Ladies and gentlemen, meet Jill Zenoff, winner of the 2019 Cheesemonger Invitational. This semiannual competition is the Wimbledon of the retail cheese world, an opportunity for the people behindthe counter to strut their stuff. In a series of zany challenges, the contestants flaunt their skills at cutting, wrapping, pairing, plating and selling cheese. A combination of Jeopardy!, Top Chef and America’s Got Talent, the day-long battle ends with a winner crowned on stage before a frenzied audience. Despite the contest’s madcap nature, victory confers prestige. For the monger who prevails, doors can open.Read More
Most of the time, I aim to create a balanced cheese board for guests. Something fresh with something aged. A creamy cheese and a firm one. A range of flavors from mild to strong. Cow, goat and sheep. But sometimes I take a page from the wine world. Wine people love comparative tastings. My first date with my winemaker husband was a dinner party and wine tasting, with Pinots from around the world tasted blind. (Nobody nailed them.) A cheese course featuring the same style from two or three different producers can be illuminating, or at least get a conversation going.Read More
It has been raining here in Napa (hooray!) so I’ve had time for some rainy-day projects, like homemade cottage cheese. I had forgotten how easy it was, and how delicious. Twenty years ago, Sue Conley—the co-founder of Cowgirl Creamery —shared her stovetop recipe with me. I made it then, used it for a story in the San Francisco Chronicle and then forgot about it.Read More
If today’s cheese plates are more beautiful than ever—and they are—major credit goes to importer Michele Buster. Her New York-based company, Forever Cheese, has launched dozens of European cheeses in the U.S. and introduced many of the cheese-board accompaniments we now can’t live without. Everything on the plate pictured above is a Forever Cheese find, including the Marcona almonds, Buster’s first breakout success.Read More
They say you’re supposed to eat lentils on New Year’s Day for good luck all year. I’m a skeptic but why tempt fate?
Years ago, as a young cook at Chez Panisse Café, I made a few thousand goat cheese and lentil salads. At least it seemed that way. Customers loved that salad and it was often on the menu.Read More
Every week, merchants restock their counters with the cheeses they think you want. And then You the People get to choose. Often, you’re predictable (you do love those triple-creams), but sometimes you surprise retailers with your willingness to embrace the new. I’ve been showcasing my discoveries all year in Planet Cheese so thought I would ask some leading merchants what you have liked best. From coast to coast, here are some of your favorites, the breakout stars of 2018. Great choices, People!Read More
Will 2019 be the Year of German Cheese? You read it here first. France, Italy, Spain and Switzerland keep U.S. cheese counters bountiful, yet German cheeses account for barely a blip. (Let’s put aside Cambozola, the supermarket staple.) But if the exquisite cheese pictured above is any indication, Germany’s cheesemakers have the milk, the know-how and the respect for tradition to create some real dazzlers.Read More
A crusty mini-sandwich filled with oozy truffled cheese is my kind of appetizer. With sparkling wine it’s the happy hour of my dreams. But which truffled cheese? You may have noticed the soaring number of options in this category. Alas, they are not all dreamy. Some are too muted or heavy handed, with blatantly fake truffle aroma. With others, the base cheese is just not that interesting. Here are six I enjoy:Read More
Antwerp wasn’t on my bucket list until I tasted this gorgeous Belgian Gouda. Now I must go. The cheese is made at a creamery about an hour away, then sent to Antwerp for aging. The family that matures the Gouda (and many other fine European cheeses) also runs a cheese shop in Antwerp that some say is the best in Europe. The shop stocks hundreds of cheeses and supplies Belgium’s finest restaurants. The famous De Koninck brewery is practically next door and provides the cheese-aging space. Field trip, anyone?Read More
These days a new cheese has to have a reason for being or it will never find a place at the retail counter. How is it different? What needs does it serve? Why should merchants make room for it?
Cowgirl Creamery—the California company behind Mt. Tam, Red Hawk and other successes—rarely releases a new cheese, so any debut from them is news…..Read More