California Dreamin' | May 2021 curdbox

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This month, we've created a box to celebrate the Golden State with our California Dreamin’ box, with all Californian products. We’ve also partnered with Napa Cellars, a winery in, you guessed it, the Napa Valley and curated the box to go with their Chardonnay and Cabernet Sauvignon. We even have a “wine along” on Instagram on May 26th at 7 pm EST on our Instagram page @curdbox. In the Wine-Along, curdbox founder Jenn Mason will talk with the Napa Cellars team about the cheeses and pairings and the wine that goes with it. But for now, let’s take a trip through our California Dreamin' box. 

Toma by the the Point Reyes Farmstead Cheese Co.

A toma is basically a simple, all around table cheese, and in its simplicity you find the ultimate expression of its terroir. The Point Reyes Cheese Co. in West Marin wanted one such of these tomas, one that was simple but excellent. They wash the curds of their Toma, which means before aging, the curds are bathed to removed some of the tangy whey, which ultimately leads the cheese with a sweeter profile and softer texture. In our podcast this month, curdbox founder Jenn Mason said if a cheese texture was a spa, it would be the texture of Toma, and I have to agree! It’s a luxuriously soft and supple paste, that tastes buttery and creamy with just a little bit of tang. It’s the quintessential toma: complex and sophisticated, but still eminently approachable—you could eat it all day and still want just one more bite. This cheese really puts the “dreamy” in our Dreamin’ box.

Carmody by Bellwether Farms

We’re so happy to showcase the Toma and Carmody side-by-side, because even though they’re both Californian toma-style cheeses made from cow’s milk, they’re totally different, which goes to show how the milk and the terroir and the craftsmanship all have a huge affect on the final cheese. Bellwether Farms is in Sonoma, and though they’re known for their sheep’s milk cheeses, they make the Carmody with local Jersey cow milk. Jersey milk has a high butterfat content, which means a rich and creamy cheese. The high butterfat content also will result in a yellower paste, which is where Carmody gets its gorgeous golden hue. Even though its younger than than Toma, Carmody is firmer and has a more pronounced flavor that’s bright and buttery, with a distinct, sour cream tang.

Monterey Dry Jack by Vella Cheese Co.

For those of you who have only have had young Jack, this might not seem like a Jack at all. In fact, this might seem more like a Parm—and you’re not wrong! During WWI war, there was a shortage Italian cheeses, and so American producers stepped into fill the void, with Dry Jack being the American answer to the hard Italian grating cheeses. Tom Vella got into the game in 1931, with his Dry Jack becoming one of the first artisanal American cheeses, and the recipe has hardly changed since (why fix what isn’t broken?)

Like Parmigiano-Reggiano, Monterey Jack is a smooth & melty cheese, which means its curd is cooked so that the resulting cheese is meltier. That’s why when it’s young, you get that pliable type of Monterey that we’ve probably had in quesadillas. But when Monterey Jack is aged, like for 7-10 months as this one is, a lot of the moisture evaporates and the cheese concentrates into an umami bomb. Vella’s Dry Jack is dense, crumbly, nutty, and intensely savory, but also has fruity notes with an overall well-rounded flavor, like a parm that got mellowed out by California. We can sometimes forget that hard cheeses should still be considered for cheese boards alongside your table tomas, and if you’re anything like us, you’ll find yourself absent-mindedly filing off small bits of Dry Jack to nibble on to get another hit of that intense flavor. (And don’t be alarmed by the brown coating if it comes off your hands—it’s just cocoa powder and vegetable oil.)

Potato Chip Brittle by CC Made

Potato Chip Brittle might be one of those things that goes from your never having heard about it to your needing it in your house at all times. The recipe’s in the name, but we’ll still walk you through it: so it’s a brittle (sugar heated to hard crack stage, which is just before caramelization) but instead of adding the typical nuts, Berkeley’s CC Made has added potato chips and cracked black pepper. It’s sweet and salty and just a little bit spicy from the pepper, and oh so delightfully crunchy. It’s a perfect contrast to any of our cheeses, making each bite taste like a cheesecake.

Sweet & Spicy Pecans by Santé Nuts

Santé Nuts from Santa Clara makes a line of superb small-batch gourmet nuts that are roasted and seasoned by hand. A bit of a family business, Santé Nuts was started by Sara Tidhar, who had to make ends meet after becoming a single mom. Her son said she should sell the nut snacks that she made for her kids, and so Santé Nuts was born. The careful attention to seasoning is the legacy of Sara’s grandfather, who traveled the world as a spice trader. Each bite combines the buttery richness of a pecan, the sweetness of pure cane sugar, and the smoky heat from ancho and paprika. When paired with our cheeses, the heat is tamed, and the nutty sweetness rounds out the salty umami from the cheeses. It’s a perfect pairing!

Cabernet Mustard by Sutter Buttes

We’ve had NorCal’s Sutter Buttes in the box before, and whether it be their tapenade, their jam, their vinegar, or their mustard—everything they make is top notch. For this latest curdbox installment, they soak mustard seeds in California Cab for 2-3 days before blending them up with roasted garlic and honey. The result is a mustard that is like an all-in-one condiment, needing nothing else to add savory, fruity depth to everything—it has the Midas touch!

Napa Cellars Wines

This month, we have an additional two wine pairings to go with the box, both from Napa Cellars. The Napa Valley gained worldwide recognition in the world of wine from the 1976 so-called “Judgement of Paris”, in which Californian wines beat out French wines in a blind tasting, thus cementing Napa’s place as a formidable presence in the international wine scene. By coincidence, Napa Cellars has been making wine since 1976 and have dedicated themselves to honoring Napa's terroir, whose varied, volcanic soils, ample sunshine, mile winters, and cooling breeze from the Pacific are tailor-made for world-class wine.

The Napa Cellars’ 2018 Chardonnay is grown in vineyards that get fog and breeze from the Marin Bay, which cause a long, cool growing season—perfect for chardonnay, as it allows the grapes to reach their full expression of fruit and acidity. The grapes are hand-harvested and aged in 100% French oak and aged for 8 months but if you’re averse to California oaky Chardonnays (as I am!), then have no fear—while this wine is full-bodied with a soft mouthfeel, it’s well-balanced, with tropical fruit notes that give way to a subtly oaky, creamy finish.

The Napa Cellars 2017 Cabernet Sauvignon has was hand-harvested, macerated for 13-20 days, and aged in 100% French oak barrels for 20 months. It has ample notes of black fruit—black currant and blackberry—that ride on an undercurrent of cedar and tobacco. The wine is rich and full-bodied, but with gentle tannins and a well-balanced acidity. It's complexity intrigues and delights with every sip.

Don’t miss our Wine-Along on May 26th at 7pm EST on our Instagram @curdbox to learn more about these wines from the folks at Napa Cellars themselves!

We'll let you get to it now—we hope you find this California box as dreamy as we do!


Did you take some photos for the 'gram while enjoying this box? Please tag us @curdbox, along with our cheese and pairing partners @pointreyescheese, @bellwetherfarms, @sante_nuts@sutterbuttesaoliveoil and @napacellarswine. We love to see our cheese lovers enjoying their boxes!

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