Carmel Cheese Shop

May 11, 2009 · 0 comments

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We wandered in and weren’t five steps across the threshold before The Cheese Kid was unwrapping the cellophane off of half a wheel of some cheese so creamy and delicate he didn’t cut it: he scraped off two glistening pearls on to the sides of a wide knife, like butter. Without so much as a “Hello… allergic to dairy?” he leaned across the counter, paddle extended.

So right off the bat, I figured out you don’t have to cut the cheese. (And to all my readers who delight in a good ol’ fashioned sophomoric flatulence riff, I say: be strong!) You are apparently permitted to scrape, paddle, rip, dip, or squish a mouthful off the round in whatever way gets the job done. For someone who has been trying to hack delicately away at melty Camembert for decades, this comes as a great relief. And this from a twenty-something to whom we had not yet been formally introduced.

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“Here, try some of that. It’s a saucy little 2006 goat’s milk Gouda with hints of butter and dill, made in the direct light of a full moon by Armenian trolls. It’s a big seller.” Honestly, I can’t quite remember exactly what he said. All I remember is thinking, “I’m in cheese sample heaven, and it doesn’t even look like there’s a tasting fee.” The sample details elude me, but what lingers is just how freaking good the cheese tasted.

I don’t know if we looked like we were wealthy, or large consumers of cheese, or hungry, but the wheels kept rolling on to the sample cutting board. With an evening “sampler” cheese plate in mind, though, we had to get down to it. But how to “pair” cheeses?

“Well,” said Cheese Kid, “I like to think of the process by theme.”

I’m telling you, if this retail gig doesn’t work out for CK, there is a robust career in consulting waiting for him in Silicon Valley. Anyone who can answer a “how to” question with a full-blown thinking model is gold in these parts.

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“I go with either year, milk type, region, varietal… anything that helps compare one thing to another.”

What epiphanies abound in that sentence! I love that there’s no wrong answer here, just like Bill and his theory about wine pairings. I always appreciate the opportunity to be right.

Of equal importance is that this approach keeps your cheese-mixin’ options open for years into the future. As I tend to bore quickly, plan to be around for a long time, and intend on eating a lot of cheese, that’s good news. In addition, consider the permutations and combinations of the major food groups of Northern California: an unlimited variety of cheeses, wines, olives, breads, tapas, and chocolates. Youíll quickly belly up to the astounding reality that even if you never leave the San Francisco Bay area, you wonít have to eat the same meal twice for as long as you can keep from tipping off the perch. And if you travel at all, the possibilities are equivalent to thinking, “How far is up?”

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Thanks, Cheese Kid. You’re quite the culinary philosopher. Plus, you sell great cheese.

[Note: The word “cheese” appears 16 times above. By all measures, that’s a LOT of repetition, so I did a thesaurus search to see if I could mix it up a bit. No joy: further research revealed that the only synonym for “cheese” is “tofu,” and that’s only true in those awful health food stores that sell fake cheese.]

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