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To Discover My Inner Cheesemonger: Parte Quatre

sarah_j, guest blogger at Culture wrap’s up her exploration of cheese while at college.

While I wish more than anything that I could stay in this golden phase of my life, a phase that consists almost entirely of late nights, papers on Salinger and Nietzsche, coffee, and cheese, I’m afraid all of it is a week from being over. You see, I’m graduating from UC Davis this quarter, and, sadly, leaving my internship at culture with this final blog post.

So, considering the fact that this post might be the last legitimate excuse I’ll have to order an entire cheese plate for myself, I asked Will if I could try doing it on my own. No cheesemongers, no explanations—just an interaction between myself and a pretty perfect plate of cheese.

Bear with me. There will be puns.

Armed with a camera, notebook, and pen, I sat myself down at Magpie Caterers Market and Cafe in downtown Sacramento. Let me just say something about the place. It’s a faithful place, you know the kind—the restaurant you keep in your back pocket at all times: a small, candlelit space with an open kitchen and a chef/proprietor (in this case Ed Roehr) who periodically steps away from cooking to shake hands with the diners.

The sever recommended their “California Farmstead Cheese Plate”, an arrangement of seven cheeses, most of which are from dairy farms within a 100 mile radius. One of the first things I learned since arriving at culture is that buying, eating, and appreciating what’s around us are all wonderful practices—for sustainable and kind, neighborly reasons.

The cheese plate itself was really something beautiful. Starting at 12 o’ clock and going clockwise, the cheeses went like this:

Point Reyes Toma
Fiscalini Bandage Wrapped Cheddar
Bravo Chipotle Cheddar
Fiscalini San Joaquin Gold
Vella Dry Jack
Bravo Mountain Sage Cheddar
Point Reyes Blue (with Magpie-made, coriander-infused honey)

Let me cut to the great: The Point Reyes Toma was ridiculous. Maybe it’s just my soft spot for soft cheese, but I thought it was the perfect cheese. Subtle and buttery in flavor. Just the right texture to eat plain or to melt into a grilled cheese. Toma, Toma, you really got to-ma heart.

Anyway, I was most intrigued by the Point Reyes Blue for a few reasons. First, I have never liked blue cheese, which only makes me want to like blue cheese even more. Second, the coriander-infused honey drizzled on top was outstanding. (I’ve got to hand it to Magpie for taking such careful and inventive approaches to even the smallest details.) However, with that being, I can’t say that I now like blue cheese, even the Point Reyes-made, honey-coated blue cheese.

I tried Vella Dry Jack last time at the Mace Davis Nugget Market with Colby Turner and my impressions of the cheese this time were pretty much the same. Nutty and buttery—all good things but I’m less partial toward the lack of moisture.

As for Cheddars, I got to try three kinds. I liked the Bravo Mountain Sage Cheddar the mostest (also for its subtlety, now that I think about it). The grilled cheese and pickles I ordered had this cheese tucked inside—a wonderful melting cheese. I was told that the Fiscalini Bandage Wrapped Cheddar was voted the “Best Farmhouse Cheese” at the 2002 American Cheese Society Awards and won a gold medal at the 2007 World Cheese Awards in London for “Best Cheddar”, making it the first non-British Cheddar to win the category. The Bravo Chipotle Cheddar was punchy and delicious, but I imagine it would make more of an impact between the lettuce and turkey of a modest sandwich. I’m standing my ground—the sage cheddar, in all of its elegance and quirkiness, has got my Better Cheddar vote.

Well, that concludes the “To Discover My Inner Cheesemonger” series. At this point, I suppose all I really can say is that I’m lucky to have had the experience—artisan cheese and college life don’t normally fraternize. So thank you culture. You have been gouda to me and I will brie forever grate-ful.


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