Counter Intelligence

Cheesetique Protests Roquefort Tariff

Posted in Everywhere Else, General Interest by melissamccart on January 29, 2009

Just when you thought “freedom fries” and all things anti-French had flown the coop with Bush in the Executive One helicopter Inauguration Day, The Washington Post reports Bush’s  final anti-French sendoff:

The United States, it turns out, has declared war on Roquefort cheese.

In its final days, the Bush administration imposed a 300 percent duty on Roquefort, in effect closing off the U.S. market. Americans, it declared, will no longer get to taste the creamy concoction that, in its authentic, most glorious form, comes with an odor of wet sheep and veins of blue mold that go perfectly with rye bread and coarse red wine.

The measure was announced January 13th by US Trade Rep Susan Schwab. Other items affected by the tariff include French truffles, Irish oatmeal, Italian sparkling water and foie gras, referenced as “fatty livers of ducks and geese.”

According to Jill Erber, owner of Cheesetique in Del Ray, Roquefort is “a mainstay of our inventory.” The tariff will render it virtually unavailable. In a protest on the store’s website, she writes:

Not only do I have a particular affection for Roquefort, but so do Cheesetique’s discerning customers, who marvel at its romantic story of creation, rustic approach to production even today and exclusive availability. Your love of raw milk Roquefort has made it a staple in many of my cheese classes and one of the most popular and consistent sellers at Cheesetique. Since opening our doors more than four years ago, we have never been without Roquefort Papillon (I prefer this brand above others, though we have also carried Carles, which is outstanding). We have sold hundreds of pounds of Roquefort despite its title as the most expensive cheese consistently carried at Cheesetique. 

Erber says Cheesetique will continue to carry Roquefort until supplies run out, which she says “is only a matter of time.”

Check out Erber’s full response here.


Welcome Back, Moonshine.

Posted in Everywhere Else, Regional, South by melissamccart on February 21, 2007

main-glass-sm.jpg On the heels of microbrews comes a sharpened interest in artisanal ryes and bourbons, legal or otherwise. 

This, according to John T. Edge, in a new series which chronicles food traditions of the South in The Atlanta Constitution.

In “High Class Hooch,” he explores the rising popularity of bourbon and rye through the lens of LeNell Smothers, owner of Red Hook (Brooklyn)’s  LeNell’s Wine and Spirit Boutique.  In it, he gives props to Black Maple Hill from Kentucky and Isaiah Morgan Rye in West Virginia as well as Pappy Van Winkle bourbon.  According to the article, interest isn’t relegated to the South– it’s all over the country.

And for those of us who need a booze primer:

Things to know, spirits to seek

• Whiskey is made from three ingredients: grain, water and yeast.

• In the South, the primary grain is corn, used in combination with malted barley, rye and wheat. The prevalence of wheat, the style popularized by Maker’s Mark, results in a softer whiskey. The prevalence of rye yields a raspier whiskey.

• Bourbon is whiskey made from at least 51 percent corn. To be called straight bourbon, it must be aged in new charred-oak barrels for a minimum of two years. Woodford Reserve is a widely available premium bourbon.

• Compared with bourbon, two things distinguish Tennessee whiskeys like Jack Daniel’s and George Dickel: They must be made in Tennessee, and they must seep through a charcoal filtration system.

• Single-barrel whiskeys are just that, bottles of whiskey sourced from a single barrel, chosen by a master distiller for superior qualities. Blanton’s was the first. Evan Williams makes a consistently good single barrel at a very favorable price.

• Small-batch bourbons are one-offs, small runs of special recipes done by larger distillers. Often a larger distiller will do batch production and aging for an artisan who lacks proper facilities. Among recent entries in this category are the Experimental Collection bourbons from Buffalo Trace, packaged as a set of three 375-milliliter bottles. The barrel in which the Fire Pot Barrel bourbon aged was heated to 102 degrees for 23 minutes to dry the wood, resulting in a whiskey with tobacco-y tannins.

• Rum is distilled from fermented molasses and, sometimes, sugar cane juice. In addition to Prichard’s (available at Green’s and other well-stocked package stores), another Southern craft distiller of rum is New Orleans Rum, makers of the Cane brand.

— John T. Edge

Check out the video here.

Q and Not U

Posted in Everywhere Else, General Interest, Niche by melissamccart on September 17, 2006

bubbletea.jpgGastronomica has an interesting article in the Spring issue that I keep going back to:  Q  by Zoe Tribur.  A Tiawanese colloquialism, Q, or apparently QQ in regular conversation, is described as:

When you put something in your mouth– cold or warm, salty or sweet, dry or wet, it doesn’t matter– the substance first pushes back at you as you seize it in your teeth, then firms up just for a moment. .  it is light but not insubstantial, flexible, supple, resistant, yet ultimately compliant.

There isn’t much of the slimy-turgidity of Q in American cuisine, since most of us don’t particularly like it or seek it out. Something that’s runny or mucousy with a little resistance is more like the funk you’d expect to find on a subway platform, not on your plate. Yet for some foods, the characteristics that Q embodies are a part of the experience.

Zoe cites sea cucumber as a great example of a food with the Q factor (We missed that one in the sushi gauntlet, in which we were dared to eat the more unusual items on a Japanese menu).  Throw some umami into the Q mix and now you’re talking.  Oysters, fish eggs, eel, and shark fin– seafood that has a high umami factor— is also Q-y. 

Yet food with Q doesn’t have to be from the sea, as anyone who has developed a craving for bubble tea can vouch.  The tapioca pearls are the most accessible reference, like tiny balloons filled with creamy,gelatinous starch. 

What else can you think of that gives good Q?


Wander, Gypsy

Posted in District of Columbia, Everywhere Else by melissamccart on August 18, 2006

From Seattlest:

There’s subterfuge on the menu at the mysterious restaurant called gypsy.jpgGypsy. With no permanent address, a revolving list of chefs creating original menus for each clandestine dinner, and an application process that weeds out potential diners who’d betray the cause, Gypsy has us buzzing. . . . The man behind it all says Gypsy is a success because diners find it liberating to leave their comfort zone: they eat with strangers, don’t get to order their food, and don’t even know where they’re going until a few days before the dinner. . . . Chefs are excited to participate because they get the opportunity to make food that’s entirely different from their usual fare.

What do we need to do to bring something like this to Washington? Not only would it allow chefs the opportunity to feed more than lawyers, lobbyists and tourists; it would appeal to foodies, scenesters, and anyone in-between.  This city needs an infusion of non-government sponsored cultural events to boost its appeal to more urbane tourists and residents.  (more…)