The Oldways Table Blog

Celebrating health,
happiness, heritage,
and delicious,
nutritious food.

April 17, 2015 | Oldways Table

I recently had the great fortune of joining the Skinny Beet podcast to chat cheese fundamentals and to talk about my own plans to celebrate Raw-Milk Cheese Appreciation Day.

I’m hosting an afternoon potluck party and have invited several of my closest friends to bring along their favorite raw-milk cheese recipe (and I hope they choose one from my favorites list of Delectable Dishes: Recipes with Raw-Milk Cheese).

Rather than a cooked dish, for my contribution I plan on keeping it simple with just the sort of composed cheese plate that I shared with Richard, Katie, Dylan and Rachel on the podcast.

Putting together the perfect raw-milk cheese plate seems like a daunting task. But it really is quite simple. Luckily it’s artisan cheese, which is always delicious, so there just isn’t a wrong way to do it.  If the labor still seems herculean, just ask the friendly folks behind the counter. At any reputable cheese shop, like the hundreds listed here that are participating in the Appreciation Day celebration, there will be several expert mongers chomping at the bit to share their knowledge and passion for fine fromage.

I generally select 3-5 cheeses, of various ages, textures, styles, and milk types.  I prefer wedges that have been cut directly from the wheel but in a high-traffic cheese shop pre-wrapped options work perfectly fine.  As an appetizer, a good rule of thumb is to buy about a quarter pound per person, total. So if it’s me and my seven friends and I want 4 cheeses on the plate, a half pound of each would easily do the trick.

Once I have my selection, I find a condiment or beverage (or both!) to compliment the cheeses. There’s no exact science to this but it plays on the principle of compliment and contrast. Tangy goat cheese? try it with sweet honey! Nutty Gruyere? Try it with a Nut Brown Ale. Spicy blue cheese? Get some dark, bitter chocolate and a sweet Sauternes dessert wine.  Again, it’s really, really tough to go wrong here.

For the Skinny Beet, I selected four cheeses and four condiments. I wanted it to be international in scope but for the domestically-produced cheeses to keep it local to New England.  Thankfully, we here in Boston don’t have to look too far for fantastic artisan cheese. This board is a great example of an easy spread with all the fixin’s and none of the work. It’s sure to be a crowd pleaser.

Although it was an ostensibly a plate full of raw-milk cheeses, we started off with a pasteurized goat’s milk cheese from Vermont Creamery. A cheese plate should begin with the most subtle and lactic and work its way up to the most intense, the most pungent. So fresh or bloomy-rind goat’s milk cheeses (or even brie-style cheeses) are a great place to start. However, these cheeses tend to be very young and (teachable moment!) cannot by federal regulation be commercially sold if they are made from raw milk and are less than 60 days of age (learn more about raw-milk regulations here).  So if you want these styles, you’ll have to stick with their pasteurized version or go ahead and book a flight to France.  If you have been fortunate enough to have unpasteurized “soft-ripened” cheeses, you’ll know they tend to be even more flavorful, more aromatic, and in my opinion, that much more delicious.

Vermont Creamery’s Bonne Bouche is the most amazing mix of sweet, creamy and tangy. Bloomy-rind cheeses get their name from the white molds that constitute their rind. These molds are delicious and not only do they give the cheese its pristine white color, they also help to produce an interior paste that is, when ripe, gooey and decadent.  So why isn’t Bonne Bouche white? The grey exterior of this particular cheese comes from a light dusting of vegetable ash. This is an ancient cheesemaking technique for preserving fresh curds that has made its way down to us mostly for aesthetics in modernity. But it certainly does look sharp on a cheese plate. We paired it wish some honey, a classic combination.

Although some cheese styles can’t be made or sold unless they have been pasteurized, most cheeses can still be found produced from pure, raw milk. In fact, many of the world’s most famous cheeses (Le Gruyère, Parmigiano-Reggiano, Montgomery’s Cheddar, and numerous others) are required to be unpasteurized. Comté, the second cheese on our cheese plate, is great example. Produced in the Jura mountain range that separates France and Switzerland, Comté is as old and as delicious as its Swiss cousin gruyere. Always made with raw milk, Comté must also be produced within certain boundaries and from the rich and flavorful milk of the Montebéliard cow. It is matured in deep underground cellars for anywhere between twelve and twenty four months. Older versions have firmer textures and a more nutty, more saline, less swissy-sweet flavor profile.

For our cheese plate, Comté makes for a great example of natural-rind cheese. The outside rind is nothing more than the cheese itself. However, it has been liberally rubbed with salt and encouraged to dry out to form a protective crust. It is also a firm alpine-style cheese that nicely contributes to the diversity of textures available. 

Comté pairs tremendously well with any number of condiments, but I like to have it with either complimentary nutty flavors, such as marcona almonds, or something contrastingly sweet and acidic, like the fresh apple we paired it with here. Try it also with Chardonnay, Chenin Blanc, and the lightly oxidized white wines of the Jura region.

Next on the plate is the washed-rind cheese Winnimere. Winnimere is produced by the fine folks at Jasper Hill Farm in Vermont who are well known for their extraordinary commitment to raw-milk cheese (just a few months ago in fact, their blue cheese Bayley Hazen was awarded the esteemed title of World’s Best Unpasteurized Cheese at the World Cheese Awards). A product of their own herd of Ayrshire cows, Winnimere is only made seasonally, in the Winter months, when the cows are giving rich, hay-fed, raw milk. This cheese is only available for a couple months out of the year, so if you can find this highly coveted delight (it was awarded Best in Show at the 2013 American Cheese Society Conference) I recommend taking home a whole wheel to share with friends and family.

Winnimere, as a washed-rind cheese is soft, creamy and decadent with no shortage of savory, umami notes. It is unusual to find this style of cheese made from raw milk because they generally can’t be aged out to meet the sixty day maturation requirements without turning into a mere puddle of goo. But Winnimere does this exceptionally well, in part due to its tradition-inspired birch bark wrapping. Washed-rind cheeses get their orange color, and their funkiness, from the salt water baths they regularly receive which encourage a particular, and particularly delicious, type of bacteria to grow. Ripe washed rind cheeses are so full of flavor they generally need little more than a vehicle to get it to your month; Bread or an artisan cracker work just fine. Alongside, I like to have a meaty red wine or porter-style beer.

Last but certainly not least is the king of the classic blue cheeses, Roquefort. Many people don’t especially love blue cheeses, but all blue cheeses are not created equal. So I encourage folks to at least give it a chance and Roquefort is perhaps the best place to start. Roquefort is the ancestor of all blue cheeses. It has been produced for at least a thousand years. It can only be made with unpasteurized milk of particular ewe breeds, but perhaps the most critical characteristic of traditional Roquefort is the ripening it receives deep in the caverns of the local limestone caves. A nearly 2km cavernous labyrinth was formed upon the collapse of the limestone plateau of Roquefort-sur-Soulzon, and it isn’t a stretch to say that blue cheese was born in these damp and moldy hollows.

On the cheese board, it’s best to conclude with the big, boldest, baddest cheese that appeals to you, and blue cheese is a great place to leave off. Blue cheese gets its name from the blue veins that striate its interior. These particular molds are as delicious as they are spicy. For that reason I like to pair big blues with something sweet to contrast. Chocolate is perhaps the most classic pairing and we chose it for the cheese board here. To wash it down, you need an equally bold beverage. Port wines are great and so too are stouts. My personal favorite is a sweet dessert wine, such as a Sauternes, or if you can find them a dry apple cider or apple ice wine. Yum!

So that’s how I’ll be celebrating this weekend? What kind of raw-milk cheese is on the menu for you?


April 16, 2015 | Oldways Table

The media seem to delight in recasting dietary indulgences as health foods, and it appears that salt (also known as sodium chloride, the main contributor of sodium in our diets) is the latest food additive to be pardoned by the press. But with everything we know about diet and blood pressure, is it wise to start reaching for salty snacks?

Although studies have emerged that question the benefits of sodium restriction, the overwhelming scientific consensus is not as wishy-washy as headlines would lead you to believe. Virtually all parties, including those that question the risks of sodium, agree that excess salt can cause high blood pressure (though their definition of excess leaves room for debate). Additionally, respectable health organizations, including the American Heart Association, the 2015 Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee, and the Harvard School of Public Health, all agree that at an average of 3,500mg per day, current sodium consumption is too high. (The current recommendation from the 2010 Dietary Guidelines for Americans is 2,300 mg of sodium per day, which is about one teaspoon of salt.)

Salt is only one of the many food compounds that affect the risk of high blood pressure and heart disease. So by choosing low sodium versions of standard American junk food, you aren’t taking advantage of all of the nutritional tools available to help you live a healthier, longer life. That’s why, at Oldways, we encourage home cooking, especially recipes inspired by traditional food cultures across the globe, such as the Mediterranean diet, or the African Heritage diet.

Over 75% of the sodium in American’s diets comes from restaurants and processed foods, so by choosing fresh, whole foods and cooking from scratch, your salt intake will fall naturally, and your diet will improve. Talk about a win-win! A healthy pinch of salt in home cooked recipes brings out the flavor in vegetables, and still doesn't come close to the amount of salt that processed foods require to keep from spoiling as they sit on store shelves for months on end.

In the Scientific Report of the 2015 Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee (a newly released document, prepared by 14 of the nation’s leading nutrition experts), the authors found that “dietary sodium reduction can effectively prevent and reduce high blood pressure,” and found moderate evidence that high levels of sodium are a risk factor for heart disease. The committee concluded that, “Given the ubiquity of sodium in the food supply, concerted efforts to reduce sodium in commercially prepared and processed foods, as well as encouragement of home cooking using recipes with small amounts of sodium are needed to decrease intake toward recommended levels.”

Indeed, home cooking is a wise approach to stay healthy. One third of US adults have high blood pressure, and many more are at an increased risk of heart disease and stroke. In fact, the estimated lifetime risk of developing high blood pressure in the US is 90%. While these numbers don’t apply to all Americans, cutting down on salt is a good idea for just about everyone. That’s because foods high in sodium (restaurant meals and highly processed foods) are often nutritionally inferior to home cooked meals made from fresh, wholesome ingredients.

Rather than eating by the numbers (nobody wants to bring a calculator to the dinner table!), we invite you to prepare more home cooked meals, centered on whole grains, beans, fruits, and, vegetables, and garnished with spices, olive oil, fish, meats, or cheeses. When shopping for pantry staples, such as canned beans or vegetable broth, look for low sodium or no-salt-added varieties. We also encourage you to experiment with the herbs and spices of traditional culinary cuisines, to flavor your food without relying on salt as a crutch. (See our heritage pyramids for inspiration).

Cooking from scratch is a great way to keep control over the amount of salt (and other nutrients) in your diet, instead of putting your health at the mercy of companies where cost and shelf-life may be top priorities. For healthy and delicious meal ideas, browse the recipes on our site, or in our 4-Week Menu Plan books. What is your favorite home cooked recipe?


April 14, 2015 | Oldways Table

The fourth annual Whole Grain Sampling Day, celebrated the first Wednesday in April (this year, April 1, 2015), was a huge success! Nutrition and health professionals, restaurants, supermarkets, food manufacturers, businesses, and educators all partnered together to share the delicious taste of healthy whole grains, and make this the best Whole Grain Sampling Day yet!

We partnered with over 50 organizations in North America, the UK, and beyond, including Google, Boston University, Compass Group USA, Genghis Grill, the National Restaurant Association, ShopRite, Hy-Vee, and many more. Below is sample of some of the exciting activities that took place:

At a local Subway restaurant in Boston, customers ordering sandwiches on whole wheat bread received a surprise $5 gift card!

The dietitians at King Sooper's / City Market created a whole grain scavenger hunt throughout all 146 of their stores, which is available throughout the entire month of April.

The American Institute for Cancer Research created an awesome whole grain quiz especially for Whole Grain Sampling Day. (Take the quiz here!)

Franciscan St Anthony Health, in Michigan City, offered a whole grain menu breakfast item, lunch and dinner entrée, soup, salad and dessert in the cafeteria. They also offered participants a chance to win a whole grain cookbook with purchase of any whole grain menu item, and provided nutritional information regarding including whole grains in healthy eating patterns.

Several popular restaurants, including McDonald’s, Panda Express, and California Pizza Kitchen, tweeted about their whole grain options to encourage their customers to sample whole grains.

Rubio’s, with nearly 200 restaurants on the West Coast of the U.S., offered $1 off any Burrito served on a whole grain tortilla or $1 off any Two Taco Plate served on stone-ground corn tortillas for their Facebook fans.

Way Better Snacks launched a new whole grain product (sprouted barley crackers) and La Brea Bakery in LA introduced two new whole grain sandwiches.

Whole Grain Sampling Day is a social event and whole grains got their day in a big way! By our estimation, thanks to all the support of WGC members and friends, more than 2 million people tasted, tweeted, shared and celebrated! From online oatmeal shout-outs and quizzes, to Sampling Day Selfies and supermarket and restaurant tastings, the important message of this day was heard (and tasted) across the globe. 

You can celebrate Whole Grain Sampling Day all year, by sharing delicious whole grains and inviting others to enjoy whole grain recipes with you at home or out at a local restaurant. If you’d like to learn more about Whole Grain Sampling Day, contact program manager Kelly Toups at, or 617-896-4884. 

If you participated in Whole Grain Sampling Day, tag us (@whole_grains_council) in your Instagram photos, or use the hashtag #samplewholegrains. We’d love to see how you celebrated!


April 9, 2015 | Oldways Table

March was National Nutrition Month, a perfect time for Oldways to hold the Fifth Annual Supermarket Dietitian Symposium at the Vinoy Renaissance in St. Petersburg, Florida.  From March 22-24, fifty dietitians who are currently working in supermarkets or who have retail experience joined forces with representatives from sponsoring food companies and commodity boards to tackle some of the country’s major public health issues and explore actionable solutions that can influence shoppers to be more conscious of their plates by promoting healthy and sustainable food choices. In addition to corporate and in-store dietitians and health and wellness advisors from many of America’s top retailers, this year’s symposium included seven dietitians representing Canada, one dietitian from Waitrose in the UK, and one from Haifa, Israel, who is planning to implement a supermarket program in her country.

Barbara Ruhs, MS, RDN, LDN, Oldways partner in coordinating the symposium, reminded the group that six in ten consumers shop at least twice a week for groceries, and 70% of all health care costs are the direct result of behavior, giving supermarkets a unique opportunity to help shoppers make healthy choices.

“Since our first symposium in Napa, California, five years ago, it’s exciting to see that supermarket dietitians are collaborating to make a difference in consumer health (public health) across the country,” said Ruhs. “These dietitians can look beyond the fear of competition and slim margins and are invested in creating value for their retailers by focusing on what they do best - providing expert nutrition advice to shoppers focused on improving their health. Shoppers are seeking out the help of dietitians at their local grocery stores today and this the most innovative solution addressing the crisis in US healthcare.”

In addition, over the past few years, Ruhs says she has witnessed the transformation of dietitians who were brand new to retail grow into leaders who have developed successful programs that make a difference in consumer health. From in-store counseling, culinary education, shopping tours, garden projects and dietitian-led social media platforms, supermarket dietitians are setting the pace for the future of dietetics!

The career path in dietetics is expanding with the important role that supermarket dietitians are carving out for themselves in retail. As consumers continue to be invested in their own health, the food industry will continue to evolve to meet this demand. Working hand-in-hand with supermarket dietitians who are on the front lines helping shoppers, the food industry and retail supermarkets will continue to maximize their role and value in the grocery business.

“Our sponsors find great value in this event because they’re invested in the quality and track record of our program,” Ruhs continued. “We’re focused on one goal - helping supermarket dietitians do their jobs better. We provide an opportunity to connect dietitians with each other as well as a unique chance for food industry sponsors to send their dietitian and/or marketing representatives. We’re all learning and creating together. It is a magical event that I am extremely proud of.”

Here are some highlights from the symposium progam:

  • Kate Geagan, MS, RDN, America’s Green Nutritionist, spoke on how the issue of sustainability is shaping the shopping cart.  She began her presentation with a quote from Oxfam’s Tim Gore: “The main way that most people will experience climate change is through the food they eat, the price they have to pay for it, and the availability and choice that they have.”  She pointed out that today’s consumers are looking for supply chain traceability, clear labels, and seek grocery store chains as partners in health.
  • Paddy Spence, CEO of Zevia, explained to the group that consumers want to be heard and brands and retailers need to respond by listening to shoppers, educating them, and nurturing different groups within the shopper base.
  • Anne Roland Lee, EdD, RD, LD from Dr. Schar spoke about the evolving uses of the gluten-free diet beyond Celiac Disease (today up to 43 million people have an interest in GF foods) and shared ideas for store impact on quality of life.
  • Carolyn Kallio, RD from Unilever discussed beverage trends at meal time and showed how tea can play an important role in water consumption.
  • Monica Amburn, RD, LDN from Vestcom demystified the new menu calorie labeling requirements for supermarkets.
  • Dr. Jim Painter, PhD, RD focused on the failed theories of heart disease and raised questions about the origin of the current guidelines recommending fewer than 300 milligrams a day of dietary cholesterol.  
  • Joan Williams, RDN, LDN, formerly with Albertsons, spoke about reaching the Hispanic shopper.
  • Diana K. Rice, RD, presented on The Kids Cook Monday Campaign and showed how supermarket dietitians can benefit from cooking with kids.
  • Courtney Cagle from the Public Health Institute shared insights on California’s Healthy Retail Produce Program.

The symposium also featured Supermarket Dietitian Snapshots, which gave nine attendees an opportunity to showcase specific promotions and programs they have implemented for their retailers.  New this year, the event included a mini-trade show on the last afternoon, where dietitians sampled vendor products and recipes, discovered new ideas for demos, sampling, and displays, addressed any unanswered questions, and explored potential partnerships for in-store promotions and community events.  

Click here for more information and details on some of this year’s symposium presentations.


Follow Us


E-Newsletter Sign-up

Sign up for one or more of our Oldways newsletters. After you enter your email and click Submit you’ll be given a chance to choose which newsletter(s) you want.