There's really only so much cheese you can discover on your own, unless you spend the bulk of your days with your nose buried in cheese magazines or you're one of the lucky few who travel throughout the world on a regular basis. For the rest of us, we rely on one primary source for our new cheese adventures: our local cheesemonger.
The term cheesemonger refers to the person who orders, stocks, and sells the selection at your local cheese shop. Usually these people are so steeped in the cheese world that they become founts of information, and more often than not, they're excited to share it with you. Experienced cheesemongers have an intimate knowledge of the cheeses they carry, who the cheesemaker is, the animal milks involved, and how the cheese was aged. They taste hundreds of varieties a year and know what's available at any given moment. They're like the cheese 5 o'clock news.
Don't be too intimidated to talk to your neighborhood cheesemongers. The person behind the counter is most likely friendly, and should be your new best friend. Ask them about the cheeses you like and they should be able to steer you towards others you might also enjoy.
In doing so, you'll learn new terms, discover gossip on the cheesemaking circuit, and may even find a wedge or two of "sample" cheese in your bag on your way out.
So your homework is this: go to your local cheese shop and introduce yourself to the man or woman behind the counter. Explain that they'll be seeing more of you because you are such a passionate cheese lover. Tell them the kinds of cheese you enjoy, ask them for a few recommendations, then sit back and enjoy the ride.
Tell us about your favorite cheesemongers out there!
About the author: Stephanie Stiavetti is a writer and cookbook author in San Francisco. Stephanie's cookbook, Melt: the Art of Macaroni and Cheese, celebrates America's favorite dish by recreating it with small production, specialty cheeses. Her food blog, The Culinary Life, is a repository for all things comfort food related, from savory dinners to transcendental desserts.