Wednesday, December 22, 2010
As many of you already know, she recently cooperated with the FDA in a voluntary recall of all of her products when they were targeted as potentially being positive for e-coli. I had seven beautiful wheels of her cheese in my possession at the time, and having to dispose of them had me choking back tears. A few days later I hear through the cheese grapevine that she was selling off her small herd of several pregnant ewes, some nubian goats, and a few Swiss cows. I admit I wasn't entirely surprised to hear this, but it still made me depressed and sickened; this is not the way any cheesemaker should go out.
The sliver of a silver lining in all of this is that the public is just as saddened by this as I am. Customers have been coming in to ask after her, and the general feedback that I've received is that of sympathy and great love for what she has accomplished. She is quite simply a legacy in American artisan cheesemaking, and her cheese will be dearly missed.
I've also had many people ask what they might be able to do to help. I don't know Sally very well, in fact I've never met her in person or seen her amazing farm, but I do know that she needs our support as she goes through this incredibly difficult transition. I do know that she is among the most humble people I've come across, and it would mean the world to her to hear from you, so please take a few moments during this crazy time of year to write her a postcard or a letter, send her an email, and tell her how much you have loved her cheeses over the years. You can find contact information for her on her website.
Friday, December 17, 2010
This is the result of a recent outbreak of e-coli in the area, linked to a cheese plate upon which her cheese, among others, was consumed. Tami Parr of Pacific Northwest Cheese Project has a summary here.
This is pretty devastating for me right now, and after speaking briefly with Sally this morning, it is very up in the air as to what will come of this. What I do know is that the strain of e-coli found in the persons who became sick has not been specifically linked to her cheese, this is a cautionary measure at this time.
Anyone who has purchased, or is planning to purchase one of our Pacific Northwest Selections for the holiday season, which feature a wedge of Sally Jackson goat, we will be substituting an equally delicious product from the area.
If you bought any Sally Jackson cheese from my shop in the past 2-3 weeks, please dispose of any unconsumed portions. If you like, you may return any unconsumed cheese of hers in exchange for another cheese.
Tuesday, December 14, 2010
The inspiration for this ridiculously delicious little morsel comes from our favorite neighborhood shop back in Brooklyn, Bedford Cheese Shop. One Thanksgiving or Christmas many years ago we made our usual stop there to stock up on decadent treats before heading to the family's homestead for a few days of eating ourselves stupid, and they had this glorious little gem tucked into the wee side of the case, almost hidden, which I can now understand seeing as they may have had the privilege of taking home those unsold.
It was a small disc of a ripe, punchy brie, wrapped in locally produced, cured bacon.
We snapped it up and salivated the entire 4 hour drive to New Hampshire, thinking and talking about how awesome it would be to sear that baby into a molten, gooey glob of salty pork and tangy curd. What we eventually experienced far exceeded our wildest dreams, and I could not pass up the opportunity to re-create it during this, my first of many holiday seasons.
Bacon on anything tends to be a no-brainer, for sure, but I find myself in an especially fortunate situation sharing market space with Rain Shadow Meats, procurers of the most amazing double smoked Colorado bacon I've ever laid my tastebuds upon. The difficult choice for this project was the cheese - it needed to be affordable, with a thick rind that could hold up to a bit of heat, with enough punchy flavor to stand up to the salty bacon fat, but not enough to compete with it. The clear winner: Weybridge. This modest 3.5 oz. round is everything you want in a well-balanced brie; creamy, buttery pate with a slight tangy kick that intensifies just so when you reach the hearty but not-too-thick rind. Made with love by Scholten Family Farm in Weybridge, VT, this palatable cheese makes it's way to the west coast via the Cellars at Jasper Hill. I've been eating this cheese for a while now, and have taken much notice to how well it holds its form as it warms, which led me to believe that it would melt like a dream just as the bacon began to crisp, and I was right. Oooohhhhh so deliciously right!
Here is a photo montage of the trial run tonight at our house:
We'll be selling these beautiful babies at the shop this Thursday 12/16 through Christmas Eve. They are intended for immediate consumption, so please plan accordingly. We will be assembling and taking hold requests for them on a daily basis, so please call the shop at 206.467.5447 to secure yours now.
Also note, they are small discs, once cooked can provide a hearty taste for a group of four, or an appetizer if you're a glutton like me, for two.
Monday, December 6, 2010
In addition to our usual range of great gift ideas like gift certificates and specialty cheese platters, you can also get your orders in now for hand-selected Holiday Cheese Assortments.
* Pacific Northwest Selections (pictured above): Tumalo Farms "Jewell" (OR), Sally Jackson Goat (WA), Black Sheep Creamery's "Queso de Oveja" (WA), and Rogue Creamery's "Oregonzola" (OR). $35
* European Classics: Delice du Jura (Burgundy, France), Abbaye de Belloc (French Pyrenees), Keen's Cheddar (Neal's Yard Dairy, UK), Valdeon Cabrales (Spanish blue) $35
or go for the gusto with
* Around the world with cheese: 7 exquisite selections of the best cheeses available from the U.S. and beyond $70
Each assortment includes labels for identification and a cheese menu detailing origin, type, and production of each cheese. All assortments are available on a pre-order, pre-paid basis and available for pickup from 12/20 - 12/24.
And as always, we will be fully stocked and staffed to give you the great the individual service you know and love. See you on the other side of the deli case!
Thursday, December 2, 2010
For this event, we'll be breaking a wheel of Montogmery's Cheddar from Neal's Yard Dairy. This mighty British cheddar was one of the first I ever tasted from the Neal's Yard collection over ten years ago, and it is still one of my all-time favorite cheeses - rich, buttery, salty and tangy. Muscling into a wheel of Monty's is just as much a treat for me as it is for everyone else.
That's a wheel of Keen's in the photo, a close cousin to Monty's
We'll break the cheddar at high noon on Saturday December 11th, so swing by for some tasty samples and enjoy 10% off Monty's for the rest of the weekend. See you then!
Tuesday, November 9, 2010
Sasha will be at the shop signing copies of her book from 2:00 - 4:00 p.m. this Saturday, November 13th, 2010.
This is an excellent opportunity to pick up some early bird gifts for your cheese loving friends! Stop by to chat cheese with her, check out her lovely book, and sample some amazing cheeses from the west coast.
Vive la fromage!
Tuesday, October 26, 2010
I've been thinking a lot about this issue and exactly how I want to approach it and what I feel is purposeful for me to say as a retailer. Rather than repeat what has already been covered by many other sites, I will refer you to a summary of events by Tami Parr of Pacific Northwest Cheese Project, which also links to the official Report by the FDA and an article in the Seattle Times.
This event has the potential to put the Estrella's out of the cheesemaking business for good, and personally I think that would be a tragedy. They have been making amazing farmstead cheese for many years, and they have built a reputation among the greater Seattle area and beyond for producing stellar products. They are good people who have no intention of harming the supportful community that buys their cheese. I love their cheese, and I really hope that I will have the opportunity to sell it again the near future.
That being said, I keep thinking about Listeria, it seems to be all anyone can blather about in the case of the Estrella's. While I think there is a bigger issue to be addressed, I do want to clarify just a few details about it. Listeria monocytogenes, the bacteria known to cause infections of Listeria, is a pathogen that naturally occurs in the environment, most commonly in soil, stream water, and plants. Because it is found in these things, it is often passed through people and animals into sewage and food -- not to be confused with the Seattle Times single claim that it is found in fecal matter, insinuating that only unsanitary and careless cheesemakers would transfer it from animal to product. While Listeria monocytogenes can be harmful to the young, elderly, immunocompromised, and pregnant women, most healthy adults can ingest the bacteria in food etc. and never experience any symptoms of a Listeria infection.
What I find most compelling and exasperating is not the issue of Listeria pahtogens being found in the Estrella's cheese, or any cheese for that matter, but the way that this potential hazard is dealt with by our current federal regulations. I view eating most cheeses, raw milk or not, along the same level of risk that may be associated with eating cured meat, undercooked beef, raw egg in a salad dressing, etc. It is a calculated risk that I personally take because I love the food. I may get sick or not, but what is important to me is that the people serving me these "risky" products educate and inform me of any potential illness that may result from eating them. I realize that an evening spent in the bathroom does not compare to potential birth defects and other long term issues that can arise from Listeria infection, however I still stand by my belief that we should be allowed to make the choice ourselves.
I typically have between 15 and 20 raw milk cheeses available at any given time, and many customers who want to buy exclusively raw milk cheese. I also have plenty of customers who want to stay the hell away from raw milk cheese, and then those who aren't sure about it so I tell them the facts and lay out the most conservative route they may take in cheese buying, but ultimately, it's up to them, and that's the way it should be.
Monday, August 30, 2010
The first thing I realized is that while it's an amazing thing to have the conference in my town, it means a lot of extra work as I bustled between sessions and keeping an eye on the shop. It was really an opportunity that I don't know I'll ever have again in that cheese professionals from far and wide were just blocks from my new baby. I was so happy every time someone walked in ooh-ing and ahh-ing at the space, and I got many compliments from people I've looked up to for years. My ego was stroked as much as a puppy in a park on a sunny day.
The conference: I only got to attend about half of the sessions I signed up for due to demands of the shop, which I expected, but here's a rundown of those I did make it to.
Health Benefits and the Psychology of Cheese
I was really jazzed for this session, however it was a tad disappointing. I expected to walk away with a pocketful of information to relay to customers about the virtues of good cheese in our diets. However the speakers, while all knowledgeable and fun to listen to, generally couldn't come up with much conclusive evidence via studies et. al. as to the benefits of dairy. There was some very interesting talk about changing the overall view of diet and nutrition in the U.S. from outdated perceptions of food as "bad" or "good", to a more cohesive and comprehensive view of all food we eat as a continuum. Myself often being the one to justify copious amounts of cheese by filling my gob with salad and fresh veg, this hit a note for me, but otherwise, I didn't walk away with much.
Last Stop: Cheese Shop
This session was focused on the details of retailing cheese, from deciding what to order and why, to caring for it in the shop, displaying it in the case, pricing, and of course, mongering it to customers. This was the highlight of the conference for me because we got to get down and dirty with some amazing cheesemongers from across the country. We basically dissected the deli cases that were on display from the previous day's merchandising competition, where teams of two were each given one deli case, a box of cheese, and their own tools and ingenuity to create an impressive display. I took away many details that I will incorporate into my deli cases, and the panel was a great little hotbed of lively discussion for all.
Getting Inside the Mind of the Retail Buyer
I misunderstood the brief description of this session (as many others did), in that I thought they would be speaking about getting inside the minds of my customers. Turns out it was more about getting inside my head, and those of other buyers, distributors, etc. This was a surprisingly interesting session as most of the attendees were cheese makers, and we got to hear them ask the panel about the issues they face. I am still a bit shocked at the lack of open discourse we have with cheese makers, and I was biting my tongue to bark out my own voice whenever a cheese maker asked how they should contact us, what's the best way to get their cheese to us, etc. I think what was great to me about this session was not so much what happened in the 90 minutes we sat there, but the internal 'oopmh' I got to keep up communication with my beloved cheese purveyors. They work so hard to make these amazing products for us, and the connection between us (retailers) and them should never be lost, but rather strengthened by consistent contact.
There is more, much more, but this is enough for one post. Photos uploading as we speak...
Tuesday, August 24, 2010
I am taking some time away this week for Cheese-a-topia! This year's annual American Cheese Society conference is being held in Seattle, and I could not be happier. I got to experience this 3 day immersion in all things cheese geeky last year down in Austin, Texas. The conference is such an amazing opportunity to meet people in the industry from all around the world, learn more than a reasonable brain can handle, and eat far too much cheese than anyone should ever eat in 72 hours.
While the conference doesn't begin until Thursday, we are kicking it off tonight at the shop with a reading and book signing with Gordon"zola" Edgar, author of Cheesemonger: A Life on the Wedge. He's always super fun and I'm looking forward to hanging out with many of the awesome cheese peeps I met at last year's conference. Tomorrow will see myself and pal Sarah of Mission Cheese on a full day tour of cheesemakers in the area, followed by dinner on the farm at Kurtwood Farms. Thursday the conference officially begins, and I promise rich coverage of every cheesey moment.
Thursday, July 29, 2010
Recently we've had dozens of highlights among local food bloggers, local rag blogs, etc. Last week the whole market got a nice little writeup in the Thursday edition, then lo and behold, the Sunday Times featured a lovely bit about yours truly! The online piece doesn't feature a kickass photo of myself with a hearty wedge of Woman of La Mancha from the esteemed Gothberg Farms. Also hailed in the article (among others), was Black sheep Creamery's Queso de Oveja. I am beyond plussed at how many people have come into the shop after reading the article demanding Black Sheep's cheese! As some of you may know, I spent a short stint at their farm/creamery last summer in the spirit of learning the in's and out's of cheesemaking first-hand, so their cheeses have a very special place in my heart.
This little piece of press has brought people into the shop from all over, clamoring for the cheeses I mentioned, and I couldn't be happier! It's one thing to embrace the popularity of my shop, but it is quite another to have people come in asking for the local cheeses that I so dearly love. I know that the cheesemakers are feeling the trickle-down effect of this with my weekly orders for more, more, more cheese!
Major kudos to you, Seattle and beyond, for jumping on this bandwagon de fromage.
Tuesday, July 13, 2010
The past few weeks have been full of amazing cheeses that I've been posting regularly on my Facebook account, which is automatically linked to my Twitter account. That's where you can find almost daily updates of what's hip-hop-happening at the shop.
In the meantime, I've been consumed with the lovely ordeal that is scheduling. I remember so many other jobs I've had where the people in charge of such a beastly task were constantly complaining about "the schedule", and I often thought, "how hard can that possibly be?" Well, now I'm eating my words along with my daily cheese intake, and I have more sympathy with my former managers than I ever imagined I would (and that was a lot to start with).
I've said it before and I'll say it again: I am incredibly lucky to have the amazing employees I have. They are a large part of what has brought me the very nubile success I have, and I love them to death. However, I know that I can't pay them enough to be completely committed to just me, and understanding that I have to work with them to accommodate the other jobs they have that essentially afford them being able to work for me. So it turns out that I need to have many a part-timer willing to sling cheese alongside me.
I've been on the hiring end of many different jobs in the past and I always hate it, the whole Human Resources part of being Mrs. Bosswoman is my least favorite part by far. But it has taught me over the years that there are a few things I personally need to take into consideration when hiring people. First, I hire based on personality almost entirely. I can't count how many times I've watched my employers wave off amazing candidates because they don't have experience in an entry level job. So, so stupid. How do you get experience at entry level without being hired at entry level? Anyway, I'm much more concerned with how I'm going to get along with someone personally than how much they know about cheese, learning what's available in the deli case and beyond in an ongoing process that will never end. One of the best ways for me to gauge how I'm going to get along with someone is with humor, so I employed an old tactic that got me hired as a baker at one of my all-time favorite jobs ever a million years ago: tell me a joke. You can tell a LOT about a person by what they're willing, or not willing, to reveal in a joke. I know it's kind of flippant but I don't even read the emails or the resumes unless the joke makes me laugh out loud or snort.
So there you have it, my golden rule for hiring. So far, so good.
Monday, June 21, 2010
When you open your own business, regardless of industry or trade, you suddenly take on a ton of responsibility that is pretty delicate in nature. You may be the boss, but really every person you make a transaction with is the boss, plain and simple. It's definitely an odd feeling to have so much and yet so little power all at the same time. While I am the end where the buck stops to my employees, and to some degree, my suppliers, I am on the other end of the spectrum in relationships with customers and neighbors. I would definitely say that if you've never managed subordinates in one way or another, you'll be ill-prepared to run your own show. Of course, there are exceptions to every rule, I've known a handful of people who just have the type of personality that lends itself to assuming authority without being an asshole - a very delicate balance indeed. One thing that I've noticed, as much as I absolutely abhor making generalizations based on gender, is that men are given much more wiggle room when it comes to asserting themselves in the workplace. I don't agree with it, I really wish it wasn't this way, but the fact remains that when a man is in charge and asserts himself in the eyes of those under him and his equals, he can get away with a lot more and still remain simply assertive and demanding of respect. When a woman does the same thing, it's a fine, fine line between asserting the power she has in her position and being perceived as a squaking, arms-flapping, irrational bitch.
I've crossed this line a few times in the past few weeks, and while I'll save you all the details, it's overwhelmingly frustrating. You speak up for yourself diplomatically over and over again, it repeatedly falls on deaf ears, and when you finally decide that enough's enough and make a more bold statement in the spirit of finally being heard, suddenly you go from being seen as a Cathy to The Chicken Lady. If only I could lay fresh eggs!
And so it goes. I knew I'd come up against situations in which I'd feel my novice status reeking off me like onion breath, so it's not a huge surprise, but it still sucks.
On the positive side, I have the pleasure of being "the boss", of some really amazing employees. I seriously could not be operating without them, and I am forever grateful that they happened up on me right out of the starting gate. I've been through the hiring process before in several different jobs, however I was never the final say in who got the job. I've always been one who leans towards hiring for personality; learning curves are learning curves no matter how much experience a person brings to the table, but if you can't work well together then what's the point? I've looked for people with a passion for cheese and personalities much like my own; vibrant, friendly, and hard-working. So far, so good, and just two months in I already have a full day off that I can enjoy stress-free knowing that my shop is being cared for by people who mirror my own level of commitment as much as I could possibly ask. So cheers, Calf & Kid Cheese Vixens!
Sunday, June 6, 2010
On the business end, I could not be happier. I can't believe so much time has gone by so quickly, and that's a testament to how busy we've been. Every week I order hundreds of pounds of cheese, and I look at my overstuffed deli cases and fridge of back storage and think "crap, how am I going to sell all this?" Then by Sunday the case is down to three quarters of it's capacity and I am amazed over and over again at how much the product just sells itself. Of course, it's not really all as cut and dry as that, I monger the heck out of my cheese, and I love it. Long ago when I was coming up with bits and pieces for my "elevator pitch" for investors, one of my favorite lines was "You will walk away with a cheese you love and a great story to tell." I'm so plussed to say that is really the case. If you ask me what day of the week it is, I'll be stumped for five minutes, but ask me about amazing washed rind cheese from Jean Faup of the Pyrenees and I'll give you a 2 minute history lesson.
On the cheese end, I am beyond stoked to have some really unbelievable cheeses in stock this month. Locally, Gothberg Farms up in Bow, WA has been making greek style yogurt that is transcendent, as well as some amazing grilling cheese called Queso Blanco: pressed curd with a little apple cider vinegar that carmelizes upon hitting heat and is just Delicious with a capital D. Also from Ancient Heritage in Oregon comes an aged cow and sheep mixture called Hannah Bridge. I am doing cartwheels over this cheese. I'm twiddling my fingers with delight at the thought of the first rounds of Queso de Oveja from Black Sheep Creamery near Chehalis, WA, which should be leaving the cave very soon. There are so many more, but those are a few at the forefront of my brain right now.
From across the giant pond, I am expecting my first delivery from Neal's Yard Dairy, which will bring all the great cheddars and stinky Stilcheton my devoted customers have been pining for. From France, I have a few rounds from Jean Faup, a third generation cheesemaker and affineur from the Pyrenees. His cheeses are absolutely divine; perfectly balanced and delivering a flavor experience that makes you feel as though you're sitting among the high mountains of northern France. Also arriving next week will be a small air-shipment of lovely, delicate cheeses from France and Italy, including my much-loved La Tur, a three-milk bloomy rind mound of cheese ecstasy, and more of the "brain cheese" from France; the stinky, creamy, gorgeous Langres.
I'm very proud of Seattle for loving these crazy cheeses that make my knees buckle every time they hit my mouth. Vive la fromage!
Monday, May 24, 2010
I've been selling out of many favorites such as Kurtwood Farms Dinah, the lovely Camembert-style round that is taking the Pacific Northwest by storm.
Also in demand lately; Gioia Burrata, authentic Italian family-made Burrata from L.A. It is affordable, delicious, you'd never know it wasn't coming from across the giant pond as the family moved their entire production from Italy to California years ago and continue to make a stellar product.
New in the case (and almost sold out!); Ascnootney Mountain from Cobb Hill (aged by Jasper Hills in Vermont), this cheese is one I'm saying should have a 12 step program named after it. Also from Jasper Hill, a new favorite of mine, Oma from the Von Trapp Farmstead Creamery, this cheese is way up on my list of amazing washed rind domestic cheeses. Kudos to the Von Trapp folks, and to Jasper Hills for this amazing cheese!
In other news, last Friday, May 21st, marked the one month anniversary/birthday of the Calf & Kid! Thanks SO much to everyone who has made it into the shop, I can't believe that I already have "regulars", and to boot there are people waltzing in every day figuring out that we're open. I am just over the moon as a new cheesemongress :)
Tuesday, May 18, 2010
Stacey came to find me in a roundabout cheese-geeky way that makes for an awesome story. She had just finished reading Gordon "zola" Edgar's awesome memior, Cheesemonger: Life on the Wedge, and was in love, both with his book and with cheese. She emailed him with well-deserved compliments on his book, and to ask if he had any advice for getting into the cheese biz. Gordon, the awesome dude that he is, remembered me from last year's ACS conference in Austin, and told her to look me up. She did, months later we met for an informal interview over coffee, and the rest is history.
Stacey's deep love of fine food took her to Chocopolis where she has been since they opened just over a year ago. While honing her expert knowledge in all things chocolate, she continued to learn about cheese on her own, and snagged the coveted Seattle Cheese Festival Scholarship in 2009.
Stacey clearly has a great foundation for her budding new career in cheesemongering, but it's her outgoing, friendly personality that made me hire her. She's a ton of fun to talk cheese with, and I'm super happy to have her in the shop. Here she is with a round of cheese that I'm calling my new boyfriend, Le Grand Lou Bren, a raw sheep milk cheese from the Larzac region of France.
Thursday, May 13, 2010
Business has been great, the first weekend and week were full of those who have been devotedly following my progress and no less than a dozen congratulatory bottles of bubbly, beer, and vino have been graciously handed over to my blushing face. It has been so exciting to meet many well-known food purveyors of Seattle. Each time a chef, cook, small foodie business owner or otherwise has stopped in to buy some cheese and introduce themselves I have been maximizing my plussed factor. The rest of the crowd have been those foot-traffiker's I've been waiting for; those who are wandering around the area in our glorious Seattle spring weather and just happen to stumble upon us. So many people are just realizing that we are, in fact, open while other construction is being done, and they are just as excited as I am about our new space. Already we have regulars, and they love trying new things out each time just as much as I love recommending them. In the mix have also been a few of the self-important food snobs of the area making their stink among the cheese, but at the end of the day they are a good, grounding reminder that although I am now "the boss", I am really answering to every person who walks through the doors of the Melrose Market. Oh, and yes, that is now our live site! Big fat thanks and kudos to Dax Borges of Dax Digital Design for cutting us a great deal on website development. He will certainly be getting some massive cheese love from yours truly.
Onto cheese news, the Burrata and Burricota has been flying out of the deli case! I am so incredibly happy and proud of the Seattle community for loving this product. Fresh products are always a bit of a gamble as they have a much shorter shelf life than aged cheese. While I had a few people out there tell me prior to opening "if you carry Burrata, I will be your whore", I was still a bit nervous about putting this delicacy on the shelves as it is something I can't really sample out, and I worried that people who weren't familiar with it wouldn't "get it". Turns out, so many shoppers have had that awesome face light up and almost inaudible squeak when they say "you have Burrata!" Those who I have "sold" it to, in the sense that they hadn't encountered it previously, have come back just days later for more. I am super happy to say that I cannot supply the demand for this luscious product.
In addition to all of the amazing cheese, both local and from beyond the giant pond, I am really stoked to be carrying Washington's own fresh farmhouse butter and mozzarella from Golden Glen Creamery, fresh cheese and sheep's milk Ricotta from Black Sheep Creamery, a wide selection of delectable fine goat cheese from Gothberg Farms, and gods, so many others this post could go on forever!
Keep checking in for daily news via Facebook and Twitter for the goods as they arrive!
xoxoxoxoxo to you Seattle
Monday, May 3, 2010
Among those gregarious cheese freaks are my first two employees, Kristin and Stacey, and they both deserve a big fat kudos for helping me get my cheese baby off the ground.
Kristin hails from San Francisco, and has been an avid foodie for years. She was a server at The Corson Building since it opened just a few years ago, and she has a passion for great food that matches my own. She is one of the most fun, energetic, magnetic personalities I've come across in a while, and it's no surprise that she's formed many great relationships with other members of the Seattle food community. If you're a food lover, chances are you've encountered Kristin and her adorable smile and wicked wit at some point.
She is an absolute natural behind the cheese counter. She loves people and talking to them about cheese and food in general, I couldn't be happier and more grateful for getting her awesome energy in the shop. Here she is on the day before opening with our first round of cheese cut and ready to go into the deli case.
You'll likely see and speak with Kristin just as much as myself when you come into the shop. She is one hell of a cheese vixen in training.
Friday, April 30, 2010
Enjoy super buttery, soft and pillowy cheese? We will be slicing into Cremeaux de Bourgogne, also referred to the wedding cake of cheese, this Saturday! Think fluffy “blooming” rind, snow-white, buttery triple creme, this cheese is pure decadence. Make sure you come visit the Calf & Kid this weekend to experience this unbelievable fromage!
Thursday, April 29, 2010
Despite the agonizing pain stubs that are now my feet, and the slightly thawed frozen pineapple that has become my brain, I am exceedingly comfortable and as ease in this new role. I never had any precise expectations, but I certainly had many a vision of myself behind the counter flustered and unable to handle the unending chaos that can be running your own business of any kind. Many a nightmare involved me with a bare case and a line of customers panting for cheese, or conversely a case packed with cheeses that I didn't know and could not rightly talk about to my customers. As it has turned out thus far, each and every cheese in there right now is a little baby of mine; I know their stories and talking them up to people comes so naturally I'm constantly amazed at myself (and the cheese, of course).
I see this ease of transition as a real testament to one of the basic tenets I held closely in this whole process: never let a speedbump throw you off track, learn how to use it to your advantage. All those months that passed due to the lag of making finances and finding the right space come together were a big opportunity for me to continue learning about my newfound craft, and it has paid off in spades. Last year when it became apparent that I would not be able to open shop in the spring as planned, I took that as a chance to attend educational seminars and conferences, work on a sheep dairy, consistently pester and work with the amazing Steve Jones of Steve's Cheese, now The Cheese Bar, and read, read, read about fromage. So I'm waxing a little poetic here, but I must say that had I not done these things I would never feel so naturally at ease behind the counter. While I'm no ego-centric freak, I do know when I do something well, and this is it. Sometimes the key just fits, and it's cheesetastic.
Monday, April 26, 2010
I am still trying to take it all in, and there is so much to tell of the crazed week that preceded the final birth of my cheese baby. I will try to invoke a wee bit of brevity in my re-telling of events, but no promises.
The week leading up to opening was insane, of course, and I expected it to be. In fact, I must say that a year plus of preparing put me in good stance to take the final barrage of hiccups in stride like a Tennessee Walking horse, but there were still some freakish moments that had me panting over my gorgeous new counter like a beached marine mammal.
First off, anyone in Seattle thinking of starting a business that involves food or drink of any kind, know now that everything hinges on plumbing inspections. I don't understand this at all seeing as faulty electrical work can potentially kill you, while shoddy plumbing may result in a short attack on your intestines, but whatever. I will say that they are easy to schedule and if you have a great plumber who knows what they're doing (like I did, thankfully), this won't be a problem. However, final inspections on other ends, like the Health Department, are contingent upon final plumbing inspections, so keep that in your hat. I have to say that contrary to what we all may think, the city of Seattle is actually amazingly helpful, responsive, and understanding. Long story short, I had to schedule all of my final inspections the day before opening, and was sweating bullets that it wouldn't all pan out. At one point I was 40 minutes from sure that I would not be able to get my health inspection passed and would have to postpone opening until the following Tuesday (tomorrow). However, a lot of sweet-talking and a whole lot of awesome city and county officials later, I was jumping up and down like a pre-schooler with signed paper in hand!
Friday opening was, and still is, a bit of a blur. It was busy, busy, then super crazy busy, back down to regular busy, and I ended the day on the strong tail end of a good adrenaline high. I still can't get over the number of people who came in over the weekend saying how they had been following the blog and/or news of C&K with baited breath, how happy they were that I was finally open, and how much they valued the inclusion of my business in their everyday life. I said to my customers and myself, "me too!!!"
The rest of the weekend was more of the same, and I have so much more to embellish upon; my rockstar employees, my neighbor Rain Shadow Meats - CARNIVORES GO THERE NOW! - and so much more. Also many great photos to upload, press links to link in, etc. etc.
I will end this post with a big, giant, fat shout-out to my friends Chris and Emily of the soon to be Ankerhaus Tavern. I've known this awesome couple since I started my own small biz baby, and I cannot wait to see them make their dream come true. They are kickass people, they know their shit, and they are seeking investors.
Thursday, April 15, 2010
Friends stepped up to the plate to help me seal my ceiling, which was a beast of a job. The old wood that makes up the mezzanine above me is gorgeous, but very dry and it soaked up the sealant like you wouldn't believe. Three more gallons of varnish and two long afternoons later it is looking fabulous though. Also in the past week I've had first round of inspections cleared, permits approved, equipment delivered and ready to install, a beautiful front counter built by my awesome carpenter, two rockstars hired to help me behind the counter, supply list edited, re-edited, and finally submitted, phone lines installed, and first order list-making almost done. It feels soooooo good to be getting so many little things accomplished, and while every day is full and exhausting, I'm feeling prepared and incredibly ready to open next Friday, April 23rd.
See you on the other side of the deli case!
Saturday, April 10, 2010
After a few failed attempts at sealing all porous areas of the space, which is about 99% of it, on my own, I called in some favors from friends and tonight we'll be busting a major move with the noxious elements. Thank goodness for people who will work for cheese!
In the meantime, I'd like to give some much deserved love to my neighboring businesses who are open and just about to open. Marigold & Mint, a lovely little flower shop, is currently open for business. They offer a gorgeous selection of organic flowers and will soon be a CSA pick up location on the Hill. Also opening right about the same time as myself is Rain Shadow Meats, finally a butcher on the Hill! He will offer locally raised fresh meat as well as home-cured salami and other delectable items for us hungry carnivores.
That's about all my spring cold-addled brain can handle right now. More progress pics and news to come shortly.
Thursday, March 25, 2010
I'm definitely in an interesting position during the build out of this space. All the other tenants are working with many of the same designers, architects, and contractors, meaning that they have a whole dialogue I'm not necessarily privy to. This doesn't bother me in the least, having worked with contractors in Brooklyn, who are to say at the very least, some of the most difficult and obstinate human beings on earth. Still, it's a bit of struggle me being the sole tenant in this marketspace who is acting as her own project manager.
Which brings me to a point that I never knew I'd want to iterate to other hopeful cheesemongers who may be reading this. Simply put, if you can't manage your own build-out, then you best reconsider your ability to manage a business of any sort, cheese shop or otherwise. I wouldn't feel like this was my space if I didn't put a lot of my own blood, sweat and tears into it. It is truly a labor of love from the get-go; if you have the means to hire a team to make it all happen for you then by gods do it, because it is a bitch and a half. But it you're like me, you're saving every penny you can to stock those deli cases full of delectable curds and making up for it my burning the midnight oil on your own.
I'll see you on the other side of the epoxy. Queso por vida!
Monday, March 22, 2010
I came up with this idea over a year ago when the shop was taking form as a real idea. I thought the combination of a traditional sacred heart with a moldy wedge of cheese (the tattoo was based on a photo of Tomme de Savoie, one of my all-time favorites) was the perfect way to pay homage to my roots of cheese making as a kid in New Mexico, while also giving a good nod to the world of cheese that lies before me. Plus, it looks so freakin' badass! I have Lucky of The Artful Dodger Tattoo to thank for the fantastic design. He's also a huge curd nerd so he was totally psyched to do the piece, which made it even more fun.
I am finally making some decent headway with construction in the space. If you're in the area and walking by, you can't see much happening because it's all pretty minimal as far as build out goes, but I am very happy to report that as of Friday holes have been punched down for plumbing and electrical lines, which is a major step forward. Tomorrow I'm hitting the paint store and starting to seal my old wooden ceiling, which is really the underside of the mezzanine above me, and in the meantime I'm working with a fabulous carpenter and friend to wrangle up some old cabinets.
Now for the news you've all been waiting for: OPENING DATE FOR THE SHOP
Construction being construction, combined with imminent inspections thereafter, I can't say exactly what day I'll be gracing Capitol Hill with a fine selection of cheese and accompaniments, but it is definitely going to be sometime during the last two weeks of April. I will keep you all updated as the time gets closer, and cannot wait to see everyone from behind the deli cases.
Queso por Vida!
Monday, March 15, 2010
Back from an extremely relaxing weekend up north in Bellingham, revived and ready to take on the world! Or at least the ongoing burden that is build out in my space, as it were.
You know the old rule of thumb that so many entrepreneurs swear by: everything will take twice as long and double the cost you expect? Yep, it's true. I knew it would be, but still, weeks go by like nothing these days and progress, while it is still progress, is slower than I'd like. But there is only so much I can do, and in the meantime I placate myself with visits to dairy's and creameries, one of my favorite parts of my job.
On our way up to Bellingham we stopped in to meet Rhonda of Gothberg Farms. While I am a livestock girl at heart, I must say that goats are by far among my favorites, and I am simply plussed at the chance to be near them at all. Rhonda has a modest farm of roughly 20-30 milkers, and we got to visit her in the midst of kidding season. Oh the bleats of baby goats!! I could listen to that for hours...
Rhonda gave us an informal tour of her facility, which I must say was impeccably clean, and we spent a good 20 or 30 minutes visiting with her goats, young and old. For the sake of brevity, please check out my small collection of photos at Gothberg Farms.
Growing up with goats, I have a special place in my heart for them and their cheese, however I must say that when approaching goat milk cheesemakers, I normally consider myself to have had my fill of chevre. However, I stood still in my tracks upon tasting Gothberg Farm's version of this lovely fresh cheese. I admit I'm biased, I grew up on fresh goat milk and cheese from our single doe Mocha, who was fed sweet oats and ripe alfalfa, kept far from billygoats, and given a lot of love and attention every day. It's not often that I encounter a fresh chevre that brings back sensory memories of the sweet, light-as-a-cloud, luscious texture and taste that I knew and loved so well. Suffice it to say, Gothberg Farms has it down pat. I will have a difficult time carrying this cheese in my shop without eating it all myself!
I also had the pleasure of visiting Samish Bay Cheese for the first time in person. Although the owners were out for the weekend, their lovely cheesemonger Claire was more than happy and incredibly helpful in getting some rounds for me to take back home in preparation for the pre-opening bash this weekend. I got an enormous round of Ladysmith, which I have been in love with for over a year, and a very coveted round of their Black Mambazzo, which you simply don't want to miss.
And now it's on to more exciting things like calling the phone company! Errr, yeah.
Tuesday, March 9, 2010
I'm going back and forth between minor bouts of hyperventilating and small moments of peace as I imagine the shop finished, myself behind the counter, finally getting to put faces to so many names who have become fans of the shop in its many conceptual stages.
As some of you may have already heard, Tamara Murphy's new project, Terra Plata, will sadly not be a part of the building. I am never one to get into the dirt of these situations, but I will say that I know I'm not alone in my regrets that Tamara will not be sharing space with us at the Melrose Market. She has, however, very congenially expressed her support of all of us who are in the space, and I wish her the best as well.
I am very excited to meet with proprietor Rus of Rainshadow Meats next week to discuss our neighboring shops and what each of us will offer. On a personal level, I am beyond psyched to have a neighborhood butcher! It is one of those NYC elements I miss the most; a man who knows his meats. Back in Brooklyn we lived over an old Italian butchershop that had been there for many generations. These guys were raised behind the counter, in fact when we lived there no less than 4 generations of the family worked in the shop on a daily basis; the elderly matriarch behind the scenes who churned handmade sausage in the back well after her retirement, her son who flashed his dazzling smile on anyone who walked in and could talk the talk like no other, and his boys, who hunched over cleavers effortlessly to pack the most amazing local meats into white paper packed bundles for our enjoyment. The best part was sitting out in our Brooklyn yard, drinking beers and watching the sun set over the BQE. Our man on the inside would randomly poke his head out of our shared window at closing time with two handsfull of made-that-day sausage in a gorgeous coil. A gift between neighbors, we'd thank him with a frosty brew and throw that meat puppy on the grill for dinner.
So I digress, but that is where my head likes to be these days instead of ruminating over an afternoon of phone calls with the DOR. Memories of sausage, they keep me going.
Wednesday, March 3, 2010
In a nutshell, here's what's been happening in the past week and a half (not necessarily in this order):
Bids from contractors too high, realized that I can't afford a GC, freaked out, ate some leftover Brie de Nagis to calm down, contacted two fellow small business owners in the 'hood, got their referrals for sub-contractors, raced around to lasso them up, crisis averted.
Stressed out over whether I could swing the Oregon Cheese Festival this year, decided there is too much to do and it's cutting it too close, besides, Seattle Cheese Festival is right around the corner, followed by the much-anticipated American Cheese Society conference in August, there is plenty of cheese happenings in Seattle this summer. Made plans to skip town for one last weekend away with my soon-to-be-cheese-widowed husband instead. Giant sigh of relief.
Started shopping for equipment, both large and small, found that a used 3-compartment sink is not to be found in the city, started pricing new ones, balked, or rather barfed, at the thought of paying $900 for a SINK, finally found one online for $350. Several hot flashes and headaches later, got that puppy slated for delivery next week.
Up and at'em every day to scour local salvage yards for that perfect set of cabinets, having an incredibly difficult time deciding on anything at this point, going home to haggle prices of competing vendors' prices on deli cases (thank you New York for this skill), collapsing in a defeated heap my head swarming with ticket prices and shipping fees... it never seems to end.
Prepping for pre-opening party at Poco (save the date 3/21!), sifting through resumes from fellow cheese lovers in the area (oh thank you for relieving me of Craigslist!), resume sifting making me realize I never filed last quarter L&I (this is why I now pay someone to do it for me), rushrushrushredtape finally got my 2010 license sorted out and in the mail yesterday, which I ripped when opening and I hope taping it back together is ok, BREATHE!
Signed up for merchant services with a great local provider, scheduled my Food Safety thingamajig, met with my kickass friend Mike to talk design for the website, cards, aprons, signs, and a slew of other things over garlic soup (YUM!), re-contacted many local cheese makers to tell them I am finally opening (YAY!), then walked the dog and called it a day.
Met with my CPA, settled on filing status for 2010, set up Quickbooks with my accountant, found out I'm registered in some WA databases but not others (not good), commence problem shooting to figure out where the ball got dropped, re-filing some things, waiting for others to be investigated. Now drinking a much needed beer and polishing off a hunk of Osseau Iraty, aaah.
Tomorrow I still carve out time for my weekly therapy of mucking stalls and rubbing velvety noses with the residents of my favorite Horse Rescue, then it's off to meet he plumber, buy office equipment, gogogogogo.
This weekend, however, I'm slowing down for a proper taste-testing of local bread purveyors. I haven't met a proper baguette I haven't liked (I'm a bit of a whore for gluten), but this Friday we'll put them all to the test with friends and a good sampling of ooey gooey yumminess, I'm thinking Pont L'Eveque warmed in to a runny mess in the oven, ah heaven!
This cheesemongering life, it ain't so bad.
Tuesday, February 9, 2010
I've often sung the praises of Peter's taste in wine, which is in my opinion, practically failsafe. I often tell people they can go into Poco, close their eyes, point at the wine list, and be very pleased with whatever they get. However he also seriously appreciates good cheese just as much as I do, so the two of us together are finding a harmonious stride that I see growing and prospering well into the future. I think we have just as much fun hosting these events as our gracious guests do attending them!
In the meantime, I've a few small bits to come in the very near future that I'm back-flippingly excited about. One is a mention in the spring issue of Culture Magazine. Although this quarterly publication has only just celebrated their first year, the folks at Culture are doing a fantabulous job of covering cheesey news within and outside the U.S. I feel very honored to have been approached by one of their contributing editors who recently relocated to Seattle, who is incidentally an all-around awesome gal who I see becoming a great cheese pal. The spring issue of Culture should drop in May, and it will be available in the shop. Although, if you really want to go for the gusto, get yourself a subscription and become a part of the Centerfold Club. For just a few dollars more than the regular subscription rate you will receive a hunk of each issue's featured cheese, mmmmmmm.
Progress on the space is slow but sure, and honestly not much to write about at this point. However, while I'm still lapping up the last weeks of precious free time here and there, I've been responding to emails from aspiring cheesemongers across the country. I must say that 2 years ago when my cheese baby was just taking form as nothing more than an idea rattling around in my head, I was surprised and amazed at how incredibly open and helpful other cheesemongers were as I contacted them to pick their brains about the whole process. I usually play by the rule of "hope for the best, expect the worst", yet as one after another professional in the biz helped me form a solid idea of the realistic expectations I could take into this venture, my inner cynic gracefully stepped aside.
I am always flattered beyond belief when I get an email from someone out there who has read the blog and found it inspiring and helpful. Little old me? Really?
Considering the enormous amount of support and guidance I've received, I find it completely fitting to pay it forward as much as I can to those who are where I was just a few years ago. To boot, it is also inspiring to me to know that there are so many fellow cheese lovers out there living in places where their lactic needs are simply not being met, I see it as great evidence of the "Cheese Renaissance" the U.S. is said to be going through. So far I've chatted with people from just about everywhere, from the Texas panhandle to the Jersey shore, and as my novice status helps them find their way, I feel even that much more connected to the big picture, or wedge as it may be, of cheese appreciation.
Queso por vida!
Friday, January 22, 2010
Sunday, February 7th at 5:00 p.m.
Click here for more info and reservations.
Start practicing your accents an francias now fellow cheese lovers, this event is not one to be missed!
Wednesday, January 20, 2010
I must say they are incredibly friendly and helpful, and being so ignorant to this whole process of simply acquiring a T.I. permit I've been at their mercy. Of course, it was bound to bite me in the ass sooner or later, and today I'm nursing a nice big wound to my proverbial glutes. Months ago, in an effort to make some sense out of the process so that when the time came I would have at least some idea of how to proceed, I contacted many people at the DPD and the Department of Health. One major issue was whether or not I would need a review by the Health Board in order for my permits to be approved. I was told by a handful of various people in both offices that I would not, since I wasn't preparing food, just cutting and wrapping it for sale. This was an enormous weight off my shoulders, as recent cutbacks in the city have greatly reduced the number of staff appointed to review plans, and now anyone submitting plans for review by the Health Dept. is having to wait 6-8 weeks for turnaround. As you have probably already guessed, today I got the news from the top that I do, in fact, need to submit my plans for this frustrating review, which could potentially push back everything drastically. Thank you Seattle, as a city that is going broke, for making the opportunity to generate local revenue even more difficult than it already is!
In an effort to keep my mind off of this as much as possible and not descend into a complete nervous breakdown, I'm keeping on keeping on. Plans are solidified for another cheese and wine pairing at Poco Wine Room, details to follow very shortly. I'm also filling every nook and cranny in the house with supplies from several runs to various outlet shops and the like. Ultimately I know I'll be thanking myself for taking the time to run these tedious errands when I'm going at breakneck speed in a few months to open shop, but it is still a little disconcerting to shimmy over and around boxes of cheese cutters and cheese paper and cheese signs. At least the cats are enjoying it.
Wednesday, January 6, 2010
The frustrating part of where I'm at right now involves a lot of hurry-up-and-wait behavior as I give what information I have to the powers that be and then wait on a steady diet of fingernails until I hear back from them. In reality, it's only a matter of hours, an afternoon or so that I have to spend waiting to hear back from anyone, and for this I am eternally grateful. But at the same time, this time I have that is out of my control is insanely unnerving, and provides way too much time for me to ruminate on the great risk I'm taking with this venture. Naturally the demons creep in and I wonder what on earth am I doing? Is there any way I can really make this work? Somehow I kept these doubts at bay for the year or so building up to this point, and now they are riding passenger seat to me through this part of the wild ride.
Despite my current ridiculous inner turmoil, things are moving forward and every day that passes unveils a tad more excitement for the whole thing. Right now I'm setting up accounts with distributors, making opening inventory lists, shopping around for equipment, generally keeping myself busy. In the meantime, I'm also entertaining more than a few requests for informal interviews from various press forums - I'm starting to feel like a cheeselebrity! I can only hope and assume that the level of excitement I'm getting from local press peeps is indicative of the growing enthusiasm that seems to be spreading in my neighborhood. Vive la fromage!