When tasting wines or judging cheeses, it is prudent to spit. A swirl of the glass, a deep slow sniff, a quick sip, will provide a seasoned wine taster with sufficient information to judge a wine’s color, bouquet and flavor. Similarly, an experienced cheese judge can detect even a subtle flaw with just a whiff and a few mincing bites. Swallowing is unnecessary, and can lead, with wine,...
My First Seven Dates with Julie Rivard
9 January 1998 Biba, Boston Wine: Trimbach Pinot Gris Appetizer: Tuna Sushi with Pumpkin Dumplings Appetizer: Stracchino Pizza Wine: Etude Pinot Noir Entrée: Venison with roasted onions, carrots Dessert: Warm Chocolate Cake Cognac: A. de Fussigny Heritage Comment: Ordered venison, rare, to establish manliness. Failed to record what she had. Established...
My Connoisseurship: Early Antecedents
Each Chanukah from 1968 to 1973 I requested a cheese and meat gift basket from the Sears Catalog. I do not recall the precise model. Though my taste at this stage was poor, my demonstrated early interest in cheese and meat gift boxes is a clear antecedent of my later professional interest in cheese and meat gift boxes, and will be useful to future scholars and biographers. Note each of my...
Let Me Through, I‘m a Cheesemonger
If you will permit me, I will blog. I will write about food, mostly. I will write about cheese, and about cheesemakers and the farms and dairies where cheeses are made. I will write about wine, though mostly of its relationship to cheese. I will collaborate with my friend Cat Silirie on a regular segment that we’ll call, “This Cheese, This Wine.” Once, for exactly a year, I wrote in a notebook...
On John Loomis, Zingerman’s Cheesemaker
John is tall and handsome in a rugged, weathered, bushy eye-browed sort of way, like a slim Lee Marvin in a hairnet. He has a curmudgeonly reputation among the Zingerman’s staff. Paul Saginaw refers to him alternately as Curly Loomis (presumably an ironic Three Stooges reference) or Smiley Loomis (again, presumed irony). I do not notice. Or perhaps my own vaunted curmudgeonliness blinds me to this...
On Prairie Fruits Farm
I-57 from Chicago to Champaign is mostly straight and very flat. The land opens not far from the city into vast fields of soybean and corn. Signs along the highway lobby for ethanol, like Burma-Shave billboards, phrase by phrase. Grain elevators in the distance look as tall as the Sears tower. Once this was tall grass prairie, a sea of deeply rooted grasses and wildflowers—big and little...
On Twig Farm
Michael Lee and Emily Sunderman make goat cheese in West Cornwall, on land carved from Emily’s parents’ farm. Their farmhouse, which my wife described as chartreuse and mocha, is smart and modern. “We were going for dark celery”, Michael told us, “the neighbors find it startling against the winter snow.” Inside it seems more Manhattan loft than Vermont farmstead, with walls of books, clean...
On Orb Weaver Farm
Marjorie Sussman and Marion Pollack have made Orb Weaver cheeses on this farm for more than 27 years. They are pioneers and legends in the business. I tasted their cheeses only once or twice before, years ago. I recalled them being sheep milk cheeses. I was disabused of this memory by six Jersey cows and Marjorie’s scolding, “People think women can’t have cows.” Marjorie and Marion seem surprised...
On Crawford Farm
Among all the cheesemakers we met, only the Crawfords were traditional, “old-line” dairy farmers in the business of selling fluid milk. Jim, Cindy and Sherry Crawford raise and milk red-and-white Ayrshire cows, not just to preserve this historic breed or for the unique qualities of their milk, but because their family always has, for four generations. Ayrshire milk is naturally homogenized and...
On Shelburne Farm
I know of no more beautiful place than Shelburne Farms and feel impoverished to describe the splendor of its buildings and its lands. Built by William Seward and Lila Vanderbilt Webb as a model agricultural estate, and sculpted by Frederic Law Olmstead, each turn of its winding crushed-stone drive reveals a different vista, one more stunning than the next. Brown Swiss cows, whose ashy brown color...
The origins of Feta are easy to surmise. Dairy farming in Greece, even to this day, is a rugged business. Greece is mountainous and its farms remote. The soil is parched, the land is steep and stony and vegetation is harsh. It is country for grapes and olives, figs and dates and browsing, sure-footed sheep and goats. To preserve their precious milk, herders would have had need of a simple,...
On flavored cheeses
My acceptance of flavored cheeses, which I reveal publicly for the first time in these pages, comes late in my career as a cheesemonger. I had long considered myself a purist and traditionalist. I did not, as a rule, stock flavored cheeses in my shop, except for certain locally made herbed or peppered goat cheeses. My awakening came in August, 2007 when I was honored to be selected as a judge for...
On being a cheesemonger
I am strange among men in that I have devoted my life to the pursuit of good cheese. Cheese is my unabashed, consuming passion. I know in declaring this I risk a snickering readership, but so be it. I have been dubbed “cheeseboy” for much of my adult life and my skin has thickened accordingly. I find peace in dank cellars, brushing mites from Stiltons. I pump my fist in victorious exultation...