Oct 11

Scottsdale Mac & Cheese Throwdown 2011

Smart Kitchen's Peking Mac & Cheese

The second annual Mac & Cheese Throwdown was a lot of fun. Great people and great food.  We were pretty happy with the showing of our Peking Mac & Cheese made with Beehive Cheese’s Barely Buzzed Cheese and Promontory Cheese, accompanied by Green Onion, Pancetta and Peking Duck Skin. If you want to make the Smart Kitchen Competition Mac & Cheese our recipe is up in the recipe section of Smart Kitchen.



Susie Timm and Mark Lynch

Susie Timm & Mark Lynch at the Door of the Sold Out Event.

Sean Currid the Returning Champ

Sean's Lobster Mac & Cheese Food Modeling


The event was held for fun and to support the American Cheese Society and their mission of educating the public about great domestic cheeses. The American Cheese Society was a sponsor too. Other sponsors included: Cheese Chick Productions, Diya Marketing, Girl Meets Fork, Rogue CreameryBeehive CheeseBeecher’s Handmade CheeseBellwether CheeseCabot CreameryRothkase Cheese, and Cypress Grove Chevre.

Eric O'Neill @ the Smart Kitchen Booth

The competitors were: Joel La Tondress, Hotdish INC, Eric O’Neill, SmartKitchen.com, Mike Bouwens, 5th and Wine, Kevin Wemlinger, Fleming’s Prime Steakhouse, Tony Morales, Desert Smoke BBQ, Sean Currid, Cafe ZuZu at Hotel Valley Ho, and Trisha Steadman, Sugar Shack.

The Mac & Cheese 2011 Contestants (and the crowd)

Everyone had so much fun, it felt like just a few minutes before the winners were announced.

Susie T, Kirti D & Christing H Announce the Winners

The results were that the champ, Sean Currid, was overturned. Congratulations to Mike Bouwens of 5th &  Wine who took top honors. Sean Currid of the Hotel Valley Ho & Cafe ZuZu may have to hot rod that terrific lobster mac & cheese for next year. Smart Kitchen did not win first prize but we did get a number of votes in the people’s choice category and some good points in the judging.

And Aletha M, won a free month of Smart Kitchen in our on-site drawing. Congratulations to her.

See you next at the Perfect Turkey on November 9th.

Happy Cooking!

P Chef

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Feb 11

Pomo Pizzeria Napoletana

Don Alfonso Pizza from Pomo

The Quatro Stagioni

We have been hearing the buzz about Pomo for months now but have not been able to visit and sample the Verache Pizza Napoletana because Mrs. P Chef has been on a Gluten-Free diet for 4 months now (as a way to try and combat headaches). She unreasonably requests that we eat at places where she can find a filling, satisfying Gluten-Free Meal.

She even phoned Pomo in advance in December 2010 to see if they had any Gluten Free Pizzas, but being true to the ancient traditions requires gluten in the pizza dough. I am a lover of tradition as you can tell from the posts about what James Madison or Thomas Jefferson ate here or there and was dying to try authentic Neopolitan pizza. I am not against modern items either, in general if it is good, I like it, but there is a special place in my heart for the foods of our ancestors.

Perhaps Mrs. P Chef’s headaches stem from an insistent husband but she gamely tagged along (as did our friends Steve and Debbie). Mrs. P Chef had a nice salad, which is pictured below. I had the Buffala D.O.P. and was very impressed with the lightness, and crunch. The San Marzano D.O.P tomato sauce was excellent as was the signature buffala (buffalo) mozarella. The price is not light, $13-$17 for our pizzas but as experience, or an outing we thought it was worth it and will go back.

Buffala DOP Pizza

The Buffala DOP Pizza at Pomo

Before you go crazy asking yourself about the D.O.P., let me explain. D.O.P. stands for Denomination of Protected Origin in Italy. Did that help? Maybe not. In English we might call it a Protected Denomination of Origin, which means that the product so designated is made, processed and produced in a specific geographic area that has been thoroughly surveyed and certified. The reason for the claim is that certain regions claim to produce superior product by virtue of the land/climate. Think of Champagne, the most famous case. If that sparkling wine is not produced in the Champagne it is technically not allowed to use the name.  A similar term is Protected Geographic Indication, which means that at least one stage of the production of the product occured in the designated region.  So why does all that matter?

Buffala Mozarella from Pomo

A Gluten Free Side Dish Ordered for Mrs. P Chef

Come try Pomo Pizzeria Napoletana and find out for yourself. The Italian Buffala makes a difference, as do the San Marzano Tomatoes which are a good reason they named the joint Pomo (tomato in Italian).

The Parma Pizza

Mrs. P Chef's Gluten Free Roma Salad

They don’t have a Caesar’s Salad at Pomo but the Caesar substitute is the Roma Salad which Mrs. P Chef enjoyed. I hope she liked it enough to go back. If not the desserts, might be a draw.

Croccante alla Crema

The Croccante Alla Crema

The Croccante is a mixed nut basket, filled with mascarpone cream and topped with fresh seasonal fruit. 


Semifreddo Di Mandorle

The dessert above is the semifreddo di mandorle, which means semi cold in Italian but I have to admit I ordered it because I have always wanted to try the dish that is inexplicably linked up with the Godfather Series in my brain. The semifreddo is a traditional Italian dessert which is a very light cold mousse topped with amaretto cookies. I enjoyed mine but mostly from the place of being food curios. On my next visit I may be enjoying the Tiramisu.

Lastly, if you can’t visit in person, you might get a kick out of the History of the Pizza that Pomo has on their web site.

'Pomo Pizzeria Napoletana on Urbanspoon

May 10

Blue Veined Cheese by Blue Bloods

Sign for Maytag Dairy Farm Newton Iowa 

I use the Summer Food Drive as an opportunity to visit those places I’ve heard about for years and need to see/try for myself. When I was a kid you could not get me past the Kraft singles and near that weird stinky stuff the “grown-ups” ate while drinking “silly juice.” Over time the odd Fontina, Swiss or Cheddar was added to my repertoire. That summer after college was my first exposure to the real mature European cheeses. A traveling buddy used the ripest smelling varieties he could find as complements to our train compartment meals; to enjoy and to chase off other passengers with the strong cheesy smell so we could stretch out and “sleep for free” on the naugahyde vinyl compartment benches. It was a backwards introduction to a great food product, but it was an introduction.

Maytag Blue Cheese

Maytag Blue Cheese by the Original 1941 Recipe

As I’ve aged, I’ve become a fan of the artistry complexity/simplicity and patience involved in making (and eating) mature (in most senses of the word) cheeses. So while researching the Summer Food Drive ‘10, where I’d wanted to visit some farms raising heritage breeds (and did), I changed tacks and recalled that I’d always loved the blue cheese, but most especially the “Maytag” blue cheese. That researching phase was the opportunity to delve into Maytag cheese. Is it a style? Is it a brand? Where the heck did it come from? What made it so sought after and special?

So loaded with a large, multi-day, ice chest I deviated from I-44, the shortest distance between Pittsburg, Kansas (Chicken Annie’s Versus Chicken Mary’s) and St. Louis, Mo (Pappy’s BBQ and Iron Barley [track back]) to head 300 miles north across rural Kansas and Iowa to seek out Blue Cheese.  Going out of my way is part of what makes the Summer Food Drive so much fun. I’ve seen, as we all have, a lot of office buildings, strip centers and Wal-Marts. I have not seen as many farmers, prairie roadside stands, and old town squares. When there is a worthy goal, to mix metaphors, at the end of the rainbow, the excursion is that much better. The only drawback might have been my rule about only eating at my planned stops. Almost 700 miles would be a long way to go just subsisting on some fancy cheese. I should not have worried.

Idyllic Maytag Dairy Farm Newton Iowa

It Looks Pretty Perfect From Here

Newton, IA about 30 miles east of Des Moines is, to a passing visitor as idyllic a town as you can find. It almost brought a tear to my eye to drive down the small rural lane heading from town to the farm and see the old farmers and their wives, laying wreaths and flags at their town cemetery for the upcoming Memorial Day. This town had served and still cared. Add in the fact that they have one of the most fabulous fancy fromage farms in the country and forget about it.

Rising early, I headed over to the Maytag Farm to meet Myrna Ver Ploeg, Maytag Dairy’s welcoming and energetic president.

Myrna Ver Ploeg

Myrna Ver Ploeg President Maytag Dairy

Here is what I learned. Maytag is owned by the same Maytag family that started with washers and dryers in 1893 also in Newton. Apparently, Fredrick Maytag’s son, E. H. (Elmer Henry) Maytag was not into the corporate white goods thing. He was more interested in finance and in dabbling in a rural, bucolic life. He used his wealth to build a prize winning herd of Holstein cattle on a picture book farm just north of Newton. And the story would have ended there, an apple falling on the other side of the tree, if he had not willed the dairy farm to his sons.

On E.H.’s death, his sons Frederick Maytag II and Robert Maytag inherited a dairy farm and prize winning herd of Holsteins.  What were they to do with it? They’d been to Europe and savored Roquefort Cheese (sheep milk blue cheese from France) and knew no one was making anything like it in the United States at the time (1940). As luck would have it, agricultural scientists Clarence Lane and Bernard Hammer at Iowa State University in Ames, IA just 50 miles away had just invented (1938) a process to make blue cheese from high quality cow’s milk.  The process and the dairy were united and luckily for all of us Maytag Blue Cheese was born on October 11, 1941.

Maytag Blue Cheese starts out as homogenized (separated but not pasteurized) milk that is ripened before receiving a dose of rennet (a coagulating enzyme) to create the curds and whey. The whole concoction is allowed to cook in the hot whey and then drained. Penicillium fungi, which give the cheese it’s characteristic blue/green colored veins, are then added to the finished product.

The cheese rounds are formed by hand and then aged in specially designed caves that have high humidity and cool temperatures. Today, the company still makes cheese the same way as they first did in 1941. Biting into one of their wedges is like eating a bit of flavorful history.

The Maytag family still owns the company (and Anchor Steam Brewing) and sells the product from an office/packaging/warehouse space overlooking the dairy.

Inspection Maytag Cheese

Inspecting and Packing Maytag Cheeses

Packing Maytag Cheeses

Packing Maytag Cheese for the World by Hand

Luckily for my hunger pangs, there is a gift shop that sells product right on site. You can visit to get yours or more easily order via the Internet.

Maytag Blue Cheese, Newton, IA


2282 E 8th St N

Newton, IA 50208-8775

(641) 792-1133