Staring intently at a 20-something-year-old customer at Cowgirl Creamery in Penn Quarter, head cheesemonger Adam Smith winds up for a dance he’s done many times before. “Ma’am, what can I do for you today?” The woman says she’s planning a picnic. “Great. What kind of cheeses do you usually like?” As she offers a few details about her taste, the gears in Smith’s mind grind.
He grabs a wedge of Cowgirl’s Wagon Wheel and shows it to her. (The cheesemonger code says to always push the company product first.) “It’s a great everyday cheese,” he says. Her eyes start to wander a bit, so he quickly changes direction, unwrapping a hunk of Abbaye de Belloc and slicing off a sample. Smith gingerly hands it over to the woman on a piece of wax paper. “It’s a semisoft sheep’s milk cheese that was first made by monks in France 700 years ago.” She arches her eyebrows in approval. He smiles. “After all this time, they seem to know what they’re doing,” he says.