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Shop Talk: Summer 2022

For this edition of Shop Talk, we asked owners/mongers from shops in Wisconsin, Las Vegas, and Connecticut to answer the following:

1. How did you get your start working in cheese?

2. What is your favorite cheese memory/funny story?

3. What cheese-focused trip or experience is on your bucket list?

Sarah Clemens

Noble Rind Cheese Company | Viroqua, WI

1. In the early 2000’s while tending shop for Laurie Crowell of Golden Fig in St. Paul, MN, I had my first experience of tasting local farmstead cheese—Shepherd’s Hope from Shepherd’s Way Farm in Nerstrand, MN. Until that point, the concept of where our cheese comes from was lost on this city girl. Once I made the connection between a literal shepherd or farmer tending their animals, producing nutritious milk and then using ancient techniques and practices to transform the milk into something so glorious—there was obviously no going back! 

2. A few years ago, when I was the cheesemonger at our local food coop, I hosted first, second, and third-graders who were learning about the continents. I had them try cheeses from 10 different countries. The reactions were priceless. At the end of the day the top two kid favorites were cheddar (of course) and Norwegian Gjetost!

3. I would love to visit Switzerland or rural parts of Europe where animals still graze far and wide on natural landscapes. I would also love to visit some of the cheddar makers in England. I’m in heaven just thinking about it—cheddar, cider, green grass, and cows, sign me up!

Noble Rind Cheese Company| 110 W. Court St., Viroqua, WI 54665 | 608.638.2743 | noblerind.com

Paige DeFeo

Bleu on Bank | New Milford, CT

1. Growing up in New York City and being exposed to so many wonderful products at such an early age, I have always loved cheese. I eventually turned my passion for food into being a chef; at 14 I started working in kitchens until I attended culinary school in my early 20s. I have been a private chef for 28 years working with prominent clients and have been lucky to experience incredible culture and cuisine around the world. I eventually decided to focus on cheese, opening my own shop and bringing my experience to help my customers expand their cheese and charcuterie palates—by introducing them to the wonderful local products we have here Litchfield County as well as international cheeses. 

2. In France I felt like I had gone to heaven; I never ate so much cheese in my life and I just woke up every day wanting to try more and explore new adventures—especially the raw milk cheese we cannot get here. I have no formal training as a cheesemonger, but I have really dived in with research; every day is a learning experience and I have never been happier in my career!

3. I’d love to travel with my husband when we can get away to try cheese all over Europe and go to the source and learn the agriculture. My husband, whose favorite cheese is Alp Blossom, is a landscape architect and also studied in Italy; we have both always had a love for learning about farming and the farm-to-table lifestyle.

 Bleu on Bank | 50 Bank St., New Milford, CT 06776 | 860.799.7696 | bleuonbank.com

Diana Brier

Valley Cheese & Wine | Henderson, NV

1. I spent years in college and hours in various jobs searching for the perfect path forward for me; nothing quite ever fit. At 30 I underwent open heart surgery; I flatlined during recovery and coming back from that made me realize how how lost I still felt. When it came time to enter the workforce again, I applied to Whole Foods. The next week I was in my first Cheese 101 class taught by an ACS CCP. My mind was blown…In that very moment, cheese became my everything. I knew I had found my place in the world.  

2. Some of my favorite memories are from my cheesemaking days at Deer Valley Resort. I was making bloomies at the time, and each morning I would drive up through the mountains of Park City and get to the cheese room, where the smell of sweet floral curd greeted me. I’d put some music on, pasteurize my milk, begin my make procedure … I was effervescently happy, and the cheese was magnificent. It was like a fairy tale.

3. Casu Marzu, hands down. I’d love to experience the textural anomalies of a cheese that has experienced both proteolysis and digestive decomposition, and I am curious about satisfying the part of myself that has even the smallest desire to eat a live maggot; I suppose just about anything is fair game with me if cheese is involved? … And I need to meet Rodolphe Le Meunier and Herve Mons. I have lots to do!

Valley Cheese and Wine | 1570 W. Horizon Ridge Parkway, Suite 140, Henderson, NV 89012 | 702.341.8191 | valleycheeseandwine.com

Susan Axelrod

Susan Sherrill Axelrod is a former editor of Culture. Her love affair with cheese began at age 12, when she bicycled to a gourmet shop to taste an exotic newcomer—French brie. She lives with her partner in midcoast Maine, where she enjoys a well-made cocktail, hiking with their dog, Lucy, and spending as much time as possible on the water.

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