The Simple Meal Is a-Plenty

by Alifair Skebe

What do the Quebequoise poutine, chili cheese fries, and Albany’s Bomber’s “piggy fries” have in common?

Each boasts a gravy, a meat, and a cheese drenched over french-fried potatoes. Reach a fork into the mix to pull out a potato and a string of cheese clinging to the plate. The softened potato naturally pairs with a hot melted cheese and meat sauce. This is the beauty of such a meal. It’s so simple yet offers the flexibility of a variety of ingredients in each category. Which gravy? which meat? and which cheese?

The Quebequois have made an art of creating satisfying answers to these questions. Poutine is a national dish originating in the Quebec province of Chicoutimi in the 19th Century. And yes, Quebec takes the invention very seriously. There is an entire website devoted to the poutine: check out Poutineries can be found in every province with long menus of multiple combinations of cheese, meat, and gravy that comprise the dish, and fine restaurants feature their own exquisite variations. Eric and I discovered the wonders of the poutine in May 2010 in Montreal while looking for after-hours eats. We wandered into La Banquise to find what some consider the best poutinerie or the most “overrated” in Montreal. Suffice to say, we were hooked!

Montreal's Poutinerie La Banquise

Montreal’s Poutinerie La Banquise

Back in Albany, only four hours away from Montreal, the closest pub snack we could find to the poutine was Bomber’s “Piggy Fries,” which is a load of pulled pork, BBQ sauce and melted cheddar cheese over french fried potatoes. When Capital City Gastropub opened in our neighborhood, we were stunned by and quite happy with its “finer” version of the poutine drenched in duck gravy. Now the Gastropub features a number of poutines: one with mushrooms and another with foie gras! Check out their fall menu here.

Of course, we also like to make poutine fresh at home with our choice of yummy cheese and potatoes.

We at The Cheese Traveler have created a close second to the poutine: boiled and baked potatoes to cut down on the artery-clogging shot of cheese-meat-gravy and fried carcinogen.

So here ’tis:

Adirondack Blue Potatoes sprinkled in Challerhocker and a pat of Butter.

Challerhocker (which lingers around the cheese cave) is a flavorful addition to these boiled and baked potatoes.

Challerhocker (which translates as “one who lingers around the cheese cave”) is a flavorful addition to these boiled and baked potatoes.


10 small heritage Adirondack blue potatoes (thank you Farmer Jon and DJ Stacey!)
1 small onion
1/2 cup fresh parsley
2 cloves garlic
1/2 cup Challerhocker grated (or substitute any one of our good-melting Alpine cheeses)
A pat of butter
Salt and pepper to taste


Boil potatoes in salt. When soft, drain the potato broth to be used in any number of other dishes as a starchy stock for soups.

Mixing up the ingredients.

Mixing up the ingredients.

Place boiled potatoes on a flat baking pan or a big steel bowl as shown here. Mix them with other ingredients.

Putting the potatoes in the oven to melt the cheese...also making toasts from All Good Bakers rye bread. Very yummy together!

Putting the potatoes in the oven to melt the cheese…also making toasts from All Good Bakers rye bread. Very yummy together!

Bake for thirty minutes in a 350 degree oven or until all cheese is beautifully melted over the potatoes. Feel free to turn them once or twice to keep the potatoes coated in butter and cheese.

Squashing the mid-Fall Blues

by Alifair Skebe

Fall is squash season. Butternut, pie pumpkin, cheese pumpkin, acorn, delicata.

What better way to warm the heart and pique the senses than a warm bowl of squash soup? To roast the squash, add lentils, and sprinkle with a nicely aged Sheep’s Milk Cheese!

Hearty Butternut Squash and Lentil Soup

One cooked and pureed small Butternut squash

1 1/2 cup Green French lentils

2-3 cups Vegetable stock (potato stock makes a thicker broth)

1/2 Medium Onion


3 cloves Garlic

1/2 cup Fresh parsley

Salt to taste

1 1/2 tsp Paprika

Dash of Chili Powder

1 tbsp rendered pork fat (or butter or olive oil)

1 cup Hard Italian or Spanish sheep’s milk cheese, grated

Mix all ingredients (except the cheese) and simmer on low, covered for 45 minutes to an hour. Sprinkle grated cheese in last and cook until melted. Add freshly grated cheese on top to taste.

Our Grand Opening Is Shaping up to Be a Showstopper

Updated 11.15.2012

Are you ready?

Mark your calendars.

The Cheese Traveler and Tilldale Farm are partnering to bring to you a fantastic lineup of events.

Sunday, November 18, 2012 from 1-6 pm at 540 Delaware Avenue in Albany.

Details are in the works…menu to come…

Here’s a teaser:

1-2 pm “The Tastes of The Capital Region” a cooking demo and tastings by the Chef’s Consortium. Chefs Michael Lapi and Josh Coletto will cook up some seasonal tastes.

2-3 pm “Meet the Cheesemaker” Consider Bardwell Farm of West Pawlett, VT will host a cheese demonstration. The Cheese Traveler will sample from its stock of over 100 cheeses in the cheese case. Consider Bardwell’s cheeses are international award-winners, taking ribbons at the American Cheese Society and World Cheese Championships in the last four years. Their animals rotationally graze on organic pastures to produce the sweetest milk and the tastiest cheese. Their raw milk cheese is antibiotic and hormone free, and nutritionally complete. Rick Reis and Josh Moskowitz of From the Heartland will play.

3-4 pm “Literary Delights and Teatime” featuring readings by local authors Daniel Nestor, Writer, Professor and Director of the MFA program in Creative Writing at the College of Saint Rose, and comedic author of How to Be Inappropriate; Matthew Klane, poet and editor of Flim Forum Press; Alan Casline, poet and director of Rootdrinker Institute; and Mimi Moriarty, poet. Coffee, tea, and pastries catered by All Good Bakers.

4-6 pm “The Heart and Meat of It” Tasting a delectable medley of Fall dishes by Tilldale Farm and MINGLE; acoustic sounds by Mike Grosshandler, guitarist of The Velmas and voted “Best Solo Musician” by Metroland readers, and Tor and the Fjords, finalist for Hudson Valley Songfest’s “Best New Artist” and headliner for the Capital Area Indie Fest 2012.

Why we do not sing for our supper…or how to properly enjoy Greek cheeses

by Alifair Skebe

From Aesop’s Fables

At least two questions arise in this story:

1) the cheese: exactly what did he steal?

2) the moral: why did he let the prize go?

The first of the two questions is easily answered by “any cheese available” to the Grecian bird: feta, kasseri, manouri, kefalogravieria, tiri, anthotiros, graveia, formeilla parnassos, and mizithra to name a few. Or saganaki, but not fried, so as to burn his beak! Traditional to the region are sheep and goat’s milk cheeses aged in brine, salt, or oil.

The second of the two questions is perhaps harder to answer, but as we have seen at the farmer’s market, perhaps not so. Cheese has an unmistakeable aroma, indulgent to the senses and pervasive for yards or metres. Humans, like the fox, are drawn to its smell, and individuals arrive by their noses to exclaim, “I love cheese!” The crow is like the cheesemonger, willing to part with the prize for an opportunity to sing his song.

A lovely cheesemonger interpretation of the fable:


A PBS storybook version in color in pdf file: