Getting “In Tents” with Comte

! FR-2011

Fall is the season for bold and hearty flavors, rich and soul satisfying food, and my favorite activity… camping. Ninth Street linguistics expert Mark Bomalaski and I set off for roughneck adventure along the Pine Creek in northwest Pennsylvania, hiking and fishing for three days and two nights. Between the two of us, we have a collective year of experience sleeping under the stars, not bad for city kids.

A few days before we left, a big beautiful wheel of Comte Marcel Petite rolled into the shop and I instantly knew what cheese would be my real, however temporary, “desert island” cheese. Comte is Gruyere, made by the French, and Marcel Petite is our favorite Gruyere. It has long grassy, meaty flavors and is matched well by its semi-firm texture. This is a cheese you want a nice slab of, so you can just take a big bite out of it. As a snack cheese it’s like biting into cheese fudge and when grated, melts like a dream. Because of the hefty size of the wheel, up to eighty pounds, the cheese develops an overripe ring; much like a cream line on a soft cheese. This is a best part, the twilight spot, where the young inner core and sour rind meet. By tasting this you can really get to know the true taste of that particular cheese.

Even though cheese provides everything a body needs except carbohydrates and vitamin C, I decided to exploit how nonperishable the products we sell really are. The entire point of making cheese and curing meat was to have food available when fresh milk or meat was not. I knew a short camping trip in cool weather was nothing to worry about for these durable, life-sustaining delights. We brought bacon, cheese, dried meat and fruit, nuts, chocolate, coffee and I snuck in two dry aged T-bones to celebrate the occasion.

Mark and I like to eat and we were not afraid to improvise in the wild. The menu over the weekend included campfire Surf and turf; dry aged stake roasted over an open fire, wild brown trout from the nearby stream, caught by yours truly with sides of veggies and the amazing and particularly perfectly pared cheese, Comte Marcel Petite. For dessert, a thick chunk of Felino Salami with Torrone and marshmallows toasted over the fire.

Although these foods originally had been intended only for substitutes for more perishable foods, they became the note of culinary excellence by which Mark and I could really kick back and enjoy our weekend in the woods.

After a quick stop at a local farm, where we picked up fresh apples and ripe pumpkins to carve, we ended the trip at Cabela’s, to treat ourselves to some new camping cook wear for our next adventure. Walking into the gigantic front door, I felt a sensation of excitement. The same feeling that I know ever customer breathes in each time they walk into our shop at 9th street; knowing they are about to have a memorable and extremely tasty experience! A fitting end to a great and well-needed vacation with good friends, good food and of course, the occasional risk of bear attack.