Meet Allin Tallmadge, ACS CCP™
Once again, my friendship with Allin began online; then we “met” while studying for the 2013 ACS CCP™ exam, in the DPI Study Group led by Cheese Guru Extraordinaire, Bill Stephenson. Allin and I finally met face-to-face in Madison at the 2013 ACS Conference where we both sat for and passed (woohoo!!) the exam. In 2014, when family obligations brought me to Georgia, Allin and I became better acquainted and he graciously squired me around the Atlanta area introducing me to the Atlanta Cheese Scene. He also joined me when I visited fellow CCP, Tim Gaddis, and the Many Fold Farm Family. Allin has been more than generous in sharing his vast knowledge and serves as one of our administrators at our Facebook Cheese Study Group.
He kindly agreed to participate in my 2015-16 Virtual Q&A with Cheese Professionals and I thank him for taking the time.
1.) Briefly tell me about yourself. How did you come to cheese? When did you realize you were a cheese geek?
I came to cheese during a trip to Tuscany in 2001. The intention was to drink our way from Florence to Siena. Along the way we discovered each hilltop town had its own cheeses. Lunch became a local wine, cheese, bread and salumi daily. Now there were loads of books about Italian wines but, at the time, not many about cheeses. Returning from Italy I became an ‘amateur’. I read Jenkins, tasted lots of cheese. I ate at the new Artisanale Fromagerie that had just opened in NY, toured Zabar’s, Murray’s, Fairway Market. Read and tasted and tasted and read.
In 2006 I parted company with the computer consultancy where I was General Manager and cast about for something else. Murray’s had recently moved into a bigger space across Bleecker St. and had started Boot Camp. Liz Thorpe taught it and Zoe Brickley was in the caves. I took the course. Out of that can the idea to open a cheese shop of my own. I joined the American Cheese Society in 2007 and started meeting the community.
Before I could do that I figured I needed to get in some ‘counter time’, pay some dues. Rick Breitstein at The Cheese Shop of Ridgewood, one of the original franchisees of Cheese Shop International, let me help out for the holidays. In 2008 Garden of Eden, a NYC specialty grocery opened a NJ store. I helped set up their cheese counter. In November of that year I started the build out of the Tallmadge Cheese Market in Montclair, NJ.
2.) Where do you work and what is your job title? Describe a “typical” work day.
At the moment I am ‘in transition’ looking for opportunities in the Atlanta market where I’ve been since 2011. I have been brokering local cheeses when I can to restaurants and caterers. I hold tastings and cheese seminars to area clubs and organizations when I can. There’s seasonal work at various cheese counters.
When I was in retail the typical day would start with taking out the cheese and rebuilding the case. The cheeses were unwrapped, checked for molds, dressed if necessary, allowed to breathe a bit before being re wrapped and placed in the case. Re-building the case every morning allowed us to inventory and decide what needed to be pushed that day. For cheeses that were past ‘á point’ they were sent to the kitchen to be used as ingredients for prepared items, e.g. grilled cheese sandwich, mac n cheese, cheese straws, quiche etc.
Monday and Tuesday mornings were for ordering. Every other Wednesday evening was for events, tasting or classes.
At closing all cheeses were unwrapped and allowed to breathe ten to fifteen minutes before being re-wrapped and set back in the case. Soft cheeses were flipped when possible, covered with cheese paper if not wrapped.
And, besides selling cheeses, all day is about cleaning and straightening; the cheese, the meats, the counters and boards, the knives and cutters, the floors and windows and shelves.
3.) Why did you want to become a CCP™? How has it changed your cheese life or career path?
At first I felt the CCP™ was not for me; that it held greater benefit for younger people in the cheese community who were in the early stages of their careers. I had had a shop and hoped to have another before too long. ACS then came up with the Cheese Educator classification that required a CCP™. I wanted to teach about cheese so the CCP™ exam was it. Besides, studying for the exam lets you know what you don’t know. It is itself a great learning experience.
4.) Do you have a favorite cheese or type? What would be your perfect pairing with this cheese?
If I had to pick a favorite it would be Uplands Pleasant Ridge Reserve. It pairs with just about everything, full body reds, oaky whites, IPA’s, hoppy craft brews, especially well with whiskey. Great with berry pies and nut brittles.
Generally I like to snack on alpine cheeses, don’t care if it’s French, Italian, Swiss or German (there are some good Austrian cheeses finally coming into the US market). I like to cook with cheddars and hard northern Italian cheeses like piave, montasio or asiago. For family gatherings I like soft and stinky – Winnimere, Epoisses, Dancing Fern or Portuguese Zimbro. Just set it on the table, cut off the top and have at it. Tasty and fun.
5.) Raw vs. Pasteurized? Does it matter? What difference does it make in the final product?
You know, you really can taste the difference between cheeses with recipes using raw milk and the same recipes using pasteurized. Abbaye de Balloq was exquisite when it was made with raw ewe milk. It had a richness and depth of flavor and a long finish that coated your palate. You felt the milk in it. It now comes in to the US a pasteurized cheese. Still tasty but a little flatter with a duller finish.
Having said that I think there are a lot of creative and talented cheese makers in the US that are bringing out some great cheeses using pasteurized milk. They combine cultures and tweak the make process in ways that draw out fabulous flavors. New world cheese makers (I’m including US and Australian here) are not bound by the terroir of traditional cheese regions. There is no traditional cheese regions in the US that reflect indigenous microbes that can establish terroir. American cheese making is about creating unique bacterial cultures to make unique cheeses. Where in Europe Taleggio or St. Nectaire or Manchego is made by many cheese makers in their regions, Humboldt Fog and Capriole’s Sofia and Goat Lady’s Sandy Creek are made by individual cheese makers.
6.) Should the US create a system similar to the European scheme of protecting, controlling and/or regulating specific cheeses?
I don’t think we have the same issues in the US that exist in Europe. Cheeses in Europe are regional enterprises that drive the economies of those areas. In the US, trade organizations are formed to advance a region’s economic interest. Cheddar is a type of cheese but Vermont Cheddar is different from Wisconsin Cheddar is different from California Cheddar. Yet, aside from commodity Block Cheddar, individual cheese makers like Grafton and Widmer and Fiscalini seek to differentiate themselves in the marketplace.
7.) Tell me about one of your “cheese journeys”. Was it traveling for pleasure or maybe “on the hunt” for an obscure cheese you just had to taste?
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.
8.) Please share with me one fun, non-cheesy fact about you.
On occasion I spend time making rustic and twig furniture in the style of the Great Camps in the Adirondacks. I look forward to the days when I can spend more time at it.
Again my thanks to Allin for making this one terrific Q&A!!!
Check out Allin’s Bio here.
Interviews will continue through 2016… 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 include Cheesemakers, 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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