Ra-ra rosemary…

by gina on March 15, 2012

Our resident cooking guru Rebecca immediately thought of biscuits when we first tasted the herbaceous cheese from Rogue Creamery named Rosemary Touvelle.  This cheese (a blend of cheddar + jack + gouda) melts into the folds of this biscuit like ice cream on a hot sidewalk.  Even cold, I could hear a bit of a squeak while nibbling, much like the squeak found in fresh cheese curds.  I would suggest eating these for breakfast with your favorite jam, provided you don’t eat them all right out of the oven. If you want some with dinner, try with Chardonnay, it’s delightfully springy! THIS SECTION IS WHITE TYPE NOT TO BE SEEN

Rosemary Touvelle Biscuits
makes 8 biscuits
cook time = 25 minutes
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2 cups all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
8 tablespoons (1 stick / 4 ounces) cold butter, diced
1/2 cup heavy cream
3 eggs
1/3 pound Rosemary Touvelle, grated

Preheat oven to 400°. Coat the grated Rosemary Touvelle in one tablespoon of flour.  Combine the remaining flour with the baking powder & salt. Cut in the butter with a pastry blender, fork or two knives, until the butter bits are pea-sized.

Lightly whip two of the eggs with the cream & add to the flour-butter mixture.  Using a wooden spoon, fold the mixture until it begins to come together.  Add the grated Rosemary Touvelle to the dough & mix until everything is incorporated.

Turn out the dough onto a well-floured surface & knead gently for less than a minute.  Pat dough out to a 3/4- to 1-inch thickness & either cut into 8 triangles or the shape of your choice with a cookie cutter.  Make an egg wash by beating the remaining egg with a teaspoon of water.  Brush the biscuits with egg wash & place on a parchment-lined (or well-oiled) baking sheet.  Bake for 25 minutes or until golden brown.  Warm or cold, devour these delights!


A cheesy twist on surf & turf…

by gina on February 8, 2012

steak & crab cake Who said steak & seafood had to be hard to make & uber-expensive?  I say it can be easy peasy & only about $30 for two!  The secret is my source for excellent meat & produce at ridiculously low prices:  Butcher Block Meat Market & Rancho Fresco, both in Barrio Logan.

The butchers cut the steaks to whatever thickness you prefer.  Snagged my white potatoes, eggs, butter & cream at nearby Rancho Fresco.  Trader Joes is still my go-to place for crab in a can.  At $10, I even have leftovers for weekend eggs benedict.  Finally, a bit of wonderfully odiferous Red Hawk cheese to give the potatoes a kick in the spud. 

serves 2
cook time = 30 minutes

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2 t-bone steaks, roughly 1/2-inch thick
salt & pepper
4 small white potatoes
3 ounces Red Hawk or equally stinky cheese
1 tbsp butter
1/4-cup heavy cream
1/4-lb crab meat
1 slice white bread
1 tbsp mayonnaise
1/4 tsp worcestershire
1 egg, beaten
1 tbsp butter

Boil potatoes (with skin) in salted water roughly 15 minutes or until tender when stabbed.

In the meantime, fire up the grill to medium-high.  Salt & pepper both sides of the steaks liberally (add cajun spices too if you like).

Tear bread into small pieces & mix in medium bowl with crab, mayo, worcestershire & egg.  Form into 4 patties.

Drain the potatoes.  In the same pot, add cheese, butter & heavy cream.  Use masher to smash to desired consistency.  Add more cream or milk if needed.  Cover to keep warm.

Place the steaks on the grill.  Grill first side 3 minutes (longer for thicker steak).  Flip & grill other side for 3 minutes.  Remove & set on plate to rest.

Heat butter over medium-high in a 12-inch skillet.  When butter foam subsides, add the crab cakes.  Fry for roughly 3 minutes until bottom is golden brown.  Flip cakes & place in other buttery parts of the pan & fry for another 3 minutes.

While crab cakes are finishing, place one steak on each plate.  Top with a generous heap o’ potatoes.  Then crown with a crab cake or two.   We like this with a side salad, green beans or spinach, plus a generous glass of Syrah.


Sucheese, if you please…

by gina on January 30, 2012

cheese sushi rollWhen I was invited to present a cheese course with a group of San Diego’s top chefs to 100+ ferocious foodies, I knew I had to come up with something different. An idea had been rattling around for nine years (since writing the original Venissimo business plan) & it was time to give it a roll.

Introducing Sucheese – as far as we know, the world’s first cheese sushi roll. The night’s theme was seafood, so why not a sushi roll out of cheese?  We selected a soft chevre for rice, a bright orange cheese for carrots, a tangy cheese for cucumber, a pepper sauce for sriracha & voila… sucheese!

Super Sucheese
makes 24 pieces
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2 sheets nori (seaweed)
1 package Psychedillic Chevre
3 ounces Mimolette, julienned into carrot-like strips
3 ounces Quebec Vintage Cheddar, cut into thick 1/4-inch-squared long strips
2 tbsp red pepper spread
sushi rolling mat (optional)

Allow chevre to come to room temperature to soften.  Cut each seaweed sheet in half.
Spread one quarter of the chevre disc as evenly as possible over each sheet, leaving a roughly 1/2-inch edge along each of the two longest sides of each sheet.
Lay a line of thick cheddar logs across the center,
making sure they reach from end to end.
Arrange a line of julienned Mimolette along one side of the cheddar logs,
making sure they reach from end to end.
Starting at one side of the still-exposed seaweed, roll as tightly as possible around the center cheeses.
Moisten the exposed seaweed edge with water to seal the roll.  Tighten roll with sushi mat (optional).
Allow roll to sit & soften for about 5 minutes, then cut into six equal-sized pieces.
Place the red pepper spread in a small ziplock bag & make a tiny cut in one corner to create a pastry bag.
Squeeze a small drop of spread on the top of each piece & gobble.


Just for the halibut…

by gina on January 12, 2012

grilled halibut with psychedillicWhen I visited Cypress Grove on my Vespa tour, they shared one of their favorite ideas, using one of their newest creations called Psychedillic. The best description about this cheese that I heard was, “it tastes like a dill pickle.” They achieve this wicked flavor by dusting the cheese with dill pollen & dill weed.  Can you dig it?

I think we can all agree that dill + fish is an excellent combination. And naysayers beware: cheese + fish can be a great couple as well. So we’ve taken this groovy dilled chevre & tossed it atop a piece of fresh grilled halibut. Dillicious!


Totally Psychedillic Halibut
serves 4
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4 fresh halibut steaks
1 disc Psychedillic chevre
juice from one lemon
olive oil
salt & pepper

Bring the chevre to room temperature.

Brush the grill with olive oil & fire up to medium-high.  Drizzle each piece of fish with lemon juice, brush with olive oil & season with salt & pepper.  Place on grill.  For one-inch thick cuts, plan on grilling roughly 5 minutes on each side (less for thinner cuts).

We served this with leftover saffon rice & sauteed kale.  Dillicious…


Rockin’ holiday bread pudding…

by gina on December 7, 2011

San Diego manager Rebecca has put together the end-all-be-all of bread puddings, using the best panettone on the planet (for real), imported to us fresh from Italy every year. Her secret ingredient? An earthy drizzle of truffle honey.

Originally from Milan, panettone is a sweet holiday bread, studded with delightful candied fruits (don’t worry, it’s not fruitcake). Legend has it that the name is derived from the term, “pan del ton,” meaning “bread of luxury.” Luxurious indeed! If you don’t gobble the whole loaf on its own, it rocks for bread pudding & french toast too. Not a crumb to be wasted.

Benissimo Bread Pudding
serves 6-8
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1 tbsp butter
1 1/2 cup heavy cream
1 1/2 cup whole milk
2/3 cup sugar
3 egg yolks
2 eggs
1/4 teaspoon salt
3/4 cup truffle honey
1/2 of one panettone

Cut the panettone into 1/4-inch & 1/2-inch wide pieces, drizzle with 1 tablespoon melted butter & toast in a 350 degree oven for about 10-15 minutes or until the panettone becomes golden brown & crisp. Remove the bread from the oven & reduce heat to 300 degrees.

In a saucepan, combine the cream & milk over medium heat & bring almost to a boil. Meanwhile, in a medium-sized, heat-proof bowl, whisk together the sugar, egg yolks, eggs & salt. Slowly, incorporate one ladle-full the hot milk mixture into the egg mixture, being mindful to whisk continuously to temper the eggs & keep them from scrambling. Repeat with two more ladle-fulls. Pour the remaining egg mixture into the cream mixture in the saucepan, whisking continuously. Don’t cook the custard, just set it aside, off the heat.

Prepare a 12×8 inch baking dish with 1 tablespoon of butter. Place the toasted panettone pieces in the baking dish so that they cover the bottom of the entire dish. Pour the warm custard mixture over the bread. Let sit for 10 minutes so the panettone can soak up some of the custard. In the meantime, prepare a water bath for the 12×8 dish. Find a dish large enough to put the 12×8 dish in. Place the bread pudding dish inside the larger dish and pour water into the larger dish. The water should come half way up the sides of the 12×8 dish. Carefully place in the oven and bake for approximately 45 minutes or until the custard has a slight spring when touched.

Scoop a portion of the bread pudding on a plate, drizzle with truffle honey & top with whipped cream and/bor vanilla ice cream. Enjoy!


Cheese Bon Bons…

by gina on December 7, 2011

Want to make a treat that swings both ways – from appetizer to dessert? Try these cheese bon bons that are only limited in flavor by your creativity. Start with fresh chevre (favorite for appetizers) and/or fresh ricotta (favorite for desserts) & dress them in flavors that tingle the tastebuds. We used toasted hazelnuts, cinnamon sugar, mocha, truffle salt with peppercorn & preserved lemon.

Cheese Bon Bons
serves 6
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8 oz fresh chevre (goat cheese) or 1 cup fresh ricotta
1 tsp honey
choice of toppings: toasted nuts, flavored salts, herbs, crushed candy, spices, chocolate, coffee, bacon, dried fruit

Mix the cheese with the honey, which helps bind the cheese. Roll into little bite-size balls using the palms of your hands. Dust with toppings, or top with toppings or roll in toppings, depending on the amount of flavor & color you desire.


Nuts for the season…

by gina on November 16, 2011

manchego + almonds + olivesLooking for something to nibble before feasting on baked bird? Look no further than this mixture that manages to include all the major food groups while capturing the flavors of fall.

Manchego cheese is Spain’s most popular export (well, Rafael Nadal is another one, but that’s for another story). It’s well-loved & well-known for good reason. Made of uber-rich sheep milk, the natural oils seep out of the cheese, leaving it to soak up all the surrounding flavors, almost like a sponge. In this recipe, it soaks up the orange & garlic beautifully. This nibbler will disappear faster than a vampire at sunrise.

Manchego Menage a Trois
serves 6
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1/2 lb Manchego, cubed (we like one-year aged)
1/2 lb castelvetrano olives (or other green variety)
1/4 lb Marcona almonds (salted & fried if available)
2 tbsp olive oil
2 garlic cloves, peeled & smashed
1 orange, zested
1 bay leaf

Combine olives, olive oil, garlic, orange zest & bay leaf. Toss together & marinade at room temp for at least 4 hours (up to a few days). Just before serving, remove garlic & bay leaf. Add Manchego & almonds, mixing well. Serve & gobble.


About our adventure…

by gina on November 14, 2011

WHO: 2 sisters

WHAT: driving 2 scooters from Seattle to San Diego, visiting cheesemakers & finding dreams

WHEN: 2 weeks, July 18-31

WHERE: off the beaten path, anywhere we find inspiration

WHY: to live our dreams – to have no regrets – to seek out opportunities – to keep moving forward -
to inspire people – to be inspired – to experience the world – to have a kick-ass time

Everyone has a dream & everyone wants to be inspired. Our parents came from Russia & Austria to America,
the “land of opportunity.” They learned the language, had a family & built an amazing life.
We believe we’ll discover opportunities everywhere we scoot & we’ll share those inspirations with you.

"I want to wake up any day & garden."

I’m Anna & I live in Seattle.

My scooter is a Vespa 150s, affectionatly known as Brinata
(Italian for white early morning frost).

I am finding my dream.

Here are a few of my favorite things: travel, adventures, outdoors,
organize, plan, keep things simple & live independently.



"I want to build a masterpiece."

I’m Gina & I live in San Diego.

My scooter is a Vespa ET4, affectionately known as Mimo
(short for fantastic fromage called mimolette).

I am following my dream of running a fun business, Venissimo Cheese.

Here are a few of my favorite things: cheese, my own business, write,
cook, eat, tennis, hubby & doggy, envision & smile.


The end of the journey…

by gina on August 21, 2011

our route

Here's how we did 2,157 miles.

2,157 miles – that’s a lot of asphalt & gravel & dirt to traverse. To put it in perspective, it’s about the same distance as San Diego to Atlanta. Can you believe Rebecca, our great manager at the San Diego shop, happened to be at a beach party & looked up at the PRECISE moment we scooted by? Hilarious!

Take a look at our final video.

So what can I say? VT1 (vespa tour #1) is done. My bum feels fine & my head feels alive. It was an adventure I wish everyone could take. I’m thrilled to share that I got a call from Bud who, upon reading the blog, decided to scoot from San Francisco to San Diego. Bud is en-route as I type & I hope he is having an amazing ride. Remember – wherever you may live, there are beautiful places to see, interesting people to meet & dreams to come true.

Will there be a VT2? YES YES YES! You’ll get an invitation to join us for sure.

In the meantime, this blog will morph into an exploration of favorite things everywhere, from cheese to fab foods to amazing places & beyond. Raindrops on roses & schnitzel with noodles… isn’t that what life’s all about?