Tag Archives: cheesemonger

Cheese of the Month: Ogleshield!

One of the most fun aspects of working in food is that it is ever evolving and changing. Tradition may be the undertone of most things you see, but innovation is everywhere, regardless of how steeped the source. As a cheesemonger, finding fascinating new cheeses hidden in renowned traditional sources is one of my greatest pleasures.

No matter where in the world you look, many of the practices of making cheese are the same. The curds are heated in similar patterns, similar cultures are used, and many similar rind formation techniques are applied, but the results can be drastically different. So if I was surprised to find one of the foremost names in traditional English cheeses attached to a Swiss raclette style cheese, I was even more surprised to find one of England’s foremost cheddar producers as well! Montgomery’s Cheddar has long been held as one of the standard bearers of English cheddars and their collaboration with Neal’s Yard Dairy in Ogleshield reflects a lot of that commitment to quality and tradition, even in a more innovative cheese.

The first of these collaborations occurred on Ogleshield’s predecessor, Jersey Shield. Jaime Montgomery uses primarily more mild Holstein milk for many of his cheeses but made the decision to expand his small Jersey herd to cheese production as well. Jersey Shield started more traditionally English with a ashy gray bloomy rind, a firmer texture, and a cheddared style. However, due to the larger size and delicate nature of the fat globules in Jersey milk, the cheese did not succeed as affineurs had hoped. William Oglethorpe, who at the time was the senior affineur at Neal’s Yard, knew that the cheese had the potential to be incredible, they just had to find a way to get there, and thus, Ogleshield was born.

Ogleshield has all the ingredients for an incredible cheese: Jersey milk with its characteristic bright yellow fat and complex flavor profile from a master dairyman and a rind hand-washed and salted in the traditional Swiss style developed by master affineur, for whom the cheese is named. The result is a semi-soft, nutty, and almost fruity cheese incredible for melting with more punch and tang that a traditional raclette.

We are very happy to announce that Ogleshield will be our May cheese of the month! Come taste it in all it’s wonderful forms May 3rd at 7:30! Please visit our website for tickets!

Author: Emily Shifflett

Tips From Our Cheesemonger Read more

One of the most fun aspects of working in food is that it is ever evolving and changing. Tradition may be the ...

Cheesemongers Travel in Umbria

One of the little-known facts about working in the cheese business  is that there is a fair amount of travel involved. Visiting cheesemakers and producers is essential to understanding your products and being able to bring them to life for your customers. Lucky for us cheesemongers, most of these cheesemakers live in some pretty darn beautiful, idyllic places. This winter, I was lucky enough to spend time in one of these gorgeous locations – Umbria.

Flying into Perugia, I was full of excitement, not knowing what to expect. I had visited Italy before – Tuscany, Florence, Venice – but had never been to the “green heart of Italy” known as Umbria. As the plane descended, I was struck by the beauty of the Apennine mountains framing the central valley. Even though it was winter, the view was indeed green – full of silvery sage olive groves and striking, pin straight cyprus trees. This was going to be a good trip.
Having worked at Via Umbria since it opened in November of 2015, you could say that I have become quite familiar with Umbrian cuisine. However, experiencing this style of cooking – Torta al Testo, truffle covered everything, and lots and lots of pork – in its natural habitat was a truly one-of-a-kind experience. It was also fascinating to put these dishes into historical and geographic context. For example, Umbria is the only region in Italy to be completely landlocked, which meant that salt used to be very scarce. As a result, traditional Umbrian bread is still to this day made without salt.

Learning about the cheese culture in Umbria was equally captivating. Because of various importation laws concerning bringing cheese into the US, I was very unfamiliar with the cheese traditions of this particular region. I was lucky enough to be able to shadow Fabio Brocatelli, a local cheesemaker whose family has made cheese in Umbria for the past three generations. Following him around the dairy, I learned that because of the fairly rocky, local mountains, the soil isn’t rich enough to support the type of pastureland necessary for cows. It is, however, ideal for goats and sheep. As such, most cheese from Umbria is either a pecorino, or made from sheep’s milk, or di capra, or made from goats.


We stopped by and visited with one of the farmers who provides Fabio with sheep milk for his various pecorinos. Like most of the sheep farmers in the area, this shepherd was originally from Sardinia. As we sat at the large, farmhouse table, waiting for the espresso to brew and munching on traditional Sardinian flatbread with homemade cheese, I learned that after the devastation of World War II, many Sardinian farmers made the trek north to Umbria to continue their farming traditions. As such, the amount of sheep drastically increased, and pecorino became an ingrained part of Umbrian cuisine. As drinking espresso turned into drinking housemade wine and mirta (traditional Sardinian liquor), various neighbors started dropping by, filling the kitchen with warmth and laughter. Although my Italian is, in the best of circumstances, poor, and my Sardinian is completely non-existant, I felt charmed and welcomed by these people.

My time in Umbria flew by entirely too quickly. To say I ate well would be the understatement of the year. To say I had a good time would be equally inadequate. I am so grateful for the experience and it is one that I will certainly not soon forget.

Eating Cheese in Umbria Read more

One of the little-known facts about working in the cheese business  is that there is a fair amount of travel involved. Visiting ...

The Cheesemonger Invitational

At the end of June, a very special event will be taking place at a cold storage facility in Long Island City, right across the river from Manhattan. If some of you are thinking about some kind of clandestine meeting of big-shot mob bosses, well, you’re not far off. Well, except that instead of the actual mafia, it’s the cheese mafia. And instead of cold-blooded killers, the attendees will be competitive cheesemongers. And it’s not clandestine at all…Okay. So it’s nothing like a secret mafia meeting. It is, in fact, The Cheesemonger Invitational, and yours truly will be one of the competitors.

That’s right, folks–there are indeed competitive cheesemonger competitions, and the cream of the crop is CMI. Held twice a year (once in New York and once in San Francisco), CMI is the ultimate cheesemonger test. Amongst the fourteen (!!) total challenges, the competitors are tested on their cheesemaking and affinage knowledge, their ability to cut cheese to weight, wrap cheese in both plastic and cheese paper, their salesmanship and charisma, ability to pair various cheeses with both beverages and accompaniments, and plating skills. It’s a cheesemonger marathon–a true test of skill and knowledge for those who make their living selling cheese.

While it’s true that CMI is a competition, it is first and foremost about creating a sense of community amongst mongers from far and wide. As they state, “Our mission is to inspire cheesemongers. Selling cheese is a profession that spans centuries. Great cheese does not exist without great cheesemongers…. This profession requires an unwavering commitment to practical skills, as well as, a never ending desire to learn more about history and science. The Cheesemonger Invitational is that rare opportunity for amazing cheesemongers to be celebrated by their community.”

In the spirit of celebration and adding to the mongers knowledge, CMI also offers mongers a chance to learn from the best, in addition to the competition. Cheesemakers, distributors, affineurs, and other accomplished cheesemongers teach classes and provide guidance for the competitors during an education day before the competition takes place. It’s a great opportunity to learn and hone the cheesemonger craft.

I’m excited to be a part of this amazing event, and even more honored to be a part of the cheese community. I can’t wait to come back and regale you all with my stories. If anyone is interested in heading to New York and cheering me on, CMI is open to the public, so buy your tickets soon! More information can be found on their website.

Wish me luck!


Alice Bergen Phillips
Alice Bergen Phillips

AKA the cheese mafia Read more

At the end of June, a very special event will be taking place at a cold storage facility in Long Island City, ...

Demystifying the Cheese Board

Cheese is a wonderful way to begin or end a meal. Heck, it can even be a meal on its own! Many nights, I’ve grabbed bread, wine, and a hunk of my favorite cheddar or tomme and called it dinner. But creating a cheese board can be a bit overwhelming. How much should you use? How many varieties should you include? And with which accompaniments? I’m here to answer these questions and more. Let’s demystify the cheese board.

When buying for a cheese board, I get an ounce to an ounce and half of each cheese per person, depending on the cheese’s role in the meal. If it’s the star of the show, grab a little more. If it arrives at the end of the meal when everyone’s already stuffed, less is appropriate.

Now we can get down to business: choosing cheeses! Depending on how many people will partake in your fabulous board, I recommend selecting three to five cheeses. The rule of thumb here is variety. You should aim for a medley of milks (cow, goat, sheep, water buffalo, blends), a full spectrum of textures (fresh, soft, semi-soft, firm, hard), and an array of origins (French, Italian, Spanish, American, etc.). Unless you’re doing a themed plate, avoid a one-note cheese board and provide a wide range of offerings. Your local cheesemonger (me!) will be happy to help.

This splendid wheel of brie is an ideal leading lady.
Surrounded by spiced walnuts, dried cherries, cheddar chunks, and firm alpine wedges, this splendid wheel of brie makes a great leading lady.


So, once you’ve got all of these delicious cheeses, what do you do with them? Plating is one the best parts of my job. I adore the art of building a gorgeous piece out of natural ingredients that guests will ooh and ahh over. Everyone has their own style, but I always abide by the Three Plating Commandments.

The First Commandment: Get your cheeses up to temperature. Cold cheeses will have a muted taste and a firmer, duller texture than room-temperature cheeses. To get the most out of your cheeses, take them out of the fridge at least an hour, if not two hours, before serving.

The Second Commandment: Make the the cheese easy to eat. Soft cheeses don’t need to be precut into slices, because they can be easily scooped up and spread with a knife. Harder cheeses should be sliced or crumbled. Don’t underestimate the beauty of a pile of large, rustic crumbles! Aesthetically, steer clear of grocery store-style cubes. Instead, try a cascade of thinly sliced wedges. Pro-tip: slice your cheeses while they’re still a bit chilled for a smoother cut.

A beneficent spread is ideal.
No need to be shy with this endless spread.


The Third Commandment: Make your plate appear abundant. People are drawn to bounteous, plentiful arrangements. It’s also important to choose your plate or platter wisely, because going too big or too small can make plating difficult. Fill in the gaps between cheeses with accompaniments like slices of apple or pear, bunches of grapes, toasted walnuts, spiced pecans, and small bowls of jams or chutneys. Again, this is where your cheesemonger can be very helpful! Ask what would pair best with your specific cheeses. They might suggest fun combinations you hadn’t imagined! One of my off-the-wall favorites is very aged gouda (at least two years, but preferably four or five) with butterscotch sauce. The sweet nuttiness of the cheese combined with the salty-sweet sauce is just incredible.

I hope these tips help you navigate your next cheese board. Remember, when in doubt, talk to your cheesemonger. We’re here to make you feel comfortable with your selections, and to help you discover new and thrilling ways to explore the world of cheese!


Alice Bergen Phillips
Alice Bergen Phillips

The basics of building a great cheese board Read more

Cheese is a wonderful way to begin or end a meal. Heck, it can even be a meal on its own! Many ...

Fine Cheese and the Art of Affinage

One of the most exciting parts of being a cheesemonger is getting to know our cheese producers: the people whose love, care, and mastery create the decadent wheels that you see in our case. We stock the counter at Via Umbria with gorgeous cheeses from small farms, creameries, and affineurs that your average shopper won’t see at the supermarket. Meeting and developing relationships with these cheese artisans is one of the best parts of my job.

On a recent snowy morning, I had the privilege to visit Crown Finish Caves, a small-batch cheese producer located in Crown Heights, Brooklyn. The formerly industrial New York neighborhood is filled with empty turn-of-the-century factories like the one that houses Crown Finish Caves. Their old, brick building appears unremarkable at first sight, but a surprise lies in what’s buried underneath: long, damp tunnels.


A low, cavernous Crown Finish cellar.
A low, cavernous Crown Finish cellar.


When owners Benton Brown and Susan Boyle discovered these underground caverns, they scrapped their plan to convert the building into office space and turned their attention to producing cheese. Far-flung from the farm, the urban locale of Crown Finish posed unique challenges, namely procuring access to large quantities of milk. However, the climate of the tunnels that Brown and Boyle had unwittingly acquired proved perfect for affinage, the subtle art of aging cheese.

Affinage is what makes blue cheese blue, stinky cheese pungent, and gives brie and camembert their fuzzy white exteriors. It’s a large part of what makes every cheese distinctive. Brown, an artist with no former affinage experience, threw himself into mastering the tricks of the trade. He became well-versed on the subjects of temperature, humidity, and time requirements for aging different cheeses. He learned to recognize desirable and undesirable mold, and perfected the finer points of cleaning, brushing, washing, turning…all factors that go into creating a beautiful, unique cheese.


Say cheese ... and cheese ... and cheese ...
Say cheese … and cheese … and cheese …


Hanging out in a chill atmosphere.
Hanging out in a chill atmosphere.

Young cheeses, primarily from Northeastern farms, make their way to the caves year round. Currently, the Crown Finish caves hold about 11,000 pounds of cheese, and plans to expand and diversify production are in the works. There are, of course, a few favorite staples like Tubby, an alpine-style cow’s milk cheese from Spring Brook Farm in Reading, VT, and Reverie, an Italian toma-style cheese from Parish Hill Farm in Westminster West, VT. Ever the innovator, Brown loves to try out new techniques and create custom cheeses for clients. While I was there, he showed me a few experiments involving duck fat washes and wagyu beef tallow coatings–not exactly your typical cheese treatments.

Stop by our counter and sample the wonders of Crown Finish Caves, from the fruity, complex Suffolk Punch to the silky, toasted sesame-infused Gatekeeper. I was deeply impressed with the care and creativity that goes into crafting Crown Finish cheeses, and I’m sure you will be too.


Alice Bergen Phillips
Alice Bergen Phillips

Get to know the cheese at Via Umbria Read more

One of the most exciting parts of being a cheesemonger is getting to know our cheese producers: the people whose love, care, ...