If you ever want to see a pageant involving knives, muscles, and cutting boards, book a trip to Long Island City for the Cheesemonger Invitational (CMI) on June 23, 2012. Now in its third year, the event draws makers, mongers, and rabble from the cave to compete for cash prizes and a chance to throw down against the best in the business.
Before I moved to Philadelphia from Wisconsin in 2005, friends told me I needed to visit a cheese shop called Di Bruno Bros. in the Italian Market. When I arrived in July, this narrow store with salamis hanging from the ceiling was one of my first stops. Now, the store feels like my home away from home.
Two weeks ago, I had the opportunity to stick around Di Bruno Bros. on 9th Street for an after hours party. It’s what the store likes to call “a private shopping experience” – a chance for customers to linger around the olive bins, eating pairings that cheesemongers dream up.
It’s the year of the goat. Everywhere I turn: goat dinners, goat tacos, goat talk. This means I should let you in on a little secret about Leonora. It’s the most luscious Spanish goat cheese on the planet. The texture is gooey-soft, and it comes in a slightly flattened brick that looks like a melting ice cream cake roll. If you’ve sworn off sweets for Lent, you might want to pick up some Leonora for dessert.
I never grew up eating Pecorino, but this winter it’s become my go-to cheese to serve with soups. The nutty flavor of this quintessential Italian specialty comes from sheep’s milk, and because it’s a rich, fatty cheese a few curls shaved onto a broth add beautiful dimension.
So many award-winning cheeses are made in Vermont these days that it’s easy to feel Green State envy. One Vermont cheese that’s got cheesemongers buzzing this winter is Reading Raclette. Now, the Swiss make Raclette and so do the French, but until Spring Brook Farm introduced its artisanal version from Reading, no American cheesemaker had come forward with a melt-away Alpine stinker this good.
Ask any cheesemonger for a sample of the best smoked cheese on the market, and you’ll probably find yourself biting into a blue. Rogue River Smokey Blue, from Oregon state, is cold-smoked over hazelnut shells. This cheese tastes so much like sweet, smoky bacon that you can eat it for breakfast.
Around the holidays, putting out a cheese or two in the evenings is a festive way to unwind. Here are twelve pairings to share with (or without) your true love. Combine five or six of these to create a party board. Or, count down the holiday with one pairing each night.