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Friday, April 04, 2008

The Best Cheese... Part 2, and My Manifesto

Well, after all that, my local cheese shop decided to carry Jasper Hill's Winnimere, or "Winnie," as cheesemaker Mateo Kehler called it in response to an email I wrote to him asking where I can find it.

Now I can't say whether my email to Mr. Kehler had anything to do with the store carrying the cheese.

And I can't say whether my ordering a wheel for myself had anything to do with the store carrying the cheese.

But when my cheese order finally came in, the department manager said he also ordered a few wheels for the counter.

I was very happy to pick up that sweet, little 3/4-lb stinker.

Problem was, I had just brought back another wheel from Zabar's... Oh well. That just meant I had to invite more friends over to help me eat the cheese. I also delivered a half-wheel to my dear friend Laura, as she has been a big influence in my culinary development, and she was there with me when I was a novice cheesemonger.

"Those were the dayyyyys!"

I'm not certain the aforementioned store had much success in selling those few wheels of "Winnie." The staff knew nothing about them, the wheels stayed wrapped in their original paper (not a bad thing, per se, but not great when there's no info on the labels), and each wheel cost just under twenty bucks. That's a lot of money to ask someone to pay for a mystery cheese.

My standards are high when it comes to cheese departments. I ran my own cheese department way back when. I've worked at a few of the finest cheese counters in the country, and done plenty of training of cheesemongers at those same counters.

I'll admit it: I take it personally when cheese is being neglected. Love and effort and resources went into making those fine little wheels. It's wasteful to not give them their due, which in this case, is making sure someone will eat them and love them.

Yes, I take this rather seriously.

This is why I do what I do: consult with those who run cheese counters and shops. I do it to earn part of my living, but I also do it because there's a lot of work that needs to be done out there to get the beautiful cheeses to the people.

I mean no slight against the person who runs my local cheese department. Most managers, including him, are up to their necks in ordering, scheduling employees, dealing with the store's upper management, trying to stay within budget, etc. I know how hard it is to keep it all together, let alone keep on top of new and exciting cheeses.

So I'm here in my Cheese Cave, as it were, waiting for the Cheese Signal to appear in the sky, via the telephone, or in my email's inbox. Then in I swoop, ready to help the cheese department manager in distress.

All in a day's work for The Cheese Snob.