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Food

Cheese to the Rescue

Planet Cheese - May 3, 2020 - 11:00am

Putting others first: Ford (left) and Messmer

The Covid pandemic is devastating cheesemakers around the country. No restaurants, no foodservice, no sales. But as the owners of Beehive Cheese in Utah and Lively Run Dairy in New York watched their revenue plummet last month, they independently hatched the same plan. Both creameries had empty cheese vats. Both had idle cheesemakers. Their milk suppliers—small family farms—were about to dump milk. If they couldn’t make cheese to sell, they would make it to donate.

Pat Ford, co-owner of Beehive Cheese, which makes the popular coffee-coated Barely Buzzed, said that the creamery has lost 75 percent of its business. One distributor not only stopped placing orders but told him they wouldn’t accept a pallet of cheese in transit.

I understood why restaurant sales had cratered. But given that people are eating at home, I didn’t get why grocery stores weren’t ordering specialty cheese like Barely Buzzed for their cheese counters. Ford elaborated for me:

“All the cheesemongers were pulled into the center of the store to help stock. They were so busy stocking shelves they weren’t ordering as routinely,” says Ford, “and their cases went to pot. They have basically shut down their specialty cheese counters.”

Cheese to the people: Beehive donation

Grocery stores are struggling to keep everyday cheese in stock, says Ford. They’re selling mountains of four-pound blocks of Tillamook, but they have stopped buying whole wheels of more costly specialty cheese because they don’t have the labor to break them down.

“We did not want to lay off employees,” says Ford. “Half of them are family and the other half are ‘adopted’ family. We had 30 employees cleaning all day just to keep them busy. They cleaned, and cleaned again, and cleaned again so we could at least give them 75 percent of their pay. Then we thought: Why not make cheese and give it away? We can support our dairy so they’re not dumping milk. We can keep our employees busy and support our community.”

Beehive launched a crowd-funding campaign to make two batches of Promontory, the company’s signature Cheddar. They reached their dollar goal in less than 24 hours, so they raised it. Then raised it again, and again. As of this writing, they have received enough funding to make 6,700 pounds of Promontory—five batches—for the Utah Food Bank.

“We’re going to keep the money coming so we can keep donating,” says Ford. “The local food bank is taking every ounce we send.” Beehive is taking no profit and has been able to keep most of its 44 employees on payroll.

“My wife, sister and daughter are the only three on furlough,” says Ford. “It’s a little reverse nepotism.”

In New York’s Finger Lakes region, Pete Messmer of Lively Run Dairy was experiencing the same business collapse. Messmer worried about his own bottom line, but his bigger fear was that his milk suppliers—two goat diaries and a cow dairy—would fail.

A GoFundMe campaign quickly raised enough money for Lively Run to buy its suppliers’ milk and make cheese for the needy. The creamery has, to date, donated 550 pounds of fresh chèvre and cow’s milk curds to community food banks. “We wanted to make a product that we could get out the door immediately,” says Messmer. “The food banks need cheese now. Even a month from now is too long.”

The success of this project has fueled his ambitions, says Messmer. He and his staff are now establishing a nonprofit, Lively Run Cheese for New York, to raise money to pay other idled creameries to produce cheese for food banks. Lively Run has also pivoted its own business to more direct-to-consumer sales—which means a lot of labor-intensive cutting and wrapping instead of selling whole wheels. But it’s working.

“We were deeply scared for a couple of weeks,” says Messmer, “but we’re back up to full production. With the food bank production, we’re actually buying more milk than we used to.”

To donate to either or both of these efforts:
Beehive’s Project Promontory
Lively Run Dairy’s GoFundMe

Categories: Food

What to Cook This Week

NYTimes Dining and Wine - May 3, 2020 - 10:30am
Many of us these days are oscillating between projects and ease: Make chile-oil fried eggs or yaki onigiri, miso chicken with radishes or pierogies.
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‘We Had to Do Something’: Trying to Prevent Massive Food Waste

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The Best Part of the Campaign Trail (the Food!) Comes Home

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By ordering in, a political reporter continues to enjoy his favorite dishes from around the country.
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Your Chicken Is No Longer Pink. That Doesn’t Mean It’s Safe to Eat.

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Next time you cook chicken, don’t rely on the color of the meat to tell you if it’s cooked enough to avoid food poisoning.
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Kitchen Confidential: Three Culinary Memoirs

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The passions of these professional foodies — chefs, bloggers, journalists — shine in these new books.
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This Snickerdoodle in Poundcake Form Is Your Next Baking Project

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Warming and gently spiced, this easy loaf cake comes together in just about an hour — and may not last nearly as long.
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Parmesan! Crusted! Chicken!

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Take those boneless chicken breasts and give them a crispy, cheesy exterior you won’t soon forget.
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7 Savory Pancakes for Any Time of Day

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Prepare this easy savory pancake mix, pull a few items from the fridge and you’re just minutes away from breakfast, lunch or dinner.
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Introducing Rhubarb Bars, Lemon Bars’ Pinker Cousins

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With a crunchy shortbread crust and tangy curd filling, this rhubarb-filled confection is perfect for spring.
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What to Cook This Weekend

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The Tricky Dance of Sharing a Winery in the Pandemic Era

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Chardonnay the Oregon Way

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Categories: Food

Something to Celebrate

Planet Cheese - April 23, 2020 - 10:20am

American Cheese Month is just around the corner. What better time to show our nation’s cheesemakers some love? Over four Thursdays in May, I’ll be partnering with cheese expert Laura Werlin and top California wineries to bring you the best in American artisan cheese and wine and to support our cheesemakers in these challenging times.

Please join Laura and me each Thursday in May for Cheese O’Clock (always time for cheese!), an online tasting/gabfest about great American cheese and wine. We’ll be telling stories, swapping opinions and taking your questions. To taste along, you can purchase each week’s themed cheese collection from igourmet (they’re donating a percentage of sales to the ACE Foundation) and purchase the wines from the participating wineries. Or simply listen in as we dish and riff on cheese and wine. We want you there!

Cheese O’Clock

All tastings are at 4 pm PT/ 7 pm ET and they are free. If you RSVP, you will receive an e-mail invitation on the morning of the tasting with a link and password to join the session. You do not need the Zoom app to participate.

Thursday, May 7
“American Rock Stars”
Special guests: Jasper Hill Farm cheesemaker Mateo Kehler and Roederer Estate winemaker Arnaud Weyrich
RSVP for “American Rock Stars” tasting

Jasper Hill Farm Bayley Hazen Blue

On our cheese board:
Nettle Meadow Farm Kunik
Capriole Goat Cheese Julianna
Hidden Springs Creamery Ocooch Mountain
Jasper Hill Farm Bayley Hazen Blue
Get the Cheeses
Get the Ultimate Cheese Collection (includes condiments)

In our glasses:
Roederer Estate Brut
Roederer Estate Extra Dry
Get the Wines
Use code “cheese” for free wine shipping

Thursday, May 14
“Hidden Gems”
RSVP for “Hidden Gems” tasting

Milton Creamery Flory’s Truckle

On our cheese board:
Shepherd’s Way Farm Shepherd’s Hope
Tulip Tree Creamery Trillium
Goat Lady Dairy Providence
Milton Creamery Flory’s Truckle
Get the Cheeses

In our glasses:
2018 Silverado Vineyards Vineburg Chardonnay
2016 Silverado Vineyards Mt. George Merlot
Get the Wines
Use promo code CHEESE for a 10% discount on the 2-bottle wine set and ship for just $5. Ten percent of sales donated to the American Cheese Education Foundation.

Thursday, May 21
West Coast Wonders
RSVP for “West Coast Wonders” tasting

Cascadia Creamery cheesemaker John Shuman

On our cheese board:
Pennyroyal Farm Laychee
Cascadia Creamery Sawtooth
Shooting Star Creamery Aries
Face Rock Creamery Clothbound Cheddar
Get the Cheeses

In our glasses:
2018 Jordan Chardonnay
2016 Jordan Cabernet Sauvignon
Get the Wines

Thursday, May 28
A Quartet of Favorites
RSVP for “A Quartet of Favorites” tasting

Firefly Farms Merry Goat Round Spruce

On our cheese board:
Blackberry Farm Brebis
Meadow Creek Farm Appalachian
Haystack Mountain Cheese Gold Hill
Firefly Farms Merry Goat Round Spruce
Get the Cheeses

In our glasses:
TBA

Categories: Food

A Day of Delivering Meals and Hope

NYTimes Dining and Wine - April 20, 2020 - 12:32am
Children who can’t touch their parents, a single mother making do, seniors worried about the virus: What’s behind the doors as two Salvation Army officers make their rounds.
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A Food Snob’s Food Tour Conversion

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What to Cook This Week

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The Food Chain’s Weakest Link: Slaughterhouses

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More Melty Cheese

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Indulge in small ways, with a creamy, cheesy potato gratin, or choose something bright like salmon with peas and radishes.
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You’ll Never Guess the Secret Ingredient in This One-Bowl Cake

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Spoiler: It’s mayonnaise, but you’ll never taste the tanginess.
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