New Cheese Alert!
We Could Use YOUR VOTE!
We’re a finalist (!) in the Austin Chronicle Best Of Poll, listed among some amazing other folks for Most Innovative Pivot in the Food category. Some of you regular might recall: within days of SXSW being canceled and us losing 95% of our wholesale revenue (plus a lot of lost product), we immediately went virtual and hosted our first tasting. If you were one of the 15,000 people who partook in our virtual tastings in 2020 and enjoyed it - whether a public class, a corporate event, or even our on-demand Cheese Class in a Box (the first and only in the nation), we’d be grateful for your vote. And thanks for nominating us, making us a finalist! There are so many great ways to support our local community. This is a free one! (And there are some hilarious categories too.) Voting is here and due by April 16.
In the Shop - New Cheese Alert!
I have failed my duty to inform you of new cheeses to the shop. Somehow, I missed the opportunity to let you know that we are offering a new feta in the shop. In addition to locally-made Pure Luck Dairy’s Feta (made with 100% goat milk), we are now offering Essex Feta which hails from the Greek island of Lesbos and is made seasonally December through July when the sheep are milking. Our friends and specialty cheese selectors and importers at Essex Cheese worked for years to find the Feta they wanted to stake their reputation on, and this is it:
Feta is an ancient cheese. In Homer's Odyssey, Ulysses found feta in the cave of Polyphemos the Cyclops. Feta is also a much maligned cheese, copied everywhere, made with more care for the bottom line than for flavor. Until recently anyone could call their cheese feta and the country that made the most feta in the world was Germany. Now there are only a few locations that can make the real thing and the island of Lesbos is one of them. Essex feta is made exclusively from the milk of Lesbian breed sheep, whose shepherds retain a millenia old practice of grazing them on the sun-and-sea splashed hills on the hiss around the village of Agra, on the western side of the island.
Agra sits on the rim of a volcanic caldera that's been home to sheep for ages…[It] has a population of about one thousand. People that is. When it comes to sheep there are several times that many. The shepherds work collectively, [and] deliver milk to Tastanis twice per day, after the morning and evening milkings.
Panagiotis Tastanis, pictured, is the second of three generations behind Essex Feta. His daughter works alongside him in the creamery every day. They make traditional brine-bathed feta, using just sheep's milk from the hills nearby and sea salt from the four hundred year old salt pans at Kalloni.
Feta's texture can be hard, soft and everywhere in between. How it's made and how long it's aged changes its texture. In the U.S. we're used to harder, crumblier feta. Essex feta will be much softer by comparison. This is gentle, pillowy feta, more like what the Greeks eat every day.
Featured Collab Tastings
All of the following remain virtual offerings for the time being. Of note, unless otherwise noted, our classes are for local curbside pickup or delivery only. BUT BIG NEWS! The 4/29 event listed below is our first live class to also offer SHIPPING!!! So if you love cured meats, make sure to get your ticket as asap - whether you’re local or nationwide - and we’ll get you in the tasting!
Wed 4/7 - Antonelli’s Cheese & Con’Olio Balsamic Vinegars Arguably one of the best cheese making countries in the world is Italy, also home to traditional balsamic vinegar. One of my favorite memories from our last trip years ago, was just being treated to a hunk of aged cheese, drizzled with balsamic vinegar. Join us in this tasting and find out why various balsamic vinegars pair so well with cheese. We’ll be tasting traditional and innovative flavors. We don’t offer this class regularly, so get in on the action while you can! 7 cheeses, 7 vinegars, other pairing bites. Tickets here.
Thu 4/15 - Macarons & Cheese Pairing It came to me in a dream. A revamped “Cheese & Crackers Pairing,” but featuring macarons. You know, the meringue cookie sandwich, a confection made up of two almond-flour-based cookies held together with ganache, jam, buttercream, and more. While it will just be John and me leading this tasting, we are sourcing the macarons from local bakery heroes Sugar Mama’s, who are making their macarons just for this event. 6 macarons, 6 cheeses, other pairing bites. Tickets here.
Fri 4/16 - Cheese & Vista BrewingThe palate-coating richness of cheese. The effervescence (ie bubbles!) of beer. They make for a perfect pairing. Join us to experience the flavor dance for yourself. Vista brews traditional styles which pay homage to European origins, while highlighting their own Texas Hill Country terroir. All of their beers are made with water sourced directly from the limestone-filtered water well on the property, 450 feet below the surface in the Middle Trinity aquifer. They don’t alter this water in any way, and let their beers showcase this beautiful, mineral-rich natural resource. The end product is an elegant and dry beer, made to be enjoyed under the shade of a Live Oak. 6 cheeses, 3 beers, other pairing bites. Available for pickup at either Antonelli’s OR Vista Brewing in the hill country. Tickets here.
Thu 4/29 - Behind the Scenes with Texas IbericoThis one and only offering is all about new(ish) Texas Iberico. We're headed to the Texas Hill Country at the Trail’s End Ranch under Ashly Martin’s care. Martin is a third-generation rancher in Comfort, Texas, and as far as we know, he has the only herd of Iberico pigs in the United States. These pigs are more traditionally known for their famous history, heritage, and meat in Spain. Breeding stock was flown in from Spain in 2013 and their herd has 6 different strains of Iberico, providing vigorous genetic variation and a healthy herd. Here in Texas, these pasture-raised pigs are never given antibiotics and the Texas Iberico cured meat offerings are Animal Welfare Approved. The pigs “spend their days roaming freely. Their diet infuses the pork with intense flavor, and plentiful exercise means the pork is marbled with flavorful fat, perfect for making delicious cured meats.” Without further ado, we are here to go behind the scenes and explore the process that is behind these amazing products. This event is available for curbside pickup or nationwide shipping. Tickets here.
Announcing APRIL Virtual Tasting Events!
Local: These "Local" tastings are for Curbside Pickup only. You can search by class topic here or by date here (scroll down and click on the date). Or just click on the class title! Questions? Check out our most frequently asked questions here.
Outside Austin: While we can’t ship you our cheese class plate, you CAN still take a virtual on-demand cheese tasting with us. Check out our Cheese Class in a Box, available for nationwide shipping in the continental USA. Each box has enough goodies to feed up to 4 folks (or leftovers for 1 person!), comes with a 10-min plating video, and an hour-long guided tasting led by John and me (Kendall). Folks can simply enjoy everything at their own leisure or take the included class. (Note that any orders made online now will be shipped the first week of January.) Current selections include:
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From Anywhere in the United States:
John & Kendall
And Your Awesome Cheesemonger Team.