This year has brought new meaning to the phrase ‘April showers.’ There are only three days before April comes to a close and here in Chicago we’ve had 16 days of measurable rain, the most rainy days in Chicago since 1961. And when you consider that we had an additional three days of trace rain, it adds up to a very soggy month. The month, for me, has been characterized by ominous silver skies, sloppy mud puddles, and a dog who stares longingly out the window wishing the pouring would stop so he could go out to play. While this weather is good for certain things – growing grass and work productivity among them – it’s been terrible for my mood. I think if this continues, seasonal affective disorder may set in.
Thankfully, I’ve discovered some little pleasures lately that make this weather a bit more bearable.
It’s no secret I have a borderline obsessive love with cheese so when I need a surefire pick me up, this is it. Robiola Tre Latte is actually not a new cheese to me, but I recently rediscovered it again after not having had it in awhile. The ‘Tre Latte’ part of the name comes from the fact it is made from the milks of three different animals – cow, cheep, and goat. What’s nice about this is you get the best of all three milk’s flavor profiles, which will be true of most blended-milk cheeses. Cow gives creaminess, goat it’s characteristic tang, and the sheep’s milk lends a richness and a slight sweetness, both of which balance out the goat’s milk nicely. The rind is also thin and distinct, but without being overpowering so if you’ve ever wanted to try your cheese rind on (Yes, it’s edible and I think you should!) this is a good one to do so. Overall this is a pretty sumptuous cheese. The texture is deliciously creamy, almost like the texture of fresh goat cheese, but creamier. The flavor is mild and milky. I like to serve it simply on some bread that’s been crisped up over the broiler and with a generous dribble of honey.
I discovered Creminelli via my friend Jessi of To Kiss the Cook. When she invited me to join them and a small group of other local bloggers for a salumi tasting at DiSotto Enoteca I knew there was no way I could say no. (In the spirit of full disclosure, Creminelli served us complimentary salumi and wine, but I was not otherwise compensated for this review and the thoughts are all my own.) Sure cheese holds the top spot in my heart, but good charcuterie is a close second. We noshed on many offerings from their new line including Mortadella, Coppa, and Proscuitto while Christiano Creminelli, the owner and artisan behind all their products, shared with us the story of how he had come to make our products. I was struck by his passion and attention to detail. His family has been making handcrafted meats for over 300 years in Italy so when he knew he wanted to make similar meats in the states he had a very high bar to meet. This meant spending over a year looking all over the country for farmers who could raise animals in a way that he felt would create the best meat – sustainably and humanely. He also spent another year looking for a place that would provide just the right climate for making Salumi, which turned out to be in Salt Lake City of all places. And you taste his passion in the produce. The flavors are clean, savory, and pure. In a time when so many new foodstuffs are born in labs from science, I appreciate that he’s still making something simple and true to tradition. My favorite, surprisingly, was the only beef product in the line, a deliciously savory and Mocetta, made from a beef eye of round that has been dry-rubbed, massaged, marinaded, and age dried. Sliced paper thin, I felt like it could melt on my tongue if I let it. I was also a fan of the more familiar Proscuitto, especially when Christiano suggested pairing it with ripe kiwi come summer. I’ve always known of the natural affinity between Proscuitto and melon, but kiwi is new to me. I can’t wait to to try this duo once my summer entertaining finally rolls around.
I must sheepishly admit that when a caffeine fix is involved my vehicle of choice is generally Diet Coke. If you catch me on the way into the office in the morning don’t be surprised if you see me with a gargantuan soda in hand, sipping pleasurably. My co-workers like to tease me about how inconsistent it is with my foodie persona, but I don’t care. This is one girl who loves her caffeine. When I opt for coffee over tea, a mocha, especially iced is my drink of choice. The problem is it packs a significant caloric punch – 360 calories for a small at Caribou Coffee and let’s face it, I don’t generally get the small. Even if you order it with skim milk you’re not shaving many calories if you opt for the whipped cream. Because of this, mochas are a rare indulgence for me. This made me pleasantly surprised when I popped into Caribou the other day and saw their new Northern Lite Mocha on the menu. It’s made from chocolate (I choose dark in mine) sugar-free chocolate syrup, espresso, skim milk, and some non-fat whipped topping. A Dark Chocolate Northern Light Mocha comes in at a trim 175 calories. It’s still a bit much for a drink, but perfect for an occasional treat. I do wish I could find out what they used to sweeten the sugar-free syrup, since I imagine it is some form of artificial sweetener, but other than that, I’m impressed. I honestly cannot tell the difference between the lite version and a standard mocha made with skim milk. All I know is that the dark chocolate gives it a rich, chocolately flavor that I love.
What about you? Is it this rainy too where you are? Have you discovered any fun things lately that are perking up your spring.