Thursday, March 25, 2010

Sneak Peek

I'm fully in the eye of the hurricane right now, every day is exhausting and wearing me out, but I am trying to remain calm, and am incredibly happy that so much tangible progress is being made. The space is starting to take form, and I'm documenting it along the way.

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

If you build it out of cheese, they will come

WOW. Thanks so much to everyone who showed up to the pre-opening bash at Poco Wine Room last night, what a turnout! I was very pleased to host a lovely group of fellow food bloggers, press, cheesemakers and some of my investors for the first hour. The rest of the night was a whirlwind of Seattle cheese lovers and friends stopping by to sample some of the area's great artisan cheeses, sip some wine, and chat me up. I gotta say, I was feeling the love people, thank you again! I also got quite a bit of attention for sporting my new cheese tattoo, the "Sacred Wedge"

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

"Cheese is milk's leap towards immortality" - Cliff Fadiman

A good cheese quote is worth a thousand subject headings.

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

Keep on keepin' on...

Well, this is just about it, nary one month left before opening day. As Bill the Cat would say, "ACK!"

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


Ok C&K fans, this is it! The final month where everything happens all at once and my brain hopefully doesn't go kablooey.

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.