The ever-tempting cheese case at Pastoral
Pairing wine with cheese is something that any sommelier worth their curd should be able to do quite easily but I must admit that my knowledge of cheese had always quantified as enough to be dangerous. I know how to pair the various styles of cheese with an appropriate wine match but I had always been curious to learn more about the actual producers. My interest was piqued last year on a trip to Israel as well as a trip to Canada when I had the opportunity to visit a couple of goat dairy farms. Aside from the baby goats being as adorable as possible (I wanted to take one home), I was particularly moved by the dedication and artisanship of the people behind the (cheese) wheel.
Shortly after my resignation from Lettuce, I took the opportunity to work at Pastoral Artisan Cheese, Bread and Wine as a holiday associate. The knowledge of the staff at Pastoral is mind boggling. Each monger has the ability to rattle off all kinds of intricate details about each cheese selection.
My first few days were a bit overwhelming as I learned the ropes of being a cheesemonger. There are certain things you need to keep in mind when handling cheese. First and foremost - do not cross contaminate a blue cheese knife with a non-blue cheese product otherwise you risk spreading the mold inducing spores. Always wrap cheese shortly after slicing it otherwise it will dry out but also keep in mind cheese needs to breathe as well - some once a day, others once a week. Wrapping cheese in plastic is an artform. It has to be really tight and you have to make sure that the side facing the customer is presentable. I will never take a beautifully presented cheese case for granted ever again. I did learn a tip for home: you can make cheese in your refrigerator last longer if you take the time to rewrap it tightly in fresh plastic. Don't reuse plastic - always fresh!
With each shift, I became more and more familiar with all the items in the cheese case as I learned about the producer and the production method. I also supplemented my education with Mastering Cheese. The best part about working at Pastoral is they encourage you to taste everything and I took them up on the offer! I often volunteered to split whole wheels as it was really awesome to be able to taste the cheese right after you slice it when the paste is extra creamy and soft. When dining out, I am more excited than ever to recognize my favorite cheeses at restaurants. I now have the ability to enjoy them knowing a lot more about what went into making them.
My time at Pastoral came to an end earlier this month and I am extremely grateful to have had the opportunity to work there. The owners, Greg and Ken, have a created a wondeful environment to share the goodness of cheese and I can't thank them enough for including me. The entire staff was very patient with all my questions and I learned a great deal from them as they shared their knowledge. When it comes to cheese, I could not have asked for a better education.