Update: Amy recently married. Congratulations and may you be as happy as The Man and I are after 35 years of marriage…
This is the next-to-last interview that Spaulding Gray conducted prior to his departure to the Mothership last month.
Spaulding and I have known Amy for more than five years; she’s one our first Cheese Friends. She trained me when I started my mongering in Vancouver in 2008… what a difference 5 years has made in both our lives…
Amy currently is a Cheesemonger at New Seasons; a small neighborhood grocery chain in Portland. New Seasons embraces the local and the fresh… without further ado… in their own words… Spaulding Gray and Amy Pitzer:
Spaulding: Many a cheese moon ago, you ignited the passion in The Lady who then brought me into the cheese fold when she brought home that first triangle of No Woman. You set her on a path that has taken the three of us to the ends of the earth looking for and tasting cheese… we thank you.
Spaulding: What is your Perfect cheese and “other food” pairing:
Amy Pitzer: All these “favorite” questions are kind of a challenge, since once I think of one ideal taste moment, about 5 others pop into my head. One food “grouping” I had recently that was REALLY satisfying was a medium rare steak, Jasper Hills Winnemere, and a Manhattan made with Imbue’s Bittersweet Vermouth and Irish whiskey. . . mmmmm. . . .just divine.
Of course, it does kind of take over your whole face. For lighter moments I still like Cascadia Creamery’s Sleeping Beauty or Cloudcap with Oregon Growers and Shippers’ Strawberry Pinot Noir jam. And just skip the crackers or bread for the most part with all cheeses, I just don’t feel they are necessary.
Spaulding: Wheew… steak and Winnemere… be still my heart… I’m almost afraid to ask you to share with us your dream cheese plate… but what the heck… stop my heart…:
Amy: So I am composing my dream cheese plate with cheeses I have never had, or have had long ago, before the government started taking such an interest in cheese. . . As with all cheeses, I would prefer them to be made on the farm, small batches and RAW MILK.
Reblochon de fermier AOC, raw milk of course, and French. I used to get this cheese when I was just a baby cheese monger and I worked at Larry’s Markets in Seattle. Then, it was classified as a washed-rind cheese and we would get some in periodically without much fuss and always there was one in the box that we would just have to sample (oh the tragedy of it all). Lushly creamy, lightly aromatic with a pleasant fruityness, I am using this as my mild and soft introductory cheese.
Brin d’Amour, raw if possible and French. I am not sure why this cute little goat’s cheese from Corsica is so hard to find. Maybe it just fell out of fashion, or maybe it became too expensive, I don’t know. In a world of fabulous cheese, I suppose Brin d’Amour is relatively ordinary and boring, but I love it. A relatively young, surface-ripened goat’s cheese, it is heart-shaped and covered with herbs. The goats that make this cheese are grazed in wild, herb-laden pastures, so the milk itself is herbaceous before the cheese is even made. I like the thought that I am really tasting part of the Corsican countryside.
Timanoix, again, French and fabulous. A firm little tomme-shaped hunk of love, washed with walnut liquor. Not overly boozy, this is a nice walnutty cow’s milk cheese with a pleasant and mild interior. Almost dessert-like.
Vacherin Mont-d’Or. I am told that raw is the only way to have this gooshy little washed-rind. This cheese, even pasteurized, has not been available (at least from my distributors) in forever. And it is one of those cheeses every cheese monger has to have before they can die happy and fulfilled. Haven’t had it, want it, and since it comes with a mandatory trip to France–I’m in!
Laguiole, 5 months. Cantal is closely related to this vaguely cheddarish cheese from the Aquitaine. I had some once. . . .never got over it.
Keen’s Farmhouse Cheddar, raw, old and barky. This massive 50-pound truckle of cheddar seriously looks like the stump of a tree that someone (maybe Beowulf) left under a bridge. Back in the day, when we were forbidden to use gloves on a cheese because the chemicals in the gloves would distort the flavor of the cheese, we would peel the crusty cheesecloth off and hand-buff the outside of the cheese to redistribute the protective layer of butter and lard. The interior is a deep ivory color and flakey–nearly impossible to slice. Dry and blisteringly sharp, I loved this cheese with a glass of mead–the food of bards and kings. I have had a lot of farmhouse cheddars, but this one is dear to my heart.
Cabrales, raw and HUGE. And, don’t die of shock, a Spaniard made my list! Next to Rogue River Blue, this is my favorite and most elusive blue cheese. And don’t be confused, Valdeon Blue is NOT the same. Cabrales is a three-milk raw blue from Asturias and is aged in limestone caves, wrapped in sycamore leaves. Wet, tanic, blue as all-get-out, with hints of grape must and saddle leather. And I want it with a 10 year (at least) tawny port.
SG: Holy smokes; you really are trying to double the heart disease rate in the world… and I, for one, say… what a way to go… You were the one who gave The Lady and me our first (and only) wedge of Timanoix; which sealed your special place in my cheese heart…
What is your favorite grilled cheese?
Amy: My favorite grilled cheese… Really, I am having a hard time thinking of a grilled cheese sandwich that I would NOT like. . .and I know this breaks all kinds of culinary rules about putting seafood and cheese together. . . .grilled crab and cheddar. Dungeness crab and a nice little cheddar (Cloudcap, or a Caerphilly, or maybe Oscar Wilde Irish cheddar) on thin-sliced sourdough bread. The trick with this is to not go overboard with the cheese, gotta get a nice balance.
Spaulding: I’m almost afraid to ask… but here goes… share with us one Non-Cheese-Related Factoid
Amy: I have studied 4 different styles of martial arts. Kung Fu is my favorite and I learned more studying Kung Fu than I learned in all the other styles combined. Have I used it? Like in a street fight? Let’s just leave that at “not much”.
Spaulding: Finally, if you could have dinner with any person, alive or historical, who would it be and why?
Amy: I know you’re “supposed to” pick someone who is super famous, or infamous, like George Washington, Jesus of Nazareth, Ghengis Khan or Joan of Arc. And I thought about that, those important and interesting people. And I thought about modern politicians that I would like to serve a cold slice of reality to, and movie stars, and guys that I might just want to stare at and forget about dinner. But for me, if I am going to have a nice dinner, with excellent conversation, uninterrupted by children or a telephone, I want to have dinner with Lionel Yves Giraud in some little bohemian joint on Hawthorne where we can have a couple of beers, some cheese and shoot the shit and people-watch. Just some companionable, “real time” with my brother-from-another-mother. And then maybe we can have a couple too many and see if we can get arrested. Perfectly lovely.
SG: As you know, The Lady adores Lio as well and if that dinner ever happens, make a reservation that includes the two of us… Amy, thanks for sharing your passion with me and my loyal readers… it’s been a treat…
My thanks to everyone participating in my 2015 Virtual Q&A with Cheese Professionals. I hope all of you, my loyal readers, are enjoying this as much as I am…
Interviews will continue throughout 2015… sometimes, they will be “stand-alone” and sometimes they will be presented as round-table discussions with several Cheese Professionals answering the same question. Those participating includeCheesemakers, ACS CCPs™, Cheesemongers and Cheese Professionals and Experts who contribute to this Wonderful World we call “Cheese”.
List of 2015 Cheese Professionals.
List of all Cheese Professionals Bios.
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