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Cheeses of Spring

March 30th, 2011

We are constantly searching out the coolest in cheeses.  And this spring is in full swing with new – or renewed – selections that come from afar…and sometimes anear…

We’ve given you the scoop on a bunch of them below so you can read up and come find what sounds delectable!

Guffanti Robiola due Latti

Made in the Piedmont region of Italy, this is mostly from cow’s milk with a dash of sheep’s milk (therefore ‘due’ latti – meaning two milks) and is a delectable treat.  The paper thin rind covers an unctuous buttery paste that coats the palate. Mild and savory, creamy with a light lingering sweetness, this delicate pillow of soft-ripened cheese will be love at first bite. Champagne is a wonderful foil to this cheese, as are Cava and Prosecco.

Old Kentucky Tomme

Produced by one of America’s legendary cheesemakers – Judy Schad – at her Capriole Farms dairy in southeast Indiana. This refreshing and pretty goat’s tomme matures for up to 6 months, developing a natural rind and creamy, firm paste with mushroom overtones at peak. Its character and flavor are somewhat similar to the French Tomme de Savoie. An especially successful pairing partner for many white wines and lighter beers, we also recommend that you try pairing Old Kentucky Tomme with Chardonnay or dessert wine such as Sauternes.


The Julianna was a fortunate “mistake” of Old Kentucky Tomme.  Often when one small part of the cheesemaking process changes, the cheese will become a whole new deal.  This little cheese is buttery and smooth like Old Kentucky Tomme, but it’s more nutty and firm with a mushroomy natural rind of herbs like a Brin d’Amore or Fleur du Maquis. Cheeses with herbs aren’t everyone’s thing but the herb overtones are such an integral part of this cheese that it’s definitely an exception that affords trying!

Le Chevrot

A small drum of lightly aged & pasteurized goat cheese from Poitou (southwest France).  The tender, brainy looking but edible rind softens the cheese it covers, creating a thick, silk textured creamy outside. The center is moist, dense and flaky with a tangy flavor in youth that becomes increasingly piquant and nutty with age. It’s a beautiful, approachable cheese that pairs easily with the crisp Sauvignon Blancs of the Loire or grassy Spanish Albariño.


A  cute little round of mixed-milk cheese combining fresh cows’ milk, goats’ milk and a touch of Vermont cream. The goat milk is sourced from twenty family farms daily and the cow milk comes from a co-op in Vermont.  The cream is separated in the morning and delivered fresh — within few hours — to the creamery. The cheese has a smooth and creamy texture with a mild, fresh goat milk flavor. The Cremont has a crème fraiche finish with notes of cooked bread, hazelnuts and yeast.

Bonne Bouche

Bonne Bouche literally means good mouthful and is a French term used to describe a tasty morsel. Bonne Bouche can be enjoyed fresh or aged up to 45 days. As a young cheese, the texture is mild yet still acidic like a fresh chèvre. As the cheese ages, it becomes softer and the rind becomes more dry and piquant.  So good that it won first place for aged goat cheese at the American Cheese Society competition.

Roves des Garrigues (this was here…but it sold out in three days…wait a week or two, it shall return!)

…Doesn’t that sound regal?  It’s named after the breed from which the milk is derived – the Rove – and the place where the animals graze – the Garrigues – in Provence. It is essentially a “fresh” goat milk cheese with a natural rind.  The vegetation upon which the animals graze offers an immense amount of flavor for a younger fresh goat milk cheese. The flavor of thyme, laurel, fennel, lavender, citronella and other herbs of the Garrigues give accents to the flavor of this lovely little semi-soft cheese.

L’Edel de Cleron

It is made from gently pasteurized cow’s milk, banded with a strip of bark and aged to develop the oozy, runny character of a similar cheese called Vacherin Mont d’Or. The tradition of production stems from the climate and difficulties of living in the mountains; as when the winter came it was literally impossible to deliver milk to the Comte cooperatives, so people made smaller cheeses for home use that could be eaten within weeks. These young cheeses, being fairly fragile were banded with bark of a spruce, fir or pine to hold the shape for storage and serving. Even now these cheeses are best eaten from late fall to spring when the milk is most suitable for this type of cheese. The flavor of L’Edel de Cleron is perfumed with scents of the forest and a slight resinous aspect from the bark. The texture is very rich and creamy.


Cooperative Kaserei Zurwies of Bavaria uses organic and silage-free milk to produce this Limburger.  This cheese, with its elegant paste and buttery flavor belies the rather ‘naughty’ reputation that Limburger gained in the past. The thin rind develops from the light washings that this cheese receives during its one month of aging, just enough to give the cheese a luscious buttery flavor with the aroma of damp caves and a pudding texture.  The Bavarian Limburger makes a lovely match for most ales; the cheese also marries well with many full-bodied whites and fine red wines.

La Tur

From the great wine region of Piemonte comes La Tur: a dense, creamy blend of pasteurized cow, goat and sheep milk.  Runny and oozing around the perimeter and in the center displaying a moist but cakey, palate coating paste, its flavor is earthy and full with a lingering lactic tang. The effect is like ice cream served from a warm scoop; decadent and melting from the outside in. An ideal regional pairing would be a sparkling Asti as the effervescence will whisk away the richness while matching the mild acidity. We recommend you get backup; La Tur is always the first to go at a party.


A delicate and lovely little round from the Italian Piedmonts; in the “paglia” family of cheeses, so named because they are aged on beds of straw (paglia = straw). Covered with a bloomy rind, the voluptuous paste is mild, creamy, buttery and a little musty.  Eat it quickly, otherwise it might run right off the table – not that something this good will be around for that long. Made from pasteurized cow and sheep’s milk.


Original Tilsiter was made by the Swiss in the Emmental valley after they moved to the city of Tilsit in the mid 1800s. Mini Emmenthaler was the goal but different equipment, ingredients, and ambient cultures resulted in a more pungent invention with smaller holes. This Tilsiter comes from Germany where it has become quite popular. Eat it like a Prussian – often and with the darkest bread and beer around.

Hubbardston Blue

Robed in powdery grey mold as soft as a cashmere sweater, Hubbardston Blue is soft-ripened to almost a camembert style richness. Inoculated with penicilium roqueforti while still in its liquid state and aged thirty days, Hubbardston’s  goat cheese is creamy and complex with deep hints of emerging mushroom. 2nd Place – External Blue Molded Cheeses – 2010 ACS competition



Meredith Dairy Marinated Feta

Consistently an award winner, this soft textured feta style goat cheese is drenched in extra virgin olive oil and infused with garlic, peppercorns, spices and fresh herbs. So soft, it’s a perfect bread or salad topper or with an antipasto. You will find a reason to eat this cheese!!! The farm practices sustainable farming and uses 100% green power.

Amy’s (but not that Amy’s) dinner thoughts

March 25th, 2011

My name is Amy, and I work at Art of the Table, but my name is not Amy Ruis.  I am the “new” Amy, known among staff as “tall Amy”, since I stand at an even 6 feet tall.  The name “long-armed Amy” has also come into play, especially when things are needed from a high shelf.  It’s a good thing that I’m not afraid of heights, since I get called to go up on the highest ladder quite frequently to do things like change lightbulbs :)

Today I wanted to talk, however, about another perk of working at Art of the Table – discovering some great food and wine!  Living as a single girl, I am often called upon to prepare dinner for just myself.  Usually this can make for some boring, repetitive meals, since no one is going to eat it but myself.  Tonight, however, I had quite a treat for dinner, and can thank Art of the Table for making it possible!

One meal I love to whip up for myself is a quesadilla made with cheese and refried beans.  Today I used Ossau Iraty cheese from our cheese case.  Yum yum!  I shredded it into my tortilla and it melted great on the stove top.  A fantastic sheep’s milk cheese from France, Ossau Iraty has a great creamy almost buttery, mild, and smooth flavor.  In fact, it’s recently become one of my favorite cheeses!

For dessert I indulged myself with an apple dipped in Smitty’s Hot Sludge. Wow – the decadence!  This hot fudge is made right here in Grand Rapids, Michigan, and not only is it local, it has a fantastic, home-style chocolate flavor. It’s just like you melt

Smitty's Hot Sludge

ed a chocolate bar down, only better!  It was great with my apple, and would be simply divine on some Ciao Bella Vanilla gelato!

To give it all extra bonus, I enjoyed a glass of our Coto de Hayas wine.  Probably our best-selling wine in the store, this wine has a great flavor rich in tannins yet smooth enough to drink on its own if you desire.  It’s got some great red fruit flavors and is a fantastic wine for the $9 price tag!  I will be highly recommending this to you if you come visit us at the store.

It’s the Most Basketful Time of the Year!

December 12th, 2010

We at Art of the Table do love making gift baskets!

It’s this holiday time of year that we make the majority of them, but we certainly do stay busy year round for events.

We have been known to make gift baskets for:

Gift box stack

  • That person who has “everything”
  • Welcome to a new job
  • New babies
  • Weddings & Showers
  • Housewarming
  • Bereavement – Another way to care for a friend
  • Retirement
  • Birthdays
  • Client & corporate gifts
  • Welcome to town for your visit – We will deliver to downtown Grand Rapids hotels free of charge!

For each basket we work hard to customize to your desires.

What goes in an Art of the Table basket?  It’s all up to you. 

  • You can come in and pick out the items and we will make it look beautiful!
  • You can tell us a price and a general theme you would like to work with and we can create!
  • We can add flowers from Wealthy at Charles or bread from Wealthy Street Bakery.
  • We are also willing to work with your corporate logo items or another item or two that means something to you and the receiver of the gift to add to the one-of-a-kind feel that we want for each gift we create!

One of the things we like to do is to be creative about our “baskets”.  They’re often not baskets but books, cutting boards, a bar tray, a cooler or Reisenthel basket.  We want to think about creativity for and with you to create a basket like no one has ever gotten before.

Please give us a call or shoot over an email with any questions you might have at any time.

Fancy Food? What’s that?

July 1st, 2009

As previously reported on my most recent edition of our e-mail newsletter, Table Talk, I was just in New York for the “2009 Summer Fancy Food Show”.   This show is huge, 2,300 exhibitors from the U.S. alone!

I love going to shows and consider myself rather efficient at them; you’ll usually see me walking rather quickly, ruling out things that are out of my group of categories – like the 615 different “waters” that one can buy – I did find “Q Tonic” and tried that but I skipped the tea water, the chocolate water, the electromagnetically-charged-probiotic-ginger-cherry-pomegranate-carrot-juice-water-spritzer…

Seriously though,  I walked this show for 5 hours one day and 7 hours the next and never revisited anything – and barely made it through the entire building! Each day I sampled hundreds of different foods and the information that surrounds them and enjoyed it all immensely.

While digesting all my thoughts, I came up with my own top 5 foods that seem to be seeing an explosion of choices…and I’m pretty sure they are mostly speaking to our current state of mind, comfort and a throwback to the past:





Asian foods – either Ready-to-eat in jars or packets or frozen or boxed meals


I took about 16 pages of notes in my half size spiral notebook and I have great ideas for the future.  Keep watching for our food goodies, starting to arrive already – If you haven’t experienced the Effie’s Oatcakes, you should.  Though I had already brought their product in, I had yet to meet friends and business partners Joan & Irene, which I also did this weekend!

effies oatcakes

effies oatcakes

This biscuit is has a distinctively buttery texture, much like a shortbread cookie, yet it contains oats & crunch that could pair well with wine, cheese & fruit or alongside a beautiful cup of tea – plain or atop with jam.  Owner Joan likes to curl up with a hot chocolate and a good book and an Effie’s Oatcake.  Me? I just like them plain.

Ethnic Groceries – Rapid Growth

June 25th, 2009

After a little hiatus due to my busy life, I wrote another article for Rapid Growth this week about ethnic groceries.  If you read my blog or you actually know me well, you’ll notice that I love to travel.  Recently we’ve done the Asian trip again.  We headed to Hong Kong and China.  It was so exciting to come home after a cooking class in China that my hubby, Steve, and I took together – because I came home, bought a wok through one of my sources and he seasoned it and started using it immediately!  Now that our farm share has started, it’s truly stir fry season!  (Next we need to try to stir fry on the grill!)

Anyway, I wanted you to know that the new installment is out of my writing and that if you have any feedback on where to shop for the ethnic groceries in the greater Grand Rapids area, I would love to know more places.  I haven’t even ventured to the West Side much and would love to.  Share a comment so we can all see it!

Asparagus! A farmer’s market/open house/Stalkumentary and meet the director!

May 20th, 2009

Back when Asparagus! The Stalkumentary was first released, I went to the Wealthy Theatre to view it.  I was intrigued by it then because my business was new and I was getting into the ‘foodie’ scene.  I knew right away through friends that one of the producers & directors of this 53-minute film was Kirsten Kelly, a fellow Calvin grad, who grew up in Oceana County on an asparagus farm – so she knows firsthand how this all goes.

After viewing the film I was provoked to follow it, because WOW – it was funny, sad, politically angering (even though I profess to not care about politics!) and truly eye-opening!  It took a while for it to move through all of the film festivals and such (and very respected ones like Harvard’s The Food Literacy Project) to make its way to mainstream sales and video.  Since it came out on video I’ve been selling it in the store.  It’s $24.95 retail.  Recently it made its way to our local PBS station GVSU and I know more people have now seen it.

However, I know you all haven’t seen this movie.  That would be impossible.  And being as excited as I am about eating local, about eating asparagus in many different forms and about promoting Wealthy Street, I couldn’t help but want to promote this movie to a wider audience.  Did I mention what a fabulous person the director, Kirsten, is too?  She is passionate about asparagus and she will be in the house to talk about these tall green stalks of veggie.  Join us!

So here it is, Art of the Table sponsors a local asparagus festival!

Asparagus: A stalkumentary


Please join us for a local asparagus festival

featuring an open house of samples and information

as well as a screening of the film

& a Q&A session with producer

and director, Kirsten Kelly!

The feature is a captivating & award winning short film which brings to reality the joys and struggles

of Oceana County, Michigan farmers.

The film is described by NY Magazine as “oddly brilliant” as well as “powerful, disturbing, political and yet highly enjoyable!” by local viewers.

Where? Wealthy Theatre @ 1130 Wealthy Street SE

When? Wednesday, June 3

6-7:30pm open “asparagus” house with food sampling, local stores & farmer appearances *see list below*

7:30-9pm film & discussion

Cost? Only $10, all proceeds go to the Wealthy Street Business Alliance!

Advance tickets (recommended) available online @

and tickets will be available at the door.

Open House booths include:

  • Mrs. Asparagus ‘89 and Mrs. Asparagus Runner-up ‘89
  • Brick Road Pizza samples – asparagus pizza
  • Electric Cheetah samples — asparagus bruschetta
  • The Sparrows samples—asparagus crepes
  • Amy Sherman of Slow Food West Michigan samples—asparagus soup
  • The Winchester samples something delectable
  • Art of the Table—store products related to gardening & I heart asparagus “schwag”
  • West Michigan Co-op will promote local farmers
  • Literary Life Bookstore— featuring books on asparagus and local eating
  • Local First – a presence to promote Local First’s foodie members
  • Food for Thought magazine will hand out free copies of its local foodie magazine
  • Asparagus preservation demo by Joy-Elizabeth Lawrence

…and more to come!

Join us – it’s a great way to experience local food & fun & education all at the same time! And supporting the WSBA isn’t a bad idea either!  Hope to see you there!

April 13th, 2009

Inspire me!

Inspire me!

In about a week, I’m taking off for a land I’ve never before visited.  My husband goes rather frequently for work and has thoroughly enjoyed his jaunts to China in the last few years.  He is again going for work and insists that I will love this place too.

After some hesitation over it, I arrived at some ways in which I could use this trip as ‘work’ for me.  Before his work begins, we will be traveling to Hong Kong to experience this ‘foodie’ paradise everyone speaks of.  Then because I can’t resist the experience, we will be going to the Canton Fair, one of the larger housewares shows in the world.

I am not a big fan of the Chinese import stuff, though we do sell some, I’m actually going to experience this show as just that, an experience.  To know what’s out there, how it’s done – because I’m in no position to start buying containers of stuff!  I’ve been there, done that on someone else’s dime!

Further, I’m going to a cooking school while there and learning some Asian cooking techniques.  Apparently this ‘school’ is in a home and taught by a well respected expert in Hutong cuisine.  I can’t wait.  We’ll be going to a market with her and then learning techniques, cooking food and the best part?  Eating it!

Tonight I took a peek at one of the blogs I love to read and it talked about a cookbook we sell entitled the Asian Grill.  I’m pretty excited to start cooking out of it when I come home from China.

Watch my blog over the next couple of weeks, I’m going to keep you posted from China on store happenings AND China!!

A weekend of tastes

March 30th, 2009

The book I used solely

The book I used solely

In my life as a store owner, I’m usually pretty busy – my staff and husband might say that’s an understatement! This weekend was exceptionally busy.  Besides working at the store…

Friday night I had the honor of being the wine pro at a friend’s wine tasting of South American wines.  The hostess bought the wine from the store, made all the food and we paired different Chilean and Argentinian wines.  The favorites?  The Terra Andina Reserve Chardonnay ($12.25) was tops on many palates in the white category, and the Ben Marco Malbec ($23.75) from Mendoza, Argentina displayed beautifully!  If you haven’t tried these two shelf selections, I encourage you to do so!


Saturday night was a charity dinner for eight at our house – an annual event for the highest bidder at our church’s auction.  This year the theme was Italian, therefore my/our job was to create a 7 course meal, pair it with wines and serve it.

Being the kamikaze cook that I am, I pulled Maxine Clark’s Italian Kitchen book from the newest cookbooks at the store and pored over it, selecting every one of my recipes for this dinner from it.  Then in true Amy style, I didn’t test any recipes, yes, I made them all for the first time for the dinner.  It’s interesting the reactions I get from people when I tell them I trust recipes and make them for eight hungry guests without knowing exactly how it will come out.

Somehow this doesn’t scare me much.  I did sort of end up ruining the soup; instead of a creamy spinach, egg & cheese soup, we heated the broth too much and though we were cautious about our addition of the egg, it didn’t work out well.  Yes, it curdled.  In fact, we renamed it Italian Egg Drop Soup.  It didn’t taste bad, it just wasn’t creamy and perfect.

Besides that and the smoking of grill pan of eggplant (loaded with olive oil, lemon & mint) the dinner was awesome and featured the book’s Grandmother Cake for dessert.  Our favorite recipe from the book was entitled “Warm Lentil, Mushroom, Tomato & Arugula Salad”…you should try it with the Maculan Pinot & Toi ($15.50) white wine.

Finally, the winning wine of the night? Il Molino di Grace Chianti Classico 2001, ($28.50) straight from the hills of Tuscany and beautifully aged for the last 8 years!  Steve and I visited the winery last year and their wines are awesome anyway, however, this vintage of this wine – a 2001! – at this moment in time is stunning and perfect.  I didn’t get a chance to sip & enjoy like I should have, so sometime soon I’ll make a point to get another bottle to linger over!


I decided to take a little time to relax on Sunday and I had some other amazing tastes from our friends over at the Electric Cheetah, the soon to open bistro on Wealthy.  Cory, the owner, arranged a 12 hour marathon Puzzle Bee to take place yesterday in order to ‘wallpaper’ the bathroom with various puzzles.  There had to be around 100 puzzlers there throughout the day making puzzles of choice.  I thoroughly enjoyed getting in touch with my puzzling side once again and I enjoyed trying Cory’s creations from the kitchen throughout the day.  My favorite? I give the veggie breakfast burrito two thumbs up!

Always so many great things to taste -


Vanilla Products by Beanilla Trading Co.

March 19th, 2009

Today I started my day at my usual time (early) but instead of the gym, I beautified myself and headed off to work.  Armed with my daily homemade latte, I welcomed Fox17 Live in the store along with the two guys who started a vanilla company locally ~ Beanilla.  Worlds different from Godzilla, Beanilla is run by two GVSU grads and they are, as Tim Doty from Fox 17 said, “Not Old!”  It’s true.  They’re 22 and 26 years old respectively and running a seemingly cool business!beanillalogo

They have located and sucessfully brought forth a line of vanilla beans & other vanilla based goods that are stunning.  Besides four origins of beans, there is sea salt blended with vanilla, vanilla sugar, extract as well as vanilla paste.  They’re plump and smell great – and besides they’re relatively inexpensive beans!

They’re in stock now, check it out…

and watch the webcast of the three live segments from Art of the Table here!

Patricia’s Chocolates strikes again…and again…

February 16th, 2009

So we all know that the holiday that just passed (or passed some of us by) was that one where you either embrace it greatly and celebrate the one you love with all your heart and soul – or you just don’t make a big, hairy deal out of it.  I just try to love my Valentine, Steve, on a daily basis and we forego all the hearts and flowers on the holiday.

This Valentine’s day was a brisk one at the store and I thought I’d muse about a good friend and vendor of ours, Patty because I’m consistently flabbergasted by the deliciousness of her chocolates.  And I’m amazed at the following she – and we – have established in two short years.

Today I’ll call her queen of  local chocolate, because she seems to be!  We sell a smattering of Patricia’s Chocolate every day of the year, yet when it comes to holiday weeks, especially Valentines Day, we sell loads.  And I’m talking about days like this past Saturday when we sold over 500 pieces of her chocolate!

Here’s part of the reason why we had so many people again this week – many “new” Patricia’s Chocolates converts were won over by articles and local press about town all last week!  Just look at who picked her up – it’s serious!

Food for Thought magazine (her article is not yet online, only in print – FREE copies around town including here!),

I wrote a Rapid Growth article about her,

Fox 17 went to her chocolate kitchen LIVE Thursday morning,

and Jaye Beeler of the Grand Rapids Press managed to squeeze in an online article too!

As if this kind of local press isn’t enough, Patty was also featured on an website called The Nibble that did a feature article on artisan chocolatiers across the nation!  We keep telling Patty that pretty soon she won’t even remember us she’ll be so famous!

Congrats to Patty and her growing business.  We’re proud to be partners with her!  And if you haven’t tried Patricia’s Chocolates yet, you just might want to do that!  I’m heading out for a bite of my new favorite, the Lemon Cardamom right now!

exotic spice

exotic spice

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