Formaggio Kitchen Cheese/Cider Tasting

A few weeks ago, Noah and I went to a Formaggio Kitchen class. Formaggio Kitchen is a luxury food store (specialty in cheese) in the area, and they offer cheese tasting classes that often include wine pairings/tastings or other special ad-ons. The classes fill up fast, and Noah and I had to reserve our class months in advance! We signed up for a cheese tasting class done in partnership with Bantam Cider – a local ciderhouse that focuses on making fresh, all-natural ciders.

After looking forward to the class for weeks, Noah and I were excited to make our way to Formaggio’s class location (separate location from their store). When we sat down, we looked over the tasting menu for the evening and preemptively nibbled on some bread:

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The first cheese was a clothbound cheddar (from Cabot in Vermont!), and it came paired with Bantam’s classic cider – Wunderkind.

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After round one, we received a plate with the next four types of cheese: a grand cru, comte, chabichou, and charmoix (pictured below, clockwise from the top).

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Each of the cheeses came from a particular fromager that the buyers from Formaggio Kitchen have a relationship with. It was fun to hear the stories about the buyers building relationships with different farms, producers, and fromagers.

Each cheese was paired with a different cider, and the various tastes were supposed to complement and enhance one another. In order, the ciders were Rojo (aged with sour cherries and black peppercorns), Hopped Scrumpy (added hops towards the end of the fermentation period), Blackberry Sour (tart blackberries give it a sour/fruity taste), and Wild One (a funky cider that is open-fermented with wild yeasts, also a bit sour).

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Michelle da Silva, one of the founders of Bantam, was also at the class, and she provided lots of information about the cider-making process as well as the specifics of each cider. The evening was fun and informative, although I think I am not a sophisticated enough cheese eater or cider drinker to have fully appreciated the benefit of the pairings. I’m definitely glad we went and it was a fun date (the sort of thing that would be an ideal gift for a cheese/cider/wine fan), but it was a bit pricey and I don’t anticipate going to another class. We were, however, inspired to make a trip to the Formaggio Kitchen store recently where we bought some fresh mozzarella for Noah to try on his pizza masterpieces.

To close, I’ll share a pro-tip I learned about cheese eating…for the serious cheese eaters who want to take in the full flavor profile of their cheese, it is best to eat cheese on its own – not with bread or crackers. Since the bread has yeast, it can absorb/distort some of the cheese tastes, so the purists prefer eating cheese solo. BUT, for all of you who want to keep your crackers and bread, no judgement here. I like the bread too. 🙂

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Kitchen in the Market

It’s official. I have found one of the top date activities in Minneapolis. Last weekend, Noah and I took a class through Kitchen in the Market. Kitchen in the Market is located in the Midtown Global Market, and the space is a shared commercial kitchen for food trucks, caterers, and others looking for space to create delicious food. In addition to being a shared kitchen, Kitchen in the Market also offers a variety of classes and events.

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After finding our way to the kitchen, the evening began with a cheese tasting led by the owner of Grassroots Gourmet – dairy and meat shop in the Global Market.

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My favorite cheese was a chevre – especially when combined with tomato chutney or honey!

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After the cheese tasting, we went on a tour of the Global Market. The class we took was called ‘Cooking in the Market,’ and the idea was that we would decide what to make simply based on what looked good walking around the various vendors. After touring the market, we would discuss with the professional chefs what ingredients we were interesting in using, and then – with their guidance – create a dish.

There were about 20 people in the class, and we were broken up into group of 4 to decide what to make. Our group decided that we wanted to make something with chicken and Mexican spices. The suggestion from the pro chefs? Empanadas! The part of the class where each group decided what to make was one of the most fun parts (besides eating cooking all of it). Each group would tell the head chef a certain meat, spice, ingredient, cooking style, or ethnic cuisine they were interested in. The chef would ask a few questions and then settle on a specific dish, give that group a shopping list, and send them on their way. Each group had $25 to spend on the ingredients for their item. After buying the ingredients, each group was paired with one of the professional chefs to help oversee the actual cooking.

Aprons on and ready to cook:

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To start, we needed to make a pie dough for the empanada casing. We made that first so it would have some time to chill in the refrigerator while we made the filling. For the pie dough, we needed butter, flour, sugar, a few pinches of salt, and a little water:

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After the pie dough was done and in the fridge, we set to work on the filling. Supplies included: chicken, potatoes, jalapenos, cilantro, cumin, and oregano:

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We chopped up three potatoes and then boiled for about 10 minutes:

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We covered 4 chicken breasts with some oil, cumin, and oregano and baked at 400° for about 10 minutes:

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For the jalapenos, we fire roasted them over a stove burner until the outsides were thoroughly crisped, and then sealed inside a bowl with saran wrap to let the skins soften:

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After a few minutes in the bowl, the skins will slide right off the peppers, giving them a nice ‘fire-roasted’ flavor and making it easy to chop:

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Add the diced jalapeno and diced chicken to the boiled potatoes:

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Chop the leaves from a full bunch of cilantro and add that to the mix as well:

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While I was involved with all of this chopping, some of the other group members worked on a tomatillo salsa:

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At this point, it was time to get the pie dough from the fridge, roll it out, and shape it into small circles for the empanada shells:

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We added a small amount of filling to each shell, folding it over, marked the edges with a fork, and brushed it with olive oil:

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Once the empanadas were in the oven, it was time to walk around and see what the other groups were up to!

There was veggie paella:

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Thai fried rice – given a fusion twist with wild rice, coconut, and peaches:

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Goat and kale salad:

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Lamb ribs with a plum sauce:

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And a sweet couscous with radishes, carrots, and raisins:

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After all this poking around, I was ready to eat! Luckily, the empanadas were just coming out the oven, so we arranged them on a plate around the leftover filling (there was a lot!):

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By this time, everyone had gotten a glimpse of all the other groups’ dishes and was seriously ready to chow down. We set the food up on the main counter, buffet-style:

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The tables were set beautifully with rosemary-infused water:

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After another brief description from each group about how they prepared their dish, it was time to get food!

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Everything was DELICIOUS! My favorites were probably the empanadas (although I might have been a little biased there!), the kale salad, and the couscous. I liked the goat a lot more than I thought I would, but I was a fan of the lamb ribs. They were a little too chewy for me.

This whole experience was without a doubt one of the most fun things I’ve done all summer. This would be an awesome date for a special occasion (or just for fun!), and it would also be a great thing to do with girlfriends or family member. I wish I could go every week! My advice to you: sign up sign up sign up now. You will have an amazing time. 🙂

Eggs for Breakfast and Art

I’ve been eating more eggs for breakfast these days. I used to be a big bowl of cereal all the girl, but as part of my efforts to get in more protein I’ve been making a transition to eggs. I definitely still have a lot of yogurt/cereal/fruit/nut butter mornings, but eggs are in the steady rotation. I can’t really tell which kind of breakfast fills me up more, but I will continue my detective work and let you know if I have any breakthroughs. This morning’s breakfast followed a 4 mile run, and I was craving something warm, flavorful, and filling.

I cooked up two eggs with some of the leftover roasted garlic and tomatoes from this soup:

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Once the eggs were nearly cooked, I added in about a tablespoon of pesto. I plated the eggs with one slice of wheat toast and a sliced banana:

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yum – look how good this is:

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After this delicious breakfast I had a very busy day, not returning home until after art class. Instead of taking a watercolor class like I normally do, I’m trying drawing this session. I enjoyed the drawing class today, but I definitely think I’ll go back to watercolor for the next session – it feels more fun and free to me. During art class today we worked on an artichoke. Here is the original picture we had:

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We were primarily supposed to focus on replicating the shading and layers. Here is my version:

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Side by side:

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Overall, I think the exercise went okay, but I definitely felt like I couldn’t get quite enough texture into the leaves. I was using a pencil from the B series (softer lead), so the tip didn’t stay as sharp. Perhaps a harder pencil would have given a little more texture.