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Tuesday, June 10, 2014

The Unnamed Goat Cheese Project: Field Trip to the Union Square Greenmarket

The Unnamed Goat Cheese Project Angry Goat
"The not-so-lonely goat herder?"

Rainy morning yesterday in NY.

When I woke, the prospect of a trip to the Union Square Greenmarket was less enticing than it had been the night before when the Goat Cheese / Dark Chocolate / Apple / Almond / Sea Salt combo emerged victorious as the people's choice for this week's dish.

But I was still eager to get started. When the voting closed on Sunday, I knew this week's sweet and savory combination would require a lot of (delicious) trial and error. The appeal behind apple and goat cheese was easy to understand. And apple and chocolate was a marriage of flavors to which only
the pickiest of diners would object. But goat cheese and chocolate - far less straightforward and, if done poorly, gag inducing.

So after the mental fog of morning lifted, I set off towards Union Square with renewed resolve (of course having reached the apartment lobby only to realize I had forgotten my umbrella).

As expected, the market was empty. It would appear that the rest of the city didn't share in my urgent need for fruit and cheese. Odd...

But I enjoyed the uncommon peace. No "adults" in their 30's weaving along the sidewalk on scooters. No atonal strains from aspiring singer/song-writers whose lack of self-consciousness is only exceeded by a lack of pitch control. And no jabs of fists and elbows from the sample-seeking market patrons who clawed for tooth picked spiked morsels on paper plates.

No, not today. Today it was empty, and the samples were all mine.

How Do You Like Them Apples?

No joke.. all the samples were for me.

As if someone had called ahead on my behalf... plates of apples with toothpicks galore, and not another greedy hand in my way. It was the perfect opportunity to unselfconsciously taste every option and note down the relative merits of each.

In the end, I lost count, but I did make serious work of the sample trays.
  • Empire... had a nice bite
  • Crispin... a rebranding of the Mutsu apple and, surprisingly, not crisp
  • Red Delicious... ehh, I've long since lost my affinity for red apples
  • Granny Smith... a long time favorite that was disappointingly mealy - come on, grandma!
  • Gala... always good, and this time was no exception
  • Gold Rush... why, hello!
I had never tasted a Gold Rush apple before... I had never even heard of it. A yellow apple in the Golden Delicious family, the Gold Rush is known for a "crisp hard flesh and a good sugar / acid balance". I would agree. This tasted like an apple that could hold its own in a street fight against goat cheese and chocolate.

I bought 10 pounds.

The Goat Says "Yum"

I'm somewhat intimidated by the world of cheese. Like wine, it's something I love and appreciate a great deal - but I'm scared to think what would happen if I started to research it closely. I could easily see myself getting sucked down the rabbit hole as I explored the seemingly infinite varieties, preparations, flavor profiles, applications...

Knowing my tendencies, I believe ignorance is an act of self defense, lest I find myself the first sommelier of camembert and brie. I was going to rely on the expertise of others for this one.

I had my sights set on one stand in particular - The Butterfield Farm. Not only did they specialize exclusively in goat cheese, they also hailed from Suffield CT,  minutes from my childhood hometown. Bonus points for nostalgia.

When I arrived at the booth, what I found totally floored me. Oh yeah, goat cheese isn't limited to just smooth chèvre. There are cheddars... blues... fetas... I guess this means more sampling.

One thing that certainly wasn't lacking from any of the cheeses was a distinct flavor profile.

I started with the cheddars (right). Creamier than the very familiar cow milk varieties, a version with a streak of paprika in the center had the added treat of heat. It gave me some ideas...

The blues (center) were too assertive for pairing with chocolate. That's not to say I still didn't buy a wedge.

There were also Fetas (bottom), including aged varieties, which underscored how flavorless those grocery store crumbled fetas really are.

And then there was a little beauty in the center - a lone wedge described to me as an emmentaler, or archetypal swiss. Despite being a harder cheese, it had a smooth and creamy texture. And compared to many of the other cheeses I sampled, it was notably less salty. I bought the entire wedge.

Hedging my bets for the final dish, I also picked up some creamy chèvre. Leave no cheese wedge unturned. My earlier taste of the paprika veined cheddar had piqued my curiosity, so a glowing red  chèvre indicating a similar preparation was an easy, eye-catching choice. In the end, if it didn't work, it didn't work. There are worse things than leftovers.  

Delicious Proof of Concept

When I got home, I wasted no time. And by dinner time (and for dinner), I had a clear winning component already whipped up... Apple Chutney. But more on that later this week. 

 Check back later this week to see how things come together.

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  1. What no goat cheese in a jar? Goat wiz?

  2. Far from it! Cheese wiz definitely has it's place (mmm, broccoli), but these are going to be high end!

  3. Chris wants me to make terrible jokes about goat wiz- cause my parents gave me 3 goats as pets...none ever made cheese. They couldn't figure the chemistry out.