Here’s some food for thought. What happens when we die? Eternal darkness, the void, pure nothing? Or is there life beyond the veil, a Refresh button for existense? And most importantly, what the hell does this have to do with cheese?
Fear not, for we have seen the afterlife, it is alive and well, it tastes like heaven. Perhaps you’ve yet to bask in the wonder of Double Skull Taleggio, a special product of Caputo’s Cheese Cave, in which case waste no further time. Come taste it in the market. Buy it now. It’s basically edible Lazarus, a miracle of the regenerative power of our cheese caves.
Let’s start with Taleggio. It’s Italy’s second-most popular cheese, second only to Parmigiano-Reggiano, and believe me, the two couldn’t be more different. Taleggio is a semi-soft, washed-rind, smear-ripened cheese with enormously pungent aromas (read: stinky), but surprisingly mellow, fruity flavors. It comes from the Val Taleggio in Lombardy, Italy, where it’s matured for somewhere between six to ten weeks. During this time, the cheese is washed down regularly with a salt brine during maturation, which prevents mold overgrowth while simultaneously making the surface of the cheese amenable to B. linens, a class of bacteria that impart said pungency and develop the cheese’s characteristic reddish-orange crust.
When we receive our squares of Taleggio from Italy, these bricks of deliciousness are pretty much in a state of decay. This is where the real magic happens. Our affineuse (aka the cheese whisperer) starts the washing cycle all over, this time daily, and using Epic Brewing’s scary-good Double Skull Doppelbock Lager in place of the traditional saltwater bath, thus breathing new life back into this precious Taleggio. The results are transcendental. Deep, rounded flavors of malt, bread, and fruit. Wildly complex aromas. The essence of umami.
We’re serious when we say that to taste this cheese is to taste rebirth, a new life of flavor wrought in 97% humidity and daily beer baths. It’s a truly singular experience. So head on down to the market, pick up some Double Skull Taleggio, and celebrate the Day Of The Dead in true form (disclaimer: we can’t guarantee this will actually pair well with a sugar skull).
You know it’s gifting crunch time, we know it too. You’re still not sure what to give, and you haven’t started shopping yet? That’s OK, we won’t tell. Here’s what some of your favorite faces from Caputo’s are giving to their friends and family this year to serve as gifting inspiration.
Don’t see your favorite monger here? Drop by before the holiday—we’re open through the afternoon of Christmas Eve—and ask them for their personal recommendations. We’re certainly never lacking in opinions around here.
So, here you have it: each of our gift picks for 2016:
Scaldaferro Torrone – Scaldaferro is the perfect nexus of heirloom ingredients and outlier in skill. No other nougat on Earth will taste like this. In my somewhat expansive nougat experience, it is the best out there. With our modern day food system continuously degrading what people are willing to pay for food, it is a treasure that will likely be lost to history some day. I am giving Scaldaferro as a gift, because it is a perfect example what Caputo’s is trying to achieve. We fight to protect these traditional foods by sharing our passion for them with our friends, family, and customers.
Pump Street Bakery Father Christmas – Is there anything better than a chocolate figurine of Saint Nick stuffed into your stocking on Christmas morning. There is – said Saint Nick made out of really, really good chocolate. Father Christmas is hand poured 60% dark milk chocolate from HCP protected Ecuador cacao beans. This is one I’ll be gifting both family and friends this season. The best part – Father Christmas is a whopping $8.99!
Holiday Chocolate Trio – I know exactly how much time went in to procuring the selection for all of our gift collections this year because I got to help! This collection is my favorite, it’s a taste of each holiday flavor we all know and love, but each is encased in chocolate. Who says no to something like this?! Scrooge, that’s who. Unless you’re searching for a Scrooge gift, this is perfect for stuffing individually into stockings or gifting bundled in adorable, festive gift wrap.
Royal Rose Naughty or Nice Moscow Mule Duo – Moscow Mule’s gained their popularity in the 50’s and 60’s. Traditionally served with Vodka and ginger beer in a copper mug, this drink has become a regularly sought after item in most drinking establishments. Royal Rose’s Naughty or Nice Moscow Mule kit adds a twist to the mix in the “Naughty” mixer with the addition of fresh jalapeno peppers. I chose to gift this to my Mother because she has always been interested in Moscow Mules and the culture surrounding the drink.
Utah Craft Chocolate Collection – What’s better than a bar of chocolate? A whole crate of local chocolates. Our local chocolate crate is a great way to introduce someone into the world of fine chocolate. I will be gifting our local chocolate crate to not only show my love for chocolate but also to support small local companies that strive to do such an amazing job.
Fee Brother’s Grapefruit Bitters – I’ll take a hefty dose of citrus any way I can get it in these cold winter months, why not incorporate it into cocktails?! I’ll be adding to gin & tonics at gatherings all season, but these make for a great gift for anyone interested in starting a home bar.
Affineuse and general cheese whisperer
The Silver Spoon cookbook – available at our Downtown location
The Silver Spoon is an elegant book brimming with recipes for classical Italian dishes, accompanied by striking photos. There is a recipe for practically any Italian ingredient you can think of, as well as many that may be unfamiliar. The recipes are straightforward and ingredient-focused, and I find this book inspiring when I want to get out of my comfort zone and try something new. If you love a food-nerd, you can not go wrong with this book. The Silver Spoon is a great investment in the future of your table and tastebuds!
Hello sunshine, hello swimming pools. Hello icy cocktails, hello sundresses, HELLOOOO SUMMER.
It’s here, finally. My most favorite season has arrived. The Downtown Farmer’s Market is just around the corner, my outdoor pool of choice is open, outdoor concerts abound across the valley, and I’ve already had my first barbecue of the season. For me, summer is the perfect time to reconnect with my favorite farmers at the market and friends from all over the world. But all these typically involve food in one way or another. And for that, we’ve got you covered. Grab that poolside chair and your favorite summer sipper and sink your teeth into these:
CHEESE: Mesa Tome
Reason #639 for loving all things Mesa Farm: Randy only milks his goats during the natural spring season. Animal husbandry, treatment, and overall well-being is incredibly important to us at Caputo’s, and Mesa excels here. Freshly formed wheels of pasteurized goat’s milk cheese (from the happiest goats in Utah, mind you) arrive from Torrey and make their way straight to our cheese caves. One month later, these are released for our happy consumption. The small size of this cheese allows for quick aging and development of flavor thanks to our very own flora of cave bacteria and TLC from affineuse, Antonia. What appears to be an unassuming nibble of cheese turns out to be full of bright, complex flavors with a rind that only adds to the overall taste experience. Get this soon, and get it often. This is stuff to nibble on while making your #summersixteen memories last forever.
CHARCUTERIE: Olympia Provisions Sweetheart Ham
We’ve told you about Salumi master Elias Cairo growing up right here in Salt Lake City. We even told you Cairo’s father had a constant supply of home-cured meats, so we can only assume his passion and precision began from a very young age. Fast forward a few decades and we’re in love with his offerings being made in Portland, Oregon. Not only are we obsessing over their cured salami, their sweetheart ham is stealing our very own hearts, one employee at a time.
Pork sirloin tips are brined for ten days with juniper berries, fresh herbs, fresh garlic, and fresh onions before being smoked over applewood for 10 hours. Sweet, smoky, and savory combine forces to create an artisan ham worth forsaking all other hams. Sandwiches, croque monsieurs, omelets, and midnight snacks all beg for this kind of ham. You’ll be amazed at how often you’ll find yourself reaching for this once you bring it home. Don’t say we didn’t warn you.
CHOCOLATE: Fruition Heirloom Costa Rica Coto Brus 74%
Fruition began as the brainchild of Bryan Graham, a pastry chef from New York who fell in love with making chocolate after working with Chef Peter Greweling. Committed to fair trade, organically produced, bean to bar production, and above all wonderful flavor, the company that began in 2011 has steadily excelled, becoming an example of what chocolate should be.
For those of you that have been to our annual Chocolate Festival, this bar hits close to home. All proceeds from our annual event are donated to the Heirloom Cacao Preservation, HCP for short. Our friends at the HCP funded the very farmers and beans used to make this bar. All our hard work put into our Chocolate Festival has come to fruition. See what I did there? Eh, eh?
Now, go, friends. Take your tasty nibbles and dance off into the sunset. Nosh at will, and nosh often.
Melted cheese is a thing of beauty. Never mind your preference regarding the type, I’m sure we can all agree that gooey, melty cheese is just the thing to pull us out of the winter doldrums. My go to melty meal of choice? Raclette.
The name of both cheese and meal is often met with sighs of appreciation and longing at first mention. Anyone who has experienced this centuries old tradition likely remembers it fondly. If you haven’t, think back to your first grilled cheese or macaroni and cheese that used high quality cheese. Remember that comforting feeling and delicious experience. Now I want you to imagine multiplying that feeling by at least five. That’s what Raclette will do you.
Raclette is a traditional Swiss alpine cheese made of cow’s milk that is aged at least three months and finished with brine baths to further develop its aroma and flavor. The result is a slightly stinky, but very creamy, decadent semifirm paste that, of course, begs to be melted. Most people will tell you the meal based on this cheese was started around the campfires of hunters who mainly ate potatoes, pickles, and this cheese while on long hunts. The story goes that the cheese ended up too close to the fire, melted over the potatoes, and voila, Raclette (the meal) was born.
Over the past few centuries, many iterations of raclette grill contraptions have arisen. Some have a long, thin heating element to melt on face of a quarter wheel of the cheese. Others resemble an Easy Bake Oven with small plates inserted under larger heating elements that can be removed and the cheese scraped over your starch and protein of choice. If you’re dying to experience this melty meal but aren’t so crazy about aquiring another crazy kitchen contraption, fear not, I love this meal and have never used anything other than my oven.
You’ll need Raclette, potatoes, and cornichons for the most basic version of this meal. I love to also include thin slices of Speck, crusty bread, pickled onions, and a big green salad when I’m making this for friends. Whatever you choose, you’ll remember it fondlt and crave it often. Don’t say I didn’t warn you.
- 2 pounds sliced Raclette, rinds removed
- 1.5 pounds boiled fingerling potatoes
- 1 loaf artisan bread, sliced
- Sliced speck, prosciutto, or roasted meats
- 1 jar cornichons
- 1 jar pickled onions
- Other vegetables, mustard, or condiments, if desired
Preheat oven to 450 degrees. Lay slices of raclette on the bottom of a shallow baking dish or small baking sheet. Bake for about 5-10 minutes, or until cheese is completely melted and beginning to bubble and liquefy. Scrape over potatoes, bread, and any protein selections. Season with salt and pepper, serve immediately with cornichons, pickles, and other vegetables and sides.
So, did September actually happen? Between the warm weather and busy schedules we’ve kept here at Caputo’s, I’m quite positive we jumped right from August to October. I’m just starting to pull my sweaters and comfy socks out of storage and see cute posts of friends getting their hands on the the season’s first pumpkins. I’m ready for cozy dinner parties, hot drinks, comforting stews, and all the wonderful traditions of autumn. We’re keeping things fun and festive this month to help you welcome the cool weather in tasty fashion. Here’s what we’ll be noshing on this month.
PANTRY: Maestri Squid Ink Spaghetti
There is really nothing better in life than a plate of high quality pasta. If the quality is there, I could not care less about the sauce accompanying it or the vessel in which it is served. I would argue that bronze dye extruded shapes and artisan style pasta is a dying art form that is giving way to slippery, cheap teflon-cut noodles. Dear friends, they are not the same. The ideal pasta is roughly textured on a molecular level, creating a sponge-like surface that holds sauce to itself rather than floating in a puddle of it. There is a toothsome texture and flavor from the grains it was made from. To have the best pasta is to have life. Seriously, this is the stuff of gods. I say you’ve earned the right to a better pasta, don’t you?
Maestri is handmade and extruded by master pasta maker Giovanni Castiello in the most attentive, dedicated fashion. Castiello has traveled across all of Italy to learn and perfect over 80 shapes of pasta. Each shape receives the same TLC and attention to detail as the next. This black—dare I say spooky—spaghetti is colored with squid ink and is the perfect base for a seafood-laden dish. Keep it simple with garlic, oil, herbs, and your shellfish of choice, or let your creative juices flow with a combination of flavors. We’re loving an ‘nduja-spiked tomato sauce with scallops, shrimp, and clams. I dig it so much, I’ll likely have to share the recipe it with you.
More from the master of all things specialty food, Matt Caputo: “As bitters makers go, Bittermens has mastered the technical skill needed to perfectly execute consistent, quality bitters. Despite all that precision, none of the artistry is lost. In fact, these are some of the most creative concoctions found anywhere, flavors that pay homage to pre-Prohibition era cocktail culture but have a wide arc all their own. Bittermens is for the barkeep who has mastered the classics and is ready to create.”
Bittermen’s spicy little shrub is a perfect way to add a spicy kick to cocktails and food alike. I find myself adding this to everything from sauces for tacos and enchiladas, tomato sauces for pasta, tequila cocktails, and spicy brownies. This shrub is the perfect balance of acid and spice.
The hardest part of getting your hands on this bottle is then deciding whether to store it in the bar or pantry once you’ve brought it home.
CHOCOLATE: Marou Heart of Darkness
Don’t you wish Matt Caputo could narrate your entire food journey for your entire life? This is as close as we can get, but it’s pretty fantastic, right?
“Marou evokes many thoughts and emotions. From exhilaration, lust, fear, and back to comfort. It is an incredibly complex and exotic chocolate. It manages to be ethereal and visceral at the same time. On the one hand, it is like an exotic and mysterious woman whispering in a language you can’t remotely comprehend. On the other, it is like a musical journey from slow Asian instrumentals to death metal.
Using 100-percent Vietnamese ingredients, including shade-grown cacao from five different provinces, Marou captures aromas and flavors never before experienced by our Western palates. While it will take us much more tasting to really get to know the soul of Marou’s chocolate, one thing is perfectly clear: The two French expatriates behind Marou who live in Vietnam make chocolate that is a cousin to French cuisine, but distinctively Vietnamese. Marou makes globalization look sexy.”
It can’t get much darker than 85% without beginning to lose its palatability. Marou has mastered the art of creating a super-dark chocolate that is still super delicious. Some chocolate with this percentage of cacao content are far too bitter, and I find myself wishing for just a touch more sugar. Not here. You’ll love its deep and dark complexity and its full flavor and nuance. Plus, the nod to the eerie novel from whence its name comes makes it an ideal bar for October.
This is a public service announcement for all of you dedicated enjoyers of cheese out there.
You see, I have been a cheese monger for a very long time. I love cheese, and not a day passes that I do not enjoy one of the 200 cheeses that I have at my disposal. And yes, before you ask, it’s a tough job, but I make these sacrifices for all of you.
While part of my job is teaching both the cheese and whisky tasting classes and helping with our educational program, my real job—at its most basic level—is to talk with you fine folks about cheese when you meander into Caputo’s. You’re looking for something exciting, and I’m here to help. This is the part of the job that has kept me here and invested the last several years. Frankly, I get paid to talk about cheese. This to me means that I am doing alright.
That being said, I know that most of you don’t spend 60 hours a week in the equivalent of Cheese Candyland, which is why I have set out to share my thoughts on this from the other side of the counter. People frequently ask me how they can expand their cheese palette, and my response is invariably the same, you need to try more cheese. This seems rather self-serving to some as I clearly work at a place that benefits from selling more cheese. Bear in mind, I am not a sales person who makes a commission. I make the same salary whether we sell out of cheese or if we don’t sell an ounce of the stuff for a week (although that would probably not be a very fun week).
Note that I did not say BUY more cheese, I said TRY more cheese.
We have an open sampling policy, which means that of the 200 cheeses I referred to earlier, you can come in and sample about 197 of them in one sitting, if it suits you. You can also pick the brain of the dedicated cheese nerd behind the counter. And it makes no difference to me if you spend a nickel after the sampling, so long as you enjoyed yourself. So please come take advantage of the cheese library that Caputo’s is happy to offer.
I know all of you have real jobs that don’t center around eating cheese all day. I and my fellow cheesemongers, however, have such a job, so take advantage of this. We are people dedicated to finding you the best cheese for your palette, because, for us, this isn’t just what we eat, it’s what we live for and what gives us a sense of accomplishment.
So ask us about our cheeses, and then ask us for a sample. I see no harm in having a favorite cheese that you can go back to time after time and enjoy. However, if you truly want to expand your cheese repertoire, every time you come in for your favorite cheese, try something that you haven’t before. Challenge yourself a little—it’s only cheese, and who is to say that your new favorite cheese won’t come to you on the next sample spoon.
So during your next trip to Caputo’s, please feel comfortable grabbing your favorite cheese, but never hesitate to ask if you can try our cheese of the week or our new favorite or just that cooool lookin’ one with the crazy mold growing on it. We are always legitimately excited about some new cheese. Let us share that excitement with you, and always remember, if you have the time, we have the samples. Plus, I would always rather talk to you about cheese than do dishes—it’s kind of a no-brainer when you get right down to it.
The heat is upon us. Such a heat wave calls something to get us out of that stinky, sweaty funk and into the world of poolside icy drinks, patriotic fireworks, and memorable meals with friends. And of course, treats. We need treats.
For our monthly Cravings, we’ve brought in some fantastic new products and somewhat of an old faithful that we’ve never been able to get enough of. We think these products will make your July a bit cooler. They’re downright perfect additions for any summer occasion, whether it’s the family barbecue, poolside shenanigans, or an air-conditioned escape from the outdoors.
The flavor of this goat’s milk cheese is sweet, mild, and approachable. I couldn’t figure out why I gravitated toward this cheese so quickly until I began reading about it. Vegetale is made an hour away from the town my maternal family is from in Basilicata, Italy. Basilicata is Calabria’s neighbor to east in Italy, when I describe the region to friends, I reference the arch of the boot that is Italy. Vegetale is made in Gorgoglione, almost the center of Basilicata. I grew up with this cheese and this flavor—my senses remembered it long before I was even consciously aware of what I had been eating. My Nonno ate cheese like this by the pool with either cold beer or white wine while I jumped off the diving board and paddled around like a loon with my cousins. We’d take a break from our summer tomfoolery to inhale the cheese, fruit from our family’s trees, and Capri Sun nestled into the cooler next to Nonno’s wine. I miss those kinds of summer day—I can’t say I miss the Capri Sun though. You don’t have to be from Italy to love this cheese. It’s simply the perfect poolside snack. Just ask my Nonno.
CHOCOLATE: OmNom Coffee+Milk
Yep, we definitely eat chocolate during summer, especially this one. Matt and Yelena let me tag along to a dinner with the owners and makers of OmNom a few months ago in Seattle. They gave us the smallest taste of this bar, and I’ve been awaiting its release ever since. We are putting this in as our chocolate pick; however, there’s not really any cocoa solids to speak of in this bar. Shocking! You see, this bar is made entirely from coffee beans. Nope, no cacao mass at all. There is some cocoa butter for texture’s sake, but this is truly a coffee bar. Given that, it’s the ultimate midday pick-me-up, the treat hidden in your desk, the snack you really should keep away from the kids, the heaven-on-earth kind of bar. You get the idea, right?
SWEET: Luxardo Maraschino Cherries
If you read “maraschino cherries” and immediately thought of the acid-red type of cherries often accompanying dance-club drinks, which taste of preservatives and sugar, I understand. But please, come join us in the world of Luxardo Maraschino Cherries. Sour Marasca cherries are candied in a syrup that let’s us taste both cherry and liqueur. Fantastic does not begin to describe them. They’re the perfect finishing touch to your cocktails and I’ve had many successful evenings combining them with pork as an entree. You’ll hear about these many times in the coming weeks, we can’t help ourselves.
Those of you who have gotten to know me through my classes or personal interactions at the store know that my early time at Caputo’s was not marked by my great love of cheese. The most unique cheese that I ever took home was manchego. Now don’t get me wrong, I still love manchego, but I was just a man in the spring of his youth who knew not what cheeses the world had to offer.
That was before I met my first true cheese love, Leonora. Oh goddess, oh muse.
Leonora is an alpine goat’s milk cheese from Leon, Spain, with a mild, natural rind. This is a cheese, that to quote one of Caputo’s finest employees, “Makes me hate other cheeses.” Yes, it’s that good.
In terms of production, a single herd of goats produce the milk for this delicate four-pound log of cheese. The rind is ashed and has naturally-occurring molds. The cheese is not meant to be aged for an extended period of time and should be enjoyed when the rich cream layer is just beginning to drift down from the rind into the flaky, flinty paste.
The texture alone makes this cheese a must, it could taste like cardboard and still be worth it. Leonora’s flavor is citrusy, grassy, and creamy and dissolves with leisurely pace if allowed to linger on the pallet.
Remember, though, this is not merely a cheese blog, this is a love story.
After about a year of deeply-felt, hot-burning, mutual love between myself and Leonora, the light loaves of joy seemed to be arriving in ill-health. They began to come in already too advanced to enjoy—beaten up and depressed, things were changing. We had no choice; Caputo’s had to stop carrying a cheese which arrived in too poor of shape to sell. That was more than five years ago. Leonora and I had to go our separate ways; we had to grow on our own. I did not see my love for five years.
In December, I was breaking down pallets when I saw a familiar box. I did not want my hopes to get the best of me, but as I saw the label on the side, I could not help but become ebullient. My darling Leonora had returned to me! I rushed the case upstairs, trying not to let my emotions get the better of me. It had been a long time, and I had been hurt before. We opened the box and tried it. My friends, Leonora is back—and better than ever.
Stop what you are doing, quit your job, cancel your vacation, get up from lunch and come to Caputo’s for some Leonora.
Trust me, with me around, it is not going to last in the cases for very long.
Leonora is featured in this month’s Cravings.