Have you ever dined at an upscale restaurant with a lengthy list of European wines on the menu and had NO idea of which wine would pair with your meal, what you’d like, where the best value for your budget is? And then a kind and helpful sommelier comes to your table to explain regions, terroir, pairings and price points to guide you to the best choice for you?
The same concept applies to exploring the wide world of imported cheeses. Don’t navigate the cheese case alone; that’s where your friendly neighborhood Cheesemonger comes into play!
Whether it’s part of a large upscale supermarket, a gourmet shop, or a local cheese shop – the Cheesemonger is there to help you in your cheese shopping experience; “sommelier-style”.
Tip: as an imported cheese lover? Befriending your local Cheesemonger will pay off in delicious spades!
Officially, a Cheesemonger is tasked with selling cheese but their job is often more complex than that. They often act as the liaison between the cheesemaker, the outlet you’re shopping in, and you; tending to the cheese until it’s sold, ensuring it’s being sold at top quality, and advising and educating to help you make the best choice possible for your tastes.
A true Cheesemonger is passionate about cheeses and the often interesting backstory beyond them; where they’re produced, using what type of milk or cheese making methods, the specific aging process used, its flavor profile, and optimum food and wine pairings to try.
They’ll also often shave off a delicious imported cheese sample for you to try!
Cheesemongers can also often inspire you to try lesser-known or seemingly intimidating cheeses that may become new favorites and help you compose a well-rounded or themed cheese board for your next gathering. For example, you may think you don’t care for blue cheese until you try sweet, creamy imported Gorgonzola Dulce, or that rich smelling washed rind Taleggio may seem overwhelming, until your Cheesemonger explains the process and you taste its mild buttery richness.
While many Cheesemongers are self-taught – there is an official certification process for people in the profession called a Certified Cheese Professional® or CCP™ designation. It requires 4,000 hours (two years) of paid or unpaid work experience in the cheese profession (or equivalent professional education) during the past six years as well as passing an extensive 3 hour exam covering everything from the name of the breed of sheep that goes into making Roquefort, to what’s the temperature degree at which pasteurization occurs with milk, to what type of rennet or culture do you use to make this type of cheese, to what is the allowable temperature to store hard or soft cheese and so much more.
So do yourself a favor, next time you’re at your favorite cheese counter introduce yourself to your local Cheesemonger to say hi, fill them in on what your favorites are and what you’re looking for, and let them guide you on a world of imported cheese tasting adventures!
Craving more cheese knowledge? Check out our post all about where cheeses actually get their start.