Seasons of Wisconsin Cheese: Winter

Winter calls for comfort foods like rich cheeses that pair well with seasonal accompaniments and an after dinner nightcap. To mark the first day of winter, the Wisconsin Milk Marketing Board wants to help you build the perfect winter cheeseboard.

Step 1:
Start with a 5-year-aged Wisconsin cheddar. Not only is this cheese complementary to most accompaniments, it also goes great alongside a glass of warming scotch or brandy.

Step 2:
Add a hard cheese like Wisconsin Parmesan, for its granular texture and salty taste. Pair it with cranberry-orange compote, fresh pomegranate seeds or grapes to balance the saltiness with sweet flavors.


Step: 3
Creamy, soft-ripened cheese, like Wisconsin brie is also a great winter selection because it’s buttery and earthy with a touch of sweetness. Brie is also great for pairing with savory items like salami or with sweet items like sugared cranberries.

Step 4:
Round out your winter cheese sections with a semi-hard variety, such as Wisconsin edam. Nutty and buttery in taste, edam is mild enough for all palates. Pair it with a more flavorful accompaniment, like a panforte made with dried fruits, nuts and spices.

For more inspiration visit Wisconsin Cheese Foodservice.

Want to learn more about cheese pairings? The Wisconsin Milk Marketing Board will be at ChefConnect: Chicago and ChefConnect: NYC to do a tasting with Wisconsin Cheddar and Kentucky bourbon.

Register now to reserve your spot!


The Greatest Soup In The World

By Ana Kinkaid

How does a soup gain such acclaim that the likes of Craig Claiborne declare it to be the most elegant and delicious soup ever created?


If the soup is France’s beloved Billi Bi Soup, also known as Cream of of Mussel Soup, the tale of its unique creation and enduring fame involves American millionaires, Greek princesses, racing boats and, of course, legendary chefs.

The story of Billi Bi Soup began in ancient Brittany where the residents of coastal towns have for centuries harvested big, beautiful mussels from the sea. They added these mussels to a variety of their regional dishes, all hardy and savory, but certainly not haute cuisine.


Centuries passed. By the beginning of the early 1900s, France had gained fame as the culinary capital of the world and America as a leading industrial power. One nation offered elegance and style; the other offered wealth and an interest in all things new.

It was at this time that the American millionaire William B. Leeds, Sr., journeyed to France. He had risen from a humble florist to the man who cornered the lucrative tin plate market. He sold his metal company to U.S. Steel in 1901. On his death in 1908 his wealth was valued at over $900 million in today’s dollars.


Obviously such vast wealth enabled him to travel frequently to Europe and especially to Paris, a city he adored. He was known to dine nightly at Maxim’s with his beautiful second wife, Nonnie May Stewart Worthington, who after his death became by marriage a Greek princess.

This is also the period when the famed chef Louis Barthe of Ciro’s in Deauville, Normandy, came to Maxim’s as chef. He brought with him, of course, his favorite recipes including a recipe for Cream of Mussel Soup.


In Normandy, where mussels were so plentiful they cost nearly nothing, the practice had been to steam the mussels with herbs and use only the resulting broth as the main ingredient to blend later with cream. In other words, a soup that captured the flavor of mussels without the mussel meat actually being in the final dish!

This is the reason that two variations of Billi Bi can often be found in recipe books–one with mussel meats included and one without. In Paris, and later in countless kitchens around the world, chefs added the mussel meat to the dish as it seemed foolish to discard such a flavorful and colorful ingredient.


Chef Barthe’s Cream of Mussel Soup soon became such a favorite of William B. Leeds, Sr., that it was kept permanently on the menu at Maxim’s. Sadly Billy, as his friends called him, died in 1908 of a stroke at the Hotel Ritz in Paris. He left behind his saddened wife and a son, also named William.

William B. Leeds, Jr., was at that time the richest child in the world. Later, at the age of 18, he would also marry aGreek princess and gain worldwide fame as a hunter and yachtsman. Like his father, he would call both Europe and America home–especially Paris and Maxim’s during the early days of the roaring 1920s.


Tradition at Maxim’s relates that the soup was named for William B. Leeds, but whether it was named for the father or for the son may never be known. The name fits them both, for each was known as “Billy” to associates and friends who were forever saying “bye” to this pair of international travelers.

Billy Jr. was in fact such a traveler he flew planes trans-Atlantic and raced speed boats so fast he managed to make even the adventurous Ernest Hemingway regret traveling with him. His unending need for speed and action finally came to an end as the Great Depression and World War II collapsed fortunes and changed both America and Europe forever.

It was Craig Claiborne, the food editor of The New York Times, who rediscovered Billi Bi Soup and published a recipe for it in his first 1961 edition of The New York Times Cookbook.  It was an instant success. Over the years he refined the recipe working with his longtime collaborator Pierre Franey.

Today Billi Bi is a classic soup clearly worthy of the holidays–easy to make yet utterly unforgettable once tasted.

Billi Bi Soup

Adapted from the Craig Claiborne’s Classic Billi Bi


2 lbs Taylor Shellfish Mediterranean Mussels, scrubbed

2 shallots, peeled and coarsely chopped

2 small white onions, peeled and quartered

2 sprigs parsley, plus chopped parsley for garnish

Salt and Pepper, to taste

Pinch of cayenne pepper

1 c. dry white wine (such as Sauvignon Blanc)

2 T. unsalted butter, cubed

1 bay leaf

2 sprigs fresh thyme

2 c. heavy rich cream

1 egg yolk, lightly beaten


De-beard the mussels just before cooking

Place mussels in Dutch oven that has a cover.

Add shallots, onions, parsley, salt, pepper, cayenne, wine, butter, bay leaf and thyme.

Cover and bring to a boil over medium heat.

Reduce heat and simmer 8 to 10 minutes, or until mussels have opened.

Discard any that have not opened.

Strain liquid through a colander lined with cheesecloth and reserve; this is the base for the soup.

When cool enough to handle, remove mussels from shells and reserve.

Discard shells and aromatics.

Bring reserved liquid to a low boil in a small saucepan.

Add cream and return mixture almost to a boil.

Remove from heat.

Cool slightly.

Add egg yolk and stir to combine.

Return saucepan to heat and let thicken slightly. (Do not boil.)

Adjust seasoning to taste.

Arrange mussels in center of large soup dishes and spoon liquid over them.

Sprinkle with chopped fresh parsley.

Ana Kinkaid brings 25 years’ experience in the hospitality industry to her writing. As a world traveler, nothing delights her more than discovering an innovative restaurant or a unique ingredient.  Ana is a consultant to leading food companies and also speaks at major culinary conferences, often linking past culinary traditions to current and future trends. Her areas of expertise include culinary history, ethnic foods, terroir, wines and cocktails, as well as sustainable development within the food industry.




More Than Just a Dessert

By Stephanie L. Charns, CSCE

Late autumn is such a beautiful time of year. From the toasty smell of a festive bonfire to the crunching sound made from freshly fallen leaves, I find nature’s beauty inspirational when creating a dessert. Toasting a freshly made marshmallow that rests atop a chocolate ganache tartlet sprinkled with bits of crispy bacon brings the dessert alive. Capturing the true feeling of the season in a dessert is a fun challenge for me.

As coffee shops are busy making pumpkin lattes, there are many other delicious fall items that can be taken advantage of as well. Sweet potatoes, butternut squash and beets work well in the bakeshop. Sweet potato biscuits with fresh made butter and local honey, butternut squash gelato on a warm walnut tart and chocolate beet cake are desserts I truly enjoy making this time of year. One of my all-time favorite fall desserts is gingerbread. Apples, pears and caramel are wonderful complements to this spicy cake.

Richmond, Virginia, is an area that is increasingly becoming more food aware, which makes the farmers’ markets bountiful as well as beautiful. Such organizations as Slow Food RVA bring awareness to the value of eating local. Richmond is surrounded by a beautiful countryside filled with farms, wineries and breweries–a region that truly inspires creative desserts. I enjoy the opportunity to talk with the person who is fastidiously raising the food I will use to create a work of art on a plate.


With each dessert, I strive to source the majority of ingredients from local farms and mills. For example, there is a flour mill just outside of Richmond that produces wonderful flours. I use milk and cream from local farmers to create fresh-made butter and yogurt. Many of the ingredients used in the bakeshop cannot, unfortunately, be sourced locally, therefore I attempt to purchase these items from sustainable companies. Sourcing quality ingredients helps me to shape the dessert itself.

As I sketch the dessert, the voice of my pastry instructor resonates in my head to keep the design simple while allowing the complexity of the flavors to shine. Additionally, I reflect on the aesthetic nature of the composed dish: Will the guest find this pleasing to the eye? I look to nature to help with this composition–colors, flavors, aromas and sounds are all factors. I try to incorporate all these elements on the plate. Each season brings fresh colors, flavors and ideas.

Gingerbread Cake
Yield: 1 half hotel pan (for a slightly thicker slice) or 2 half sheet trays (for a thin slice)
Oven: 350°F conventional

18 fl oz local bourbon barrel or chocolate stout beer
1/2 T. baking soda
16 oz blackstrap unsulphured molasses
16 oz dark brown sugar
5.25 oz granulated sugar
22.5 oz all purpose flour, unbleached
1.5 oz ground roasted ginger
1/2 T. baking powder (aluminum free)
1/2 T. fine sea salt
2 t. cinnamon
3/4 t. ground five-pepper blend*
6 eggs
8 fl oz olive oil
.5 oz fresh ginger, grated

*In this gingerbread recipe, I use a spice grinder to blend equal parts black peppercorns, white peppercorns, pink peppercorns, green peppercorns and whole Jamaican allspice to create a five-pepper blend.


1. Preheat oven to 350°F.

2. Line hotel pan or sheet tray with parchment paper and spray sides of with baking spray.

3. In a stainless steel pot, bring beer to a boil.

4. Once boiling, add the baking soda.

5. Let the foaming stop and add molasses, brown sugar and granulated sugar. Mix until
sugars have dissolved.

6. Pour mixture into a mixing bowl. Add dry ingredients and mix until combined.

7. Add eggs, olive oil and fresh ginger. Mix until well combined.

8. Transfer batter into prepared pan (line with parchment paper and spray sides of pan with baking spray).

9. Bake until cake is slightly springy but firm to the touch.

Have a pastry question for Stephanie? Leave it in the comments below!

A former pastry chef for the governor of Virginia, Stephanie is a culinary/pastry instructor and works as a freelance pastry chef in Richmond, Virginia and Raleigh, North Carolina.





Clean as you Go

By Costa Magoulas, CEC, CCE, CCA, AAC

Being a chef can sometimes be very stressful, not at work, but at home. All the things I have been trained to do to become a chef work great in a commercial kitchen; however, when I get home and have to cook or watch the rest of the family work in the kitchen, everything is upside down. Now I am not picking on my…well…maybe I am.

I’m used to a place for everything and everything in its place. Is that too much to ask for?  I would like to find the sauté pans where all the pans are stored, not with all the cake pans and flour. Maybe that’s the problem. In my house, everything is stored in any space that is empty at the time. I call it “Musical Storage.” Sound familiar? I have a small, two shelf portable cart that I use to take to the car and unload groceries. My family has converted it into a permanent cart with everything you don’t want to put away. Holiday decorations, cat food, old newspapers, tools, anything and everything. It’s like the Bermuda Triangle of kitchen utensils–I think it has its own magnetic pull.  I called NASA and they verified the phenomenon. They are studying kitchens throughout Florida to see if it is related. They have found floating utensils in the waters off the Bahamas.

But my all-time, number-one most irritating kitchen stress that drives me absolutely crazy is dirty dishes in the sink. I believe the world is divided into two groups: people who leave dirty dishes in the sink to wash later and those who clean as the go and put them away. Go ahead, raise your hands sink polluters, I know you’re out there! Please, please, someone please tell me why.

In my household, which is probably similar to many, there is a dishwasher next to the sink. Let me see, rinse off the plate and put it in the dishwasher, or stack the plates in the sink until there is no room left in the sink–then move to the dishwasher. Sometimes I can’t wait to go back to work where there is order, everything in its place and no dirty dishes in the sink. I think my wife wishes I would spend more time at work as well.

So enough about that, let’s talk about food. How about a great salad with homemade Caesar Dressing with fresh ingredients?  You’ll love it. I like to mix hearts of romaine lettuce, a little arugula, cherry tomatoes and sliced red onions together.

Chef Costa’s Fresh Caesar Dressing Recipe

1 T. fresh garlic chopped

4 T. pasteurized egg yolk

4 oz parmesan cheese

2 oz balsamic vinegar

2 oz red wine vinegar

1 T. whole grain mustard

1 oz anchovy filet

1 T. salt

1 T.fine ground pepper

12 oz vegetable oil

12 oz extra virgin olive oil

In a food processor combine all ingredients, except the oils. Drizzle oil in slowly to form emulsion (creamy texture). Makes 2 quarts. Keep refrigerated.

Got a food subject you want Costa to write about? Leave it in the comments below and he’ll see what he can do!

costa-magoulas-054242Costa Magoulas, MHA, CEC, CCE, CCA, AAC, has been happily married for 38 years and is the father of four children. Chef Magoulas has spent the last 50 years in the hospitality culinary profession in various positions, such as director of a culinary training school for a top 400 company and coordinator of culinary operations for Volusia County School District.  At age 68, he went back to school and earned his Master in Hospitality Management from University of Nevada, Las Vegas. Upon completion of his master’s work, he become an instructor at Daytona State College and was later promoted to Dean of the School of Hospitality and Culinary Management.

Cold Noodles for Hot Days

Call it ramen 2.0, or perhaps a limited summer edition of everyone’s favorite noodle. Chilled ramen dishes are nearly as abundant and diverse as hot renditions, but are overwhelmingly underrated, uncelebrated and overlooked, in favor of more familiar preparations. Not all soups must emerge from the kitchen with a plume of steam, nor gently charred and still radiating heat.

Read more Cold Noodles For Hot Days — via BitterSweet