese, the smoke of the roasted peppers, and the crunch of the walnuts make for a marvelous combination—a whole world of flavors in one wonderful winter salad bowl!