One of the questions I asked Cheese Professionals was to share a favorite cheese journey. Today I share five of those journeys with you. (Bios available by clicking on their names.)
These stories are fun and inspiring… Enjoy their journeys and create your own.
Bill Krieger ACS CCP™: The most significant of my “cheese journeys” happened in Washington early in my cheese career–after about a year and a half. By that time I had heard of and purchased some of Sally Jackson’s remarkable cheeses. Her cheeses, unpasteurized versions by the way, had achieved national renown, and in my very inexperienced way, I thought that they were terrific too. Since Sally lived and made her cheese in north-central Washington, I thought that it would be great to travel there, meet her, and purchase some cheese from the source.
So I called her and set a time and date. Then I traveled to Tonasket, fumbled my way eight miles farther, and pulled up in the barnyard near Sally’s “cheese house.” I got out of my car, walked around, and looked the livestock–goats, sheep, and cows. Then I heard Sally’s voice saying hello to me. I turned and there she was emerging from her cheese house.
She was very pleasant and invited me into talk while she continued to make that day’s batch. She carefully washed her hands, rolled up her sleeves, and began to stir the big pot on the stove. I asked a few questions, and she explained what she was doing. I had never seen cheese made before and was awestruck with the fact that she was breaking each piece of curd by hand. She finished the process, and I naively asked how she learned to make cheese.
She smiled and gestured to me to wait. She disappeared into another room of the small cheese house, returning with a thickly folded piece of paper. She handed it to me and said, “This is all I know.” I unfolded the paper to find that it was the instructions for cheese making from a plastic bottle of rennet. She told me to keep the paper. Then she gave me a tour, showing me her aging rooms, equipment, and the animals. She was very humble about the whole thing.
I thanked her and said that I would be ordering some cheese soon. She closed the meeting with an anecdote about a nun from New York who had inspired her and said, somewhat ominously, “I love making the cheese; I just don’t want to kill anybody.” I have a photograph of my favorite Sally Jackson cheese “Renata” hanging on the wall of my study with my CCP certificate and a copy of the sheet music for the “The Swiss Cheese Rag.”
Sally Jackson’s cheese impressed me very much and I am sad that I can no longer get it. But the most impressive part of my visit was my encounter with Sally herself. In her I saw the passion and dedication to the art and craft of cheesemaking that she performed so well. I have since seen this in other cheesemakers, many of whom credit Sally Jackson with inspiration and guidance.
I won’t forget her.
In an email exchange, Bill shared another story with me: When Sally was still making cheese, I used to call her and say, “Hi, Sally. This is Bill. I’d like some cheese.” She would say, “OK, I’ll see what I have.” A few days later, a package would arrive with four to six cheeses (cow, sheep, goat) and an invoice. The cheese would be packed in straw from Sally’s barn. That was it. I would call to tell her that the cheese had arrived, thank her and pay the invoice. She’s living in/near Omak now. I hope to visit her sometime between now and summer. It was very sad when she had to stop her cheese-making; I am very grateful that I met her and did business with her.
Ian Coggin, Sales Guy, Dewlay Cheesemakers: Not sure what to go for here. So my most recent cheese discovery is the one to use. My wife and I were visiting our daughter Claire who is studying for a few months in Lappeenranta, Finland. We met up in Helsinki. On the first evening we happened upon a restaurant for dinner and as usual I opted for the cheese selection. This comprised of just 3 cheeses but my word they were all really flavoursome and complimented each other so well. One of these was a real winner and it turned out to be a locally produce goat milk cheese but nobody seemed to really have much more information. After a good long chat with our server and sampling a selection of complimentary cheeses I had an address for a local food market where I may be able to buy this delicious cheese.
So next morning before there was any trip to the shops or visitor attractions that Helsinki has on offer we were on the tram heading to the market. There we found a fantastic food haven and I have to say one of the warmest friendliest places to shop that I have ever visited. We soon found the cheese stall called in English “The Flying Cow” or Finnish Juustoliike.
I soon identified my new favourite Goats milk cheese and bought a big chunk. Then of course the owner wanted to know just why I have taken the time to call in and one cheese leads to another. These people are cheese experts and real professionals. By this stage my wife and Claire would be off looking at anything rather than cheese but they were just as riveted as I in this bustling market talking cheese. Took the cheese home and loved it but guess what? I never asked for the name so “Mr. or Mrs. Finnish Cheese maker, thank you.”
Gordon Edgar: Cheese Buyer, Rainbow Grocery Cooperative: I got to go on a ten person, six-day drunken cheese sprint across France. We visited 2-3 cheesemakers a day and hit every region except Basque country. Roquefort caves, Comte forts, Camembert in Normandy, ammonia-y Mimolette factory, goat cheese ladling… pretty much everything you could want. The reason it was a drunken trip was that every place we went gave us 1-2 bottle of wine each and we realized we could not bring all those bottles back through customs. The only solution was to drink in the minivan the entire time. Waste not, want not and all…
The funny thing is that I had just met my future wife right before I left. She was a single mom with a lot of responsibilities who was not impressed. “This is what you do for work? Get drunk and travel across Europe tasting cheese?” It took years to convince her that was kind of a once-in-a-lifetime trip.
Emilio Mignucci, Vice President, DiBruno Brothers: The latest journey is always the easiest to remember. I was invited by my very dear friend Adam Moskowitz to travel to Switzerland with him and 3 other serious cheese retailers. Wow, what a trip! We visited Le Gruyere SA and tasted some spectacular cheeses from the younger to the aged to, one of my personal highlights, the Alpage, which we had the pleasure to see in person while hiking up and down the Swiss Alps.
I was so impressed with how amazing it was to see the father and son team of the Maurith Family (I hope I spelled the family name correctly) create and craft such an incredible cheese, only 2 a day for the 10 weeks during the transhumance. What a fond memory but there were so many on that trip. The visit with renegade* cheese maker Walter Rase, who makes one cheese, Challerhocker, a new world style of a cross between an Appenzeller style and a great earthy gruyere. We also visited a larger renegade cheese maker, Daniel Studer, who makes MaxxExtra, then Nufenen, Nidelchas and let’s not leave out Le Cret dairy who produces one of the finest Gruyeres labeled 1655.
*Emilio’s follow-up to elaborate regarding “Renegade” Cheesemaker: “Renegade in that they are not producing cheeses that the government had all of the Swiss cheese makers make in years past. The Swiss cheese union was created around 1942 or so, and it ended in 1999. During that time the Swiss government used to pay the cheese makers for making the traditional (AOC) cheeses (Tilsiter, Sbrinz, Emmentaler, Tete, Appenzeller, etc.) and the government was responsible for selling the cheeses. Over time the Swiss government had gotten backed up with having too much cheese and therefore started to reduce the allowances for the farmers and cheese makers putting them on hard times. in the 90’s the Swiss government started to dump the cheeses onto any market that they could to turn the cheese into cash flow further damaging the reputation of the product and the livelihoods of those farmers and cheese makers. So these two cheese makers in particular started to alter recipes to create new and unique cheeses. These renegade cheese makers needed a renegade importer/distributor, hence Colombia Cheese and Adam Moskowitz.”
Allin Tallmadge ACS CCP™: I try to seek out and visit cheese makers and mongers wherever I travel. My last ‘journey’ was last summer (2014) through the Northeast and Mid-Atlantic. I finally made it up to see the Caves at Jasper Hill in Vermont. Vince Razionale was kind and showed me around. Heading south to Hartland VT, I stopped in to visit Cobb Hill and buy a wheel of their Ascutney Mtn, wonderful cheese that has been hard to come by outside of the NE.
Continued down to Putney to interrupt David Major’s haying to say hi and to check out Peter Dixon’s cheese making at Vermont Shepherd’s former cheese house. I passed through Walton, NY in the western Catskills to meet Jos Vulto and see where he makes his fabulous cheeses Miranda and Ouleout. Heading east I stopped to talk to Peter Kindel at Hawthorne Valley Farm, a biodynamic farm in Ghent, NY. East to Bantam, CT to taste the new cheeses from Arethusa Farm.
After that it was meet the mongers time. I traveled up to Cambridge to meet up with Sue Sturman and tour the Formaggio Kitchen caves with Brad. On to Concord to chat with Peter Lovis. Over to Wellesley to pay my respects to Carol Wasik and her boys. Down to Darien to stop in at her brother Ken Skovron’s Darien Cheese and Fine Foods. Up to Albany to meet Eric Paul, the Cheese Traveler.
Then it was back down to NYC for the CMI and the Summer Fancy Food show and a chance to visit the new Murray’s Caves.
But that’s not all.
Finally heading back to Atlanta in July I stopped in at Righteous Cheese and Soma Creamery in DC. Two great cheese counters. Soma is a cheese bar that just installed a vat to make their own cheese, Matt O’Herron formerly at DiBruno’s is head monger. Stopped in to Arrowine in Arlington to say hi to Peter Soulus. Meandered down through Charlottesville to check out Najeeb Chouaf at Flora Artisanal Cheese.
We all have our own cheese journeys which evoke fond memories and stir our love of what has been called “Milk’s leap toward immortality.” Clifton Fadiman US author, editor, & radio host (1904 – 1999)
Interviews will continue throughout 2015… sometimes, they will be “stand-alone” and sometimes round-table discussions with several Cheese Professionals answering the same question. Those participating include Cheesemakers, ACS CCPs™, Cheesemongers and Cheese Professionals and Experts who contribute to this Wonderful World we call “Cheese”.
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