Cream Cheese Bonanza! In an Array of Flavors

creamcheese06I eat cream cheese every day. “Bland,” some call it. Well, that’s my last name, so no wonder I enjoy this cheese so much—in all its configurations, ranging from cheesecake to cheeseballs to fried jalapeño poppers. Over the past few years, Kraft Philadelphia has come out with some interesting flavored cheeses, including reduced fat and fat free options.

I was recently appointed to cream cheese and bagel set-up for the weekday minyan Torah services. The rabbi wanted something more interesting than just plain cream cheese and gave me a modest budget. I ended up going for the usual cream cheese (whipped Temp Tee seems to be a favorite) plus some flavored cheeses and a creamy chèvre.


Rabbi Benzaquen chatting with the early morning minyan crew over cream cheese, bagels, and lox spread.

I got very serious about this. I love all cheeses and love when people love cheese.

The first week I tried out the Philadelphia Roasted Pecan and Sweet Honey in a tub. This cheese disappeared in moments – and even on Everything bagels. People ate this up. Also popular the next week was Pineapple. I have several others waiting in the wings.

I love the milky, slightly tangy – and very comforting – flavor of the cream cheese combined with different ingredients. The sweet ones are like ice cream; you can eat them with a spoon.

creamcheesegroup57Check out the flavored cheeses on your shelf, or create your own! Cream cheese is pliable and neutral enough to host a variety of whims.

Philadelpha is OK-D. Temp Tee is OU-D. Both are cholov stam. J &J brand is cholov yisroel and comes in several formats, including a vegetable cheese with celery, carrots and scallions.

Here is a Jewish dairy joke that my rabbi told at minyan:

A landsman from the city goes to visit his fellow landsman in the country to check out his new barn.

“I’ve got a cross between a Guernsey and a Holstein,” the farmer said. “I call it a ‘Goldstein’.”

The city landsman replies, “What? So does it give sour milk?”

“No. Instead of going ‘Moo’ it goes ‘Nu’!”


Elizabeth Bland, The Cheese Mistress

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Cream Cheese Tells a Story

Breakstone box

An antique cream cheese block. These can be found for sale on the internet or in antique shops.

Cream cheese is one of the simplest of cheeses, but with a complex history. Born of a 19th century American craving for rich “French” style cheeses, the not-so-humble cream cheese became embedded in mainstream American and Jewish culture. Jews played a sizable role in the manufacture and distribution of cream cheese; Jewish peddlers, grocery owners, and dairymen brought cream cheese to the public. Joseph and Isaac Breakstone (originally Bregstein) were Lithuanian Jewish immigrants who opened a dairy store first in 1882 on New York’s Lower East Side.

Cream cheese is an offspring of the lighter Neufchâtel from France. In 1872, William A. Lawrence of New York created cream cheese by adding heavy cream to the Neufchâtel recipe.


Philadelphia – once the hub of cream cheese trade

Many cheese lovers associate cream cheese with the city of Philadelphia. However, Philadelphia is not the home of production, just sales. Farmers brought cheeses to Philadelphia, and consumers traveled there to purchase. Eventually a brand emerged, named for the city, though there were many competing brands at the time

Besides being involved in some of the original production and distribution of cream cheeses, where do Jews come into the picture? Contrary to popular belief, the Jewish “holy trinity” of bagels, lox, and cream cheese did not originate in Eastern Europe. lox23The combination evolved over the years. Immigrant Jews were schmearing butter on dark or rye bread. They also enjoyed smoked fish, usually whitefish. But with the advent of Pacific salmon fishing and purveyance, Jews began to incorporate smoked or salty salmon into their repertoire. And they replaced the butter with cheese, the bread with bagels.

For more information on the fascinating history of cream cheese, consult the writings of the late Jewish food historian and writer Gil Marks (z”tl) and Jeffrey Marx, a Reform rabbi in Santa Monica, who is now acclaimed as the world’s premier authority on cream cheese history. I attended his presentation on cream cheese history at the Skirball in Los Angeles last summer, “The Whole Schmear”.

Check the blog for notes on the ever-growing trend in cream cheese – flavors!

Elizabeth Bland, The Cheese Mistress

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

The Plight of Kosher Parmigiano Reggiano


Kosher Reggianito from Argenitina, made in the style of Parmigiano Reggiano

Iconic Italian cheeses should not be out of reach for kosher consumers, yet they often are. One of the world’s most famous cheeses, Parmigiano Reggiano, is also one of the most evasive cheeses in the kosher world. The one kosher Parmigiano on the U.S. market, Fanticini, has been discontinued. But the recent kosher offering of Bertinelli shows promise.


This lovely lady is in the court of il re dei formaggi, the king of cheeses.

This new kosher Parmigiano has stirred up a thousand year-old milk/meat controversy: Is it “kosher” to use animal rennet in cheese? The strict P.D.O. standards of traditional Italian Parmigiano Reggiano dictate that this cheese must be made with animal rennet. The world’s largest kosher supervisor, the Orthodox Union (OU), which currently certifies no animal rennet cheese, just declined to certify Bertinelli’s Parmigiano.

What does this mean? Where Bertinelli’s cheese would have had a much greater acceptance and distribution with the OU’s stamp of approval, it now will not be as widespread.

parmigiano-logoKosher consumers long for a real Parmigiano Reggiano. In its absence, the most common substitutes have been Argentinian Reggianito or domestic parmesan. Sometimes available is Gran Duca’s Grana Padano, a popular cheese in Italy from the same family as Parmigiano, but with a slightly more delicate flavor.

Below are links to stories on the plight of Parmigiano Reggiano in the kosher world:

The announcement mid-June 2015 of Bertinelli’s kosher Parmigiano Reggiano:

The mid-July 2015 announcement that the OU will not certify Bertinelli’s kosher Parmigiano Reggiano:

An article from 2012 on the issues surrounding Fanticini Parmigiano Reggiano:

Elizabeth Bland
The Cheese Mistress

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

The Invasion of the Bees – Laura Chenel’s Chèvre Honey Log


Honey Bear loves honey goat cheese!

Soft, tangy, and honey sweet with a hint of orange, Laura Chenel’s Chèvre with Honey satisfies all around. It’s as if a honey bee came straight from the orange orchard and landed on a little log of chèvre. This honey goat cheese marries the traditional French technique of fine fresh goat cheese making with California’s Sonoma County terroir. Its delicate texture and mild flavor make it an excellent breakfast or dessert cheese. And it comes with a pedigree.


Orange blossom honey has a faint flavor of citrus and is excellent when blended with fresh goat cheese.

Laura Chenel, a pioneer of American goat cheese, revolutionized the American cheese scene in the late 1970s and early 1980s with her goat cheese. Laura Chenel’s Chèvre represents the harmonious blend of French technique and Sonoma terroir.

California’s orange trees are full of tiny white flowers in the spring. The bees feast on the blooms, and then return to the hive to make the fragrant nectar that will flavor the Honey Log. The delicate touch of citrus and the light sweetness give this goat a balance created purely by Mother Nature.

ChevreHoneyIceCream-crop1-230x213The website,, features goat cheese recipes, including Chèvre and Honey Ice Cream with an instructional video.

The Honey Log took home the gold at the CalExpo State Fair 2014, and the silver at CalExpo State Fair 2013.

It is KORC-D kosher and cholov stam. The ingredients are orange blossom honey, cultured, pasteurized goat’s milk, and enzymes.

Elizabeth Bland
The Cheese Mistress

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Kosher in the House at 7-Eleven!

711koshershelfFresh Kosher Grab-and-Go items are now available at certain locations in Manhattan, Brooklyn, and Long Island. The Pom People, Inc. have partnered with some New York 7-Eleven locations to bring in a line of freshly made kosher meals and snacks. While many convenience store cookies, crackers, and candies are already kosher, there is now the option of real food with real nutrition and a good dose of creativity.

I went to the Manhattan location at 8th avenue and 25th street and found none of these products. 711storefrontI was frustrated at first, and then realized I had made the stupid decision to try to buy kosher in Manhattan on the same day as the Salute to Israel parade! There were kosher people everywhere. The Pom People’s products had sold out.

I am interested in sampling the following milchig (dairy) products with cheeses ranging from zingy to creamy. Feta, fresh mozzarella, goat cheese, and brie make up the Pom People’s dairy entourage.

711koshershelf2Brie, Apple & Onion Sandwich
Fresh Mozzarella Sandwich
Grilled Garden Vegetable Goat Cheese Sandwich
Egg & Feta Cheese Wrap
Breakfast Spinach, Egg White & Feta Cheese Wrap
Greek Kalamata Salad (hopefully contains feta!)

The majority of participating 7-Elevens are in Brooklyn at this point. (Full list of all products and locations at end of post.) All freshly prepared Grab-and-Go items are certified under the Orthodox Union (OU).

Make sure to ask your local 7-Eleven to start carrying The Pom People, Inc. fresh kosher Grab N Go products for all your kosher needs.

Elizabeth Bland | The Cheese Mistress |

Full sample list of milchig, fleishig, and parve meals and snacks carried in various locations:

Grilled Salmon Caesar Salad
Greek Kalamata Salad
Niçoise Salad
Harvest Corn Salad
Taboule Salad
Fresh Fruit Cup
Egg Salad Sandwich
Tuna Fish Sandwich
Corned Beef Sandwich
Pastrami Sandwich
Turkey Breast Sandwich
Brie, Apple & Onion Sandwich
Fresh Mozzarella Sandwich
Garden Tuna Fish Sandwich
Grilled Garden Vegetable Goat Cheese Sandwich
Albacore Tuna Fish Wrap
Egg & Feta Cheese Wrap
Avocado Wrap
Breakfast Spinach, Egg White & Feta Cheese Wrap

Participating 7-Eleven locations:

1619 Avenue M & East 17th Street
953 Kings Highway & Coney Island Avenue
2474 Flatbush Avenue & Avenue U
2800 Coney Island Avenue & Avenue Z
1523 Avenue J & East 16th Street
520 5th Avenue & 13th Street (Prospect Park)

302 8th Avenue & 25th Street

5 Towns (Hewlett)
1700 Broadway (Across From Grant Park)

3125 Lawson Boulevard Across From The Oceanside LIRR Station

West Hempstead
310 Hempstead Avenue

Posted in Uncategorized | 1 Comment

Chavrie Chèvre – No Pointy Pyramids Allowed!

Chavrie198Fresh French chèvre (young goat cheese) comes in many shapes and sizes. The most common incarnation is the log, and second to the log is the pyramid with a flattened top. Rumor has it that when Napoleon returned from his defeat in Egypt, he was served one of the common pyramid-shaped cheeses. He became so enraged that he lopped off the top with his sword.

Chavrie goat is one such pyramid cheese. It is extremely mild and so soft, it spreads like a dream. It’s a very easy-going cheese that is suitable for beginners and goat aficionados alike. The packaging reflects the four-cornered pyramid shape. Turn the cheese upside down, remove the plastic base cover, and voilà! It’s ready to turn back over and plate.


The perfect breakfast cheese.

Fresh, unaged goat cheese typically has a crisp tangy taste to accompany the gentle milk flavors. It is an excellent cheese to serve with fruit and goes great with Sauvignon Blanc, Pinot Grigio, or sparkling wines.

Explore any goat cheese section at the grocery store and you will find many with a kosher hechsher. While not all are accepted by all groups, there are many to be had. On the ultra-hechshered end is Natural & Kosher’s line of cholov yisroel/Circle K goat cheeses also supervised by Rabbi Weissmandl. On the other end are the Tablet K cheeses. While Chavrie’s logs are certified OU-D and made in the U.S., they pyramids are not. They are imported from France; the original plain Chavrie once OU-D, but now it is under Triangle K-D. The sweet basil pyramid is under the OU-D.

Bottom line – this is really yummy, uncomplicated goat cheese, but check the hechsher to make sure it works for your brand of kosher. When in doubt, ask your rabbi, of course!

Elizabeth Bland, The Cheese Mistress

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Two Jews, Five Cream Cheeses


Naomi Miller performing at a brunch. Bagels and and cream cheese for all!

“Two Jews, three opinions” This quip holds true across the board: “two Jews, five cream cheeses”; “two Jews, seven languages”; “two Jews, 15 degrees of separation from a long lost common relative in Bielsk.”

Multiples and melanges of language, food, and culture were strong at Naomi Miller’s comedy/musical performance. (Temple Emanu-El, Bayonne, N.J.) Not only did the laughs come in multiples, but Ms. Miller shook up her performance with interactive songs in Hebrew, Yiddish, English, French, Italian, Spanish, and Japanese. She even taught one song in Hebrew sign language!

Alongside the show, there was a table of assorted cream cheeses to match the diverse flavors and tastes of the crowd.


Who wouldn’t think both pink cheeses weren’t strawberry?

Not one solitary cream cheese could possibly suffice! Next to a tray of bagels, there was a display of cheese in five flavors, plus margarine. On the sweet side was strawberry cream cheese; on the savory were chives, garden vegetable, plain, and a lox cheese the color of strawberry ice cream.

The unmarked deli-bought lox spread was a bright, light pink with chunks and shreds of vibrant pink. One would assume it was strawberry. But no! The strawberry Philadelphia was right next to it—a more muted dusty rose color sprinkled with tiny seeds and a few dark pink flecks of fruit. The pink cheeses caused some stir. “Why does my strawberry taste like fish?” and “What are they serving here?”


Vintage wooden Breakstone cream cheese box. Yes, Breakstone – formerly Breghstein – is Jewish!

Thus there were two great shows going on that day. First was Naomi Miller’s lively, humorous performance; second was watching people put the pink lox cheese on a bagel, thinking it was strawberry. The faces they made when they found out! I tried to warn them, but but no one believed me until their mouths puckered up from the salty fish.

Although Ms. Miller didn’t provide the cheese, it made for extra comic relief!

One group of Jews. One great show. One common confusion over pink cream cheese.

Elizabeth Bland

Posted in Cheese by cheese | Leave a comment