It’s easy to go glassy-eyed from awe and confusion when nose-to-nose with Feast!’s cheese case, which is well-endowed with 75 choices. But since everyone who works there is passionate and knowledgeable about their product, rest assured that you’ll walk away with the best cheese your money can buy.
“Finding a cheese staff who knows what they are doing and takes care of the cheese is the most important thing,” says Feast!’s Cheese Manager, Ehren Siebert. He recommends visually inspecting your cheese before buying it, noticing its color (it shouldn’t look moldy unless it is part of a blue cheese’s veining), its texture (it shouldn’t look wet) and its smell (it shouldn’t smell like ammonia).
“Once home, keep it in the cheese drawer of your refrigerator to keep smells from mingling, and be sure to set it out an hour before serving to let it breathe and come to temperature,” says Siebert. He suggests eating soft, ripe cheeses (like brie) within a week and blue cheeses within two weeks, while some hard cheeses like parmigiano will last for months.
Some of Siebert’s favorite pairings are Valdéon (a Spanish goat and cow’s milk blue wrapped in sycamore leaves) with local honey and Port; a fresh goat’s milk cheese (like Caromont Farm’s) with fresh fruit and a crisp white wine like Vinho Verde; and pungent cheeses (like Virginia’s Meadow Creek Grayson or Italy’s Taleggio) with dried fruit, nuts and a super hoppy beer like Starr Hill’s Double Platinum. Though, he’s quick to add, “You can’t really go wrong —it’s cheese!”—Megan Headley
Go for the goat
Making cheese from goat’s milk is a simple and ancient process, producing flavors and textures that continue to be refined and explored. From smooth and buttery to tart and squeaky, goat’s milk cheeses tempt and satisfy the palette. Also, because of its similarity to human milk, goat’s milk may be more digestible for those who have an intolerance of cow’s milk.
You can find an array of this rich and tasty food locally. Feast!, in the Main Street Market, carries Caromont Farm’s delicious offerings from Esmont, and you’ll also find goat’s milk cheeses from France, Canada, Italy, Holland and Spain.
If that’s not enough of a selection, Market Street Wineshop may have your choice of chevre. Still can’t find your caprine gem? Try Integral Yoga or the new Whole Foods Market.—Christy Baker
Rapidan cheesemaker Pat Elliott, whose Everona Dairy cheese can be found at Foods of All Nations, The Clifton Inn, Palladio Restaurant and Barboursville Vineyards, was inducted into the Guilde Internationale des Fromagers (International Guild of Cheesemakers) early last month. Professing a commitment to “transmitting knowledge through cheese companionship,” the Guilde’s membership boasts more than 5,000 as of 2010. Talk about a big cheese!