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September 2, 2006

The only cheese tray in the world consisting of 12 different versions of Roquefort

Oiloiij

Sarah Woodward, author of "The Food of France," wrote a most interesting article for the August 25/26 Financial Times about her visit to the caves of Roquefort, France.

It follows.

    All in the caves at Roquefort

    I have never before seen a cheese trolley like it. We were dining in the inappropriately named Hotel Le Moderne in Sainte-Affrique, overlooking the now defunct railway station, just a few miles from Roquefort, home of the cheese. But a trolley of 12 different versions of this blue-veined treat?

    We had eschewed the Roquefort special of the day (a soufflé, as it happened) in favour of a pastry parcel of foie gras and a dish of gently fried lambs' sweetbreads. But there was no escaping that trolley. It proved to be an educational experience.

    Earlier that day I had discovered the complexities of making Roquefort. I did wonder whether in the UK you could attract enough people to make it worth your while running hourly tours of a cheese cellar (albeit free of charge). But this was France and when I visited the Papillon cellar there was a queue, with plenty of children, not one of whom uttered a single shriek during the 45-minute lecture. They seemed to be just as fascinated as I was by the tale of this ancient cheese.

    There are all sorts of peculiar conditions attached to the production of Roquefort. This cheese, which is now popular the world over, is only authorised to be produced and ripened in  cellars sited below a strip of land about 2km by 300m. In 1925 it was the first ever product to be awarded an Appellation d'Origine Contrôllée (A.O.C.), the stamp of gastronomic and vinous authority in France.

    The story goes it was a shepherd who, having fallen in love with a shepherdess, first discovered its secret. He followed her over the hills of the Aveyron, leaving behind his bread and cheese in one of the caves dug into the hillside. When, after romantic disappointment, he returned to his victuals, he found them apparently mouldy. But the cheese, which had taken the spores from the bread, was delicious.

    It may be a fairytale but there is no doubt of the cheese's ancient provenance. The Acte de Cornus dating from 1066 gave the monks at the local Abbaye de Silvanas the right to make Roquefort. Today, there are just seven producers who are permitted to entitle their cheese Roquefort (just as there are only six producers entitled to call the famous English blue cheese Stilton). All makers of Roquefort must buy milk that comes from ewes, specifically the breed known as la corne, grazed in the local rayonnement or region.

    I heard that it takes 12 litres of milk to make one 2.8kg round of Roquefort. The milk must be unpasteurised. And because each sheep produces only between one-and-a-half and two litres of milk a day, that means a lot of ewes are needed, about 800,000 at the last count.

    Once the milk arrives at the Roquefort producer, it is heated to 30°C and left for a couple of hours to curdle. Then it is salted and formed into moulds (known locally as pains), which are turned after three days. A couple of days later comes the clever bit, which gives the cheese its characteristic blue veins. The cheeses are pierced and the champignon or fungus of penicillium roqueforti is sprinkled over them.

    At Papillon, the second largest producer after the vast Société, this mould is cultured from large loaves of pain de seigle or rye bread. To distinguish their product, each producer has their own secret and legally protected source of the fungus. At Papillon, they still bake their own loaves in wood-fired ovens and then leave them in the cellars for 45 days to produce the yeasty spores. Only 300 loaves a year are needed for their entire production. The words "noble rot" may be associated with the sweet wines of Bordeaux but they could just as appropriately be used here.

    The reason that the cheese can only be produced in such a restricted area lies in the geology. Beneath this almost industrial-looking village clinging to the steep rock lie the cellars where the cheeses mature. Known as the fleurines, they have unique properties, associated with the passage of air. Although it is in the south of France, this is a region that can be cold and wet in winter. Inside the caves the temperature stays almost constant while the humidity is high.

    The cheeses spend a minimum of 90 days ripening in the fleurines. They are given as much attention as expensive bottles of champagne. At Société, they even claim that each cellar gives the cheese a different flavour. Apparently the cheeses ripened in the Cave Abeille are believed to be more rounded and balanced while those in the Cave des Templiers are stronger on the palate. The Caves Baragnaudes produce cheeses that are softer, more delicate.

    Finally, unlike a whole Stilton, you will never be able to buy a whole Roquefort. Before being graded for sale, the cheeses are cut in half so the affineurs can check that the blue mould has gone right through the cheese.

    For many years I thought Roquefort was Roquefort, full stop. It has always been one of my favourite cheeses, for cooking with as well as serving plain. I love it melting on top of a rare steak, sprinkled over a salad of bitter leaves, baked into the hollow of a ripe pear. But it had never occurred to me that there could be such variation. Until, that is, my dinner at the Hotel Moderne.

    Tastes for Roquefort differ around the globe. Papillon recently produced a new variety for export known as Révélation, a milder, less tangy version. Apparently, it goes down well in Japan. The recommendation was to eat it in combination with a slice of Pérail, a mild ewes' milk cheese. Then, according to the sequence in which it was suggested we try them, there was Cantorelle from Gabriel Coulet, which was recently awarded a Médaille d'Or and has a distinctly creamy texture. Le Crouzat followed, now owned once again by Société, bought back from the family to which it was sold decades ago, still made in the artisanal style. And finally Vieux Berger, or old shepherd, from one of the smallest producers, Yves Combes.

    This is the cheese that the well-known London cheese shop Paxton & Whitfield has chosen to stock as its only Roquefort. As I compared notes with the manager Ruaridh Buchanan we agreed that Combes' cheese was particularly buttery in texture and also had the salty characteristic of traditional Roqueforts. We also agreed that it was extraordinary how much Roqueforts differ in style.

    Some put it down to the different souches or spores used, others to the cellars. Having, on the same trip, tasted 1976 cognacs from Hine, one from the Jarnac cellars and the other from those in Bristol, I am inclined to the cellar theory. The French talk a lot about terroir, the soil, usually in the context of wine. But in the case of Roquefort, it seems it is all down to the caves.

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Got a hankering?

I know I did after I finished reading the article.

I'd recommend a visit to this cheesemonger's website to learn more.

You can find another variety here.

Two others here.

If you play your keyboard right, you could be enjoying some exquisite Roquefort real soon now.

September 2, 2006 at 04:01 PM | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack

bookofjoe on FoodandWine.com?

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That's precisely what I thought a few minutes ago when, while I was trying really, really hard to visualize whirled peas (see, I was busy doing something close 2 nothing, but different than the day before), I happened on FoodandWine.com's home page and saw, plain as day, what you see above and below.

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What a coincidence: I featured Rolling Pin Rings (below)

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this past Thursday.

Small world.

September 2, 2006 at 03:01 PM | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

'But wait, there's [no] more!'

Arthur Schiff, the man who invented the word "Ginsu" and created the phrase, "But wait, there's more!" to sell the knives via countless late-night TV commercials, died without any notice whatsover last week at age 66 in Coral Springs, Florida.

Paul Farhi's appreciation on the front page of today's Washington Post Style noted, "...his passing, like the man himself, was altogether quiet, with not a single newspaper noting his death."

Attention must be paid — and it will be.

The article follows.

    He Sliced and Diced His Way Into Pop Culture

    Arthur Schiff, who died of lung cancer last week in Coral Springs, Fla., at 66, was a businessman who ran his own marketing company for 23 years. And his passing, like the man himself, was altogether quiet, with not a single newspaper noting his death.

    But wait, there's more!

    Arthur Schiff was an ingenious salesman, a veritable artist of American capitalism. He sold everything, and sold it by the trainload: pots and pans, pantyhose, wrinkle cream, teeth whiteners, windshield wipers, scratch removers and weed whackers. Anyone who ever watched television in the graveyard hours knows Schiff's work. Likely as not, it enchanted, amused, appalled or got them to reach for their wallets and their phones.

    Over more than 30 years, Schiff created some 1,800 "long-form" or "direct response" TV commercials. He was the unseen king of the infomercial, the hidden hand behind the "amazing" Steakhouse Onion Machine, the "miraculous" Ambervision Sunglasses and the "revolutionary" Shiwala car mop.

    "But wait, there's more!" was Schiff's signature creation, his "Hamlet" and "Moby-Dick." It eclipsed his other immortal catchphrases: "Isn't that amazing?" "Now how much would you pay?" and "Act now and you'll also receive.... " He wrote "Wait, there's more" for a spot for Ginsu knives (a product Schiff himself named, supposedly in his sleep), which has become one of the best-known commercials ever, and surely one of the most parodied.

    Schiff was a copywriter for a Providence, R.I., ad agency in the mid-1970s when he met Edward Valenti, a radio ad salesman who worked in the same building. Not long after, Valenti and a partner, Barry Becher, were starting a direct-marketing company, hoping to use rapid-fire TV commercials and toll-free phone numbers to sell household goods the way K-Tel was selling record compilations.

    Valenti and Becher had the product and marketing smarts, but they needed Schiff — "an extremely creative guy," as Valenti put it yesterday — to dream up the copy. The company, Dial Media, specialized in finding offbeat products and hammering viewers with wacky and oft-repeated TV spots. Their sales techniques evolved, but several features were standard: the elaborate product demonstrations (and the fevered praise after each one), the "call to action" and the ordering information — all packed into two minutes. The ads' style was a contemporary version of the old boardwalk salesman's pitch.

    Among their first successes was the Miracle Painter, a no-drip brush that the company sold by showing a man painting his ceiling in a tuxedo. There was also the Miracle Slicer, the Miracle Duster, Armourcote Cookware and the "Chainge," a line of adjustable necklaces.

    In early 1978, Valenti decided to market a line of kitchen knives, perhaps the most prosaic and conventional product it had yet tried to sell. Worse, the knives had a dull brand name: Quikut.

    As Schiff later recalled, in a self-promotional piece he wrote for the company he started in 1983, he couldn't get excited about writing a commercial for knives.

    "I went to sleep that night, still wrestling with the problem," he wrote, in typically fervid style. "And then it happened! I bolted out of bed at three o'clock in the morning and yelled, 'Eureka! I've got it. Ginsu!' I wrote the bizarre word down on a piece of paper and went back to sleep. When I got up again four hours later, the paper was still there and that strange word was still on it. I stuffed it into my shirt pocket and headed off to work."

    The name was nonsense, but highly useful nonsense. "Ginsu" carried a whiff of Japanese precision, a suggestion of samurai swords and Benihana steakhouses. The partners decided to run with it, hiring a local Japanese exchange student to appear as a chef. The first and most famous Ginsu ad began with a hand karate-chopping a two-by-four board. "In Japan," began Schiff's copy, "the hand can be used like a knife. But this method doesn't work with a tomato" (cut to a hand squashing a tomato).

    As Schiff recalled: "By giving that set of knives a Japanese identity, I somehow managed to convince people that no matter how many knives they already owned, these were something special. Of course, I neglected to mention that the knives were manufactured in Fremont, Ohio."

    A Ginsu knife could cut anything; the famous ad shows the cutlery tearing through a tin can, a radiator hose and, of course, a tomato. After all that — "But wait, there's more!" — Dial offered to throw several smaller versions of the knife "at no extra cost," thereby enhancing the sales proposition. The "there's more!" addendum, a clever piece of consumer psychology, is now a staple feature of most direct-response ads.

    Ginsu became not only a huge seller — the line was later sold to a company affiliated with Warren Buffett — but the ad became a cultural touchstone. It was the subject of Johnny Carson bits and "Saturday Night Live" sketches and a punch line of stand-up routines (Jerry Seinfeld: "Do you need a knife that can cut through a shoe and a can?")

    Without Schiff, American kitsch would be poorer and TV's off-hours would be unbearably duller. He didn't invent the infomercial's rat-a-tat, hard-sell style. He just made it irresistible.

September 2, 2006 at 02:01 PM | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack

4-in-1 Cooling Rack

Pi

From the website:
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    4-in-1 Cooling Rack

    This compact rack cools small to large batches of cookies as well as small cakes and tarts.

    One 16" x 8" rectangular and two 8"-square racks open up to expand your cooling or icing space, then close up for compact storage.

    Dishwasher-safe chrome-plated steel.

    16"L x 16"W open.

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Wait a minute.

"4-in-1" — how do they get 4?

I see the big one and the two little ones but where I'm from, 1 + 2 = 3.

Maybe it's different on your home planet.

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$16.99.

September 2, 2006 at 01:01 PM | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack

Notes on using the new Gillette LAZR™ in the year 2050

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This morning, while I was smoothing (they stopped calling it shaving when blades went the way of the self-driven car), I got to thinking about what it must have been like back in the year 2006 for most men.

You had two choices, broadly speaking:

1) Hack away as your face with a lethally sharp set of minimally-separated cutting edges, whose raw metal actually cut into the hair shafts and underlying skin, often resulting in actual bleeding, or

2) Use an electric device whose blades — rapidly rotating or moving back-and-forth — within a metal cage transected the hairs that presented themselves through tiny holes in the cage wall.

Both methods were fraught with problems.

The manual method, even when supplemented with early 21st-century vibration technology, required time-consuming, painstaking preparation of the face: washing with soap, rinsing, application of a sort of aerosol foam or semi-solid gel, then the actual depilation.

And, as noted above, often resulted in lacerations requiring the use of a styptic pencil or, even more quaint, small pieces of "toilet paper" (the subject of a future post — leave the absurd-sounding phrase until then, OK?) to absorb the blood loss and stanch the flow.

The electric shaver dispensed with much of the fuss: the shaver was applied to the face and beard, moved across the surface and after a few moments yielded a satisfactory — though hardly optimal — presentation.

Attempts to achieve a closer shave were reciprocally related to an increase in what was termed "razor burn" — redness and tenderness resulting from many thousands of blade impacts against a given patch of skin.

We take too much for granted nowadays, with the nifty solar-powered LAZR™ instantly and painlessly removing hair right down to the skin surface in seconds with a few strokes of the finger-mounted device.

Wonder what they'll be using a thousand years hence.

No telling, really.

September 2, 2006 at 12:01 PM | Permalink | Comments (3) | TrackBack

Pull-Tab Shoulder Bag

Tytytiu_2

Designed by Francisca Ribeiro De Souza.

From the website:

    Recycled Pull-Tab Shoulder Bag

    Hand-crocheted using more than 700 recycled aluminum pull tabs, this eye-catching bag comes with a nylon liner, one inside zipper pocket (large enough for a cell phone) and a zipper closure.

    Suitable for day or evening wear.

    7"H x 11"W x 2"D.

$95.

September 2, 2006 at 11:01 AM | Permalink | Comments (3) | TrackBack

Mold Dogs

Tux_the_mold_dog_and_handler_john_salmon

Fran Daniel wrote about them in an August 16, 2006 story that appeared in the Winston-Salem (North Carolina) Journal.

Here's the article.

    A Nose Knows: Tux and his partner track down mold in the Triad's walls and floors

    Tux [above — the dog] uses a sensitive tool to inspect houses and other buildings - his nose.

    Tux, a 2-year-old German shepherd-hound mix, and John Salmon [above — the human], his handler, make up the team of K-9 Mold Investigations Inc. in Greensboro. K-9 Mold, Salmon's newly formed business, offers residential and commercial mold inspections and testing across the Triad.

    Tux, originally a stray who was adopted from the Humane Society of Pinellas in Clearwater, Fla., has had 1,000 hours of training at the Florida Canine Academy in Safety Harbor, Fla. He is trained to detect 18 types of mold and their subspecies.

    "We do a quarterly recertification," Salmon said. "Then I do training every day, between 30 minutes to an hour."

    Mold dogs have been used in Europe for years, but only more recently in the United States.

    This trend in the inspection industry is big in Florida and Texas, Salmon said.

    People are no doubt more familiar with dogs that sniff out bombs, drugs and arson.

    But the Florida Canine Academy teaches dogs to detect practically anything, including bed bugs, termites and indigo snakes, said Bill Whitstine, the owner of the academy.

    Whitstine said that there are mold-dog skeptics in the science community, but research has shown that dogs are capable of detecting mold.

    Armed with his own K-9 Mold badge and, of course, his nose, Tux recently sniffed for possible mold at a house in Winston-Salem.

    "Seek," Salmon said, as Tux moved along the walls and floors of the house.

    No mold in the living room. Nothing in the dining room. And nothing in the kitchen, except for a whiff of dog food, which Tux obediently left undisturbed.

    But when the canine-mold sniffer went into a bathroom, he sat and barked excitedly.

    "Show me, boy," Salmon said. "Where is it, boy?"

    Tux turned in the direction of the floor near a bathtub and tried to point his nose there.

    Salmon reached in his vest pocket and handed Tux a dog treat. He said that if he pulled up the tile on the floor, he would probably find mold underneath.

    In the basement, Tux also barked and pointed at a plastic box filled with clothes that was sitting on the floor under a cardboard box.

    Salmon said that Tux is a pretty big part of his business.

    "If there's a large wall that's infested with mold, an infestation, I can work him to get an estimate of how big the mold is," he said.

    But Tux is just one of the tools that Salmon uses in his mold investigations. He also uses thermal cameras, moisture meters and other equipment.

    When he completes his investigations, the owners of properties can decide if they want to go further. If they want test samples done, Salmon will send them to a lab to determine the type of mold, health hazards and quantities.

    A Gulf War veteran, Salmon has 12 years of experience in fire service. He is a volunteer station captain at Fire District 13 Inc. in northwestern Guilford County, but left the fire-service profession as a career after an injury in 2002.

    Six months ago, while Salmon was going through his transition from working as a firefighter to a less physically demanding career, he decided he wanted to work with a dog. "I love dogs, and I would not have been in the mold business if it didn't give me a chance to be with a dog," he said.

    Originally, he considered private drug and bomb dogs. He even researched arson dogs who work for insurance companies.

    But, he said, "the market was either too full or there wasn't enough work."

    Then he thought of the growing use of dogs to help with mold inspections and decided to use a dog trained at the Florida Canine Academy. He also received his mold-inspector certification from the National Association of Mold Professionals.

    Salmon said he knows he's taking a risk, but he has researched the market and found that there are not a lot of businesses in the Triad that focus on just mold inspections.

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K9logo

You can find John Salmon's K-9 Mold Investigations here.

September 2, 2006 at 10:01 AM | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Soft Hub USB Port

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From the website:

    Soft Hub USB Port

    This playfully-shaped rubber USB hub makes it easy to connect USB-interfaced peripherals such as cameras, network adapters, modems and joysticks to your desktop or notebook computer.

    One upstream and three downstream ports.

    3" diameter.

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Official Soft Hub USB Port of bookofjoe.

$18.

September 2, 2006 at 09:01 AM | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack

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