To Discover My Inner Cheesemonger, Parte Trois
I’m still thinking about the Saint Marcellin from last time.
With that being said, I’m beginning to realize how awesomely I scored with this blog series. I mean, how perfect is it, really? Honest, I’m not an undercover cheese connoisseur and the “discover my inner cheesemonger” blog pitch wasn’t born out of a coy strategy to scamper all over town and taste a bunch of brilliant cheeses—even though that’s essentially what I get to do…I guess all I’m trying to say is that I am very, very lucky.
Anyway, with all of that being said, I’m visited my third location back in Davis, at the Mace Davis Nugget Market with Colby Turner, Nugget’s cheese manager.
It’s turned into somewhat of an interesting trend, the way that all of the cheesemongers I’ve interviewed have had a close relationship to cheese since their childhood. Lise Smidt grew up in Denmark, where the cheese on her plate came from a nearby cow. Felicia Johnson’s favorite childhood haunt was her parents’ cheese counter. And, sitting outside at the Nugget Market patio, Colby Turner tells me a similar story.
“My parents would take me out to a tiny little shop called Green Valley Cheese out in Rockville. It was a spinoff of the one in Sonoma—about the size of a closet. It couldn’t have been more than 100 square feet. I would say from about the age six, we’d go out there and get a piece [of cheese].”
When asked about his parents’ apparent partiality toward cheese, Colby laughed and leaned back in his chair. “Well my name is Colby,” he said.
Those childhood trips to a distant, magical cheese closet now a fond memory, Colby’s more matured interest in cheese began on his couch.
“Since about ten years ago, I would get out a new bottle of wine and a new piece of cheese just because I was really interested in it. It was something for me to do and I liked the tastes, the stories behind [the cheeses], and it was kind of a way to travel around the world, but through my palate. Basically, I got hooked.”
I suppose now would be an appropriate time to say “the rest is history” and move on to the tasting. Agreed? Good.
The first one Colby had me taste was the cheese that he and his parents would trek out to Green Valley Cheese in Rockville for: Vella Dry Jack. It’s a dry jack cheese, aged and rubbed with cocoa powder and oil, creating a deep brown rind. Texture-wise, it’s firm, worlds apart from the soft, wet jack that I usually see on sandwiches. I did as Colby instructed and let a small piece warm up in my mouth; the result of doing so was instantly discernible. The flavor was mildly nutty and buttery, deepening as it warmed.
We moved onto Fontina Val D’Aosta, which Colby had me try because I’d mentioned (of course) that I had a cheese crush on the Saint Marcellin. I liked the Fontina Val D’Aosta, but couldn’t put my finger on what it was that drew me to it. Colby said it was probably the soft texture and meaty bite, both of which are characteristics I seem to prefer.
As something of a finale, Colby brought out a hunk of, what else, but the grand finale of every cheese event: Rogue River Blue. I only snuck in a mention that I’d tasted it last time after he cut us a piece. And, the way Colby described it, I’m sure you’d do the same: “They take this blue cheese, wrap in syrah leaves, marinate it in pear brandy…and you have to be on a waiting list to get it. It’s the crème de la crème.”
If you remember, I didn’t like Rogue River Blue when I tried it at Taylor’s Market with Felicia. I had described it as “a bit too strong.” Well, Sarah From Prior Blog Post, it’s time that you eat your words because I think my palate just developed, huzzah! The “too strong-ness” that I didn’t like before was replaced this time around with a sweet, creamy pungent flavor that I really enjoyed. I could imagine eating it as dessert, yum.
Did I really just say that—cheese for dessert? Something good is happening here…
Join me for the final part of my cheese adventure, coming up soon.
“Try every [cheese] you can get your hands on and just have fun with it!” – Colby Turner