Halgrimson: Fargo lunch of past brings fond memories of blue cheese
What started me thinking about blue cheese was one of my favorite Fargo lunches served at Shoey's restaurant, 617 NP Ave.
Shoey's, a fixture in downtown Fargo from 1960 to 1972, was owned by Ralph Schumacher and his wife Opal.
The meal was a sandwich called Beef Deverne. I wanted to know if "Deverne" was the right spelling and if a recipe existed, so I tracked down the Schumachers' daughter, Gail Thompson, in Detroit Lakes, Minn.
After I identified myself, she asked me if I was Craig Hunter's sister. She'd gone to high school with him. I am his sister, but Gail didn't remember how to spell "Deverne" nor did she have a recipe.
I was curious as to why good cheese is not to be found locally. I went to the Forum files looking for stories about cheese and found a Forum headline from 1975 that said, "Fargo-Moorhead Discovers Cheese."
At that time there were three stores selling cheese: the Barberio Cheese House, owned by John Tofte, opened in 1975 at Valley North Mall, 3125 Broadway; Hickory Farms at West Acres, which offered many blended cheeses as well as sausages; and the Cheese Cave in the Moorhead Center Mall, owned by Morrie Callahan of Fargo's Leebys in downtown at 420 Broadway.
But Leebys had been selling fine cheese since Morrie's father-in-law Ray Leeby bought Hadeland's Market in 1921 and renamed it Leebys.
The story from 1975 said that the reason for the proliferation of specialty cheese stores then was that people were moving here from other parts of the country where cheese had been more widely available and to people who had traveled to Europe and areas in this country where cheese is made.
Now, 39 years later, we have more people from more places and probably more travelers, but good cheese is hard to find since the Green Market in downtown Fargo closed early in 2013.
I am particularly fond of good blue cheese. Sometimes you can find little plastic wads of blue at the supermarket, but I like it better cut from one of those big wheels that you find at a good deli.
European blues are well known in this country. Gorgonzola comes from Italy, and Stilton from England. Both are made from cow's milk. True Roquefort is made only in France from sheep's milk.
Years ago, an editor slipped a cog and said Roquefort was made from goat's milk because I had neglected to say what it was made from. For months afterward, I had numerous brochures from the Societe des Caves in France.
All of the European blues are blue-veined, soft and crumbly, and have a delightfully sharp taste.
But three very fine blue cheeses are made in Minnesota and aged in the sandstone caves at Faribault, one of which they call Gorgonzola which is not a protected name as are Roquefort and Stilton.
Blue cheese is a tasty addition to all manner of salads, appetizers, grilled vegetables, meats and fish, soups, omelets and frittatas or with fruit.
I still yearn for Beef Deverne and the following recipe is the closest I can come.
Sirloin With Blue Cheese Sauce
2 tablespoons butter
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 pound beef sirloin
Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
2 tablespoons brandy
¾ cup heavy cream
3 ounces good blue cheese, crumbled
4 slices good bread, toasted
Melt butter with olive oil in a frying pan over high heat. Season meat with salt and pepper, and quickly sear on both sides. Reduce heat to medium, and continue cooking steak for 5 minutes on each side, or to desired doneness. Remove from pan and keep warm.
Pour brandy into pan and stir to loosen browned bits. Stir in cream, and return to a boil. Cook and stir until sauce has thickened slightly. Mix cheese into sauce until melted. Thinly slice meat and place ¼ on each piece of toast. Evenly distribute sauce over slices of steak. Serves 4.
Readers can reach Forum food columnist Andrea Hunter Halgrimson at firstname.lastname@example.org