In this first segment of our Chef Showcase series, we felt it was appropriate to feature Venissimo's very first wholesale customer, chef Katie Grebow. She walked into the shop and asked if we have a wholesale program, to which I replied, "Well, certainly. Let me send you the details tomorrow." I then went home to ask my husband what a wholesale program was and how we could set one up. The rest is history.
Katie built one of the most stunning cheese plates in town during her tenure as executive chef at Cafe Chloe. Her tips for building the perfect cheese course include using all the milk types, multiple textures and styles, all paired with sweet accoutrements like tomato jam (a favorite with smoked cheeses) and wine-based geleé (a great way to introduce interesting wine). Check out a couple of her favorite cheese recipes: Warm Crottin of Goat Cheese Salad with Walnut Vinaigrette and Tartiflette.
In honor of Mother's Day & her upcoming birthday, I'm pleased to introduce you to my mom, Gert. Gert comes from a tiny, picturesque town in Austria called Oberdrauburg- human population 1,210, kangaroos 0. She always supported my crazy ideas, I think knowing that life is enriched whenever you take a risk, try something new. She left her small town to join my Papa in America, the "land of opportunity." Did she know the language? No. Did she know anyone? No. But it all worked out and her life is enriched with her many adventures. Thank you, Gert, for everything you do to make life an adventure and drive it like you stole it.
Liberty Station cheese monger Caroline joins us to obliterate the myth that American cheeses are crap! Born in Vermont, she has worked her way across the country, tasting the best cheeses made in the USA and meeting the cheese makers.
There are now more than 900 specialty / artisan / farmstead cheese makers in this country, feeding an industry with more than $4 billion in sales. So why, when you do a google search for American cheese, do the answers come back, "terrible," or "worst cheese in the world"???
They have obviously not tried one of our favorites, Cabot Clothbound Cheddar (pictured). Aged in Vermont in the famed Cellars of Jasper Hill, this 50-lb wheel of wonderful stands proud right next to the greatest English cheddars in the world.
Monger and manager Hannah from Venissimo Liberty Station also worked at Heart & Trotter, making her quite the expert in both cheese and charcuterie (aka, cured meat). For example, if you're looking for the Sonny & Cher of pairings, try Prosciutto (little sweet) with Parmigiano (little salty). And don't confuse Prosciutto with Serrano Jamon - one is from Italy while one is from Spain. And why is it better to slice Prosciutto, Serrano and Speck quite thin? Because they are made of well-worked muscle meat, making them tough, hence the need to be sliced thin.
And what the heck is caul fat? It's the best choice to wrap meats, providing a rich layer of fat for both texture and flavor plus a sturdy netting to hold things together. Have a listen to learn more.
When Sheryl Crow sang about drinking a beer at noon on Tuesday, we thought it was a great idea! Introducing Emily, our manager, monger and yoda in North Park, our little shop inside Bottlecraft Beer Shop & Tasting Room. She is our resident expert on beer and cheese pairings, willing to personally share her favorites and offer tips for your next party. She is joined by RobbyG, manager of our Academy of Cheese classes. I happen to be traveling in Jamaica and asked, "What cheese pairs with Red Stripe beer?" The answer, "Buffalo Soldier Mozzarella, naturally." Cheesy...
Venissimo's Del Mar manager Christine is a super fan of raw milk cheeses and shares facts, fictions, stats and information to help you understand the world of raw milk cheeses. We learned that only 15% of cheeses made in France today are made of raw milk. We also discovered that 32% of all the cheeses Venissimo has shared have been raw milk cheeses! To learn more, visit the Oldways Cheese Coalition, an organization dedicated to preserving the right to make and enjoy traditional raw milk cheeses. To show our support of raw milk, we are offering at 10% discount off all raw milk cheeses purchased at any of our neighborhood shops on Saturday, April 22, as part of Raw Milk Appreciation day #rawmilkcheese.
RobbyG, Venissimo's most senior cheese monger, launched Venissimo's Academy of Cheese (AoC, not to be confused with the AOC) in 2009 and is well-versed in the history of cheese naming, including what it means and what it protects. With so many cheeses on the market, how can one differentiate itself from another and truly capture the place from which it comes?
Venissimo's very own Jessica was recently crowned best cheese monger in the USA at the annual Cheese Monger Invitational. She was the first west-coast winner ever (by a very large margin, might we add). She shared her newly discovered love of something called rotational grazing, a method used at Sweet Grass Dairy in Georgia to ensure that the animals always have fresh grass to eat which in turn becomes delicious milk for cheese.
What does it take to earn this prestigious title? It takes practice, passion and dedication to win. But mostly, it takes saying, "Yes, I can do this!" A great lesson for anyone who aspires to something. You can learn more about Jess and see her passion at Monger Mold and Milk @mongermoldandmilk
Gina Freize is Cheese Wiz of Venissimo Cheese and host of Noon on Tuesday, a weekly podcast all about cheese, all the time.