Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Curmudgeon and Essence

Salvador Dali said that the inspiration for his iconic limp watches in the painting The Persistence of Time came from contemplating a Camembert cheese melt at a picnic one sweltering afternoon. Art history might have been different had he been contemplating the new Camembert out of Scarborough Maine. Bob Smith and Kim MacDonald's Camembert is square; not so unusual in the Old Country but an eye-catcher here.

Smith ran his own restaurant in New York before moving to Maine. He and MacDonald dabbled in cheeses during his 5 year stint as chef at the Kennebunkport Inn. Eager to get back in business for himself again, he and MacDonald thought they would turn their full attention to their increasingly successful kitchen experiments. Figuring that there are plenty of artisan goat cheeses in the state of Maine, the pair decided to limit their cheese making efforts on cow's milk. They've run the gauntlet of local and state inspection, have been featured on the cheese boards of several restaurants and are now offering cheeses retail: a Camembert style cheese called Essence and an Allagash White washed rind cheese they cheekily call Curmudgeon.

Perhaps Dali had a hand in things after all. The cheeses would have been available a couple of months earlier but the Rotterdam manufacturer sent their equipment to Portland, Oregon rather than Portland, Maine, where it languished in customs until the paperwork was straightened out. "This process is sometimes like being on a train. We don't know who the conductor is, we can't get off, we can't slow it down or speed it up. It just goes at it's own pace," Smith laughed.

Smith has opted to use 100 percent certified organic milk from Mike and Rick Guillemette, a father and son team who milk shorthorns at Brook Ridge Farm in Lyman, Maine. Shorthorns produce excellent quantities of milk with the high butterfat content and high protein levels that are well suited to the soft bloomy rind cheeses that are the core of the new enterprise, which Smith and MacDonald have dubbed Edible Rind.

Essence and Curmudgeon are available at Aurora Provisions, K. Horton Specialty Foods, Cheese Iron and the Rosemont Markets on Brighton, Munjoy Hill and in Yarmouth. You can also find them on the menu at Fore Street, Vignola, Salt Exchange, Street and Company, Caiola's and 555. To talk cheese directly, you can email or call 510 1960.

published in the Portland Daily Sun (11/10/2009)

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