Wednesday, November 14, 2012

The Cheese Man Cometh

So, let it be known first and foremost! My father really is a cheese lover from way back and he turned me on to the wonderful stuff at an early age like any caring father in his right mind with a soul would. We feast on mass quantities of the stuff for We cover it with pesto, lay it on crackers, or just enjoy a chunk by itself. Multiple kinds, flavors, milks, we love it all. We're Italian...cheese holds a big place in our hearts. IT IS ONE OF THE BEST CONSUMABLES INVENTED BY MAN!

Okay, so I love cheese but what I love me some more of is a Cheese Man! No, not a man made entirely of cheese, although that would be quite impressive and delicious.  My dream man...tall, dark, and sharp. Anyway, NOT a life sized Man of Muenster, but the artisan behind the taste, the texture, the smell (and did I mention the taste?) of cheese. Well, I have met such a man in my travels. I don't know his proper name, most simply call him "The Cheese Man".  If you get to the Avondale Hotel on the right day, you'll see him and if you have any lucky piece of bone or cartilage in your body at all you will get some cheese.  He periodically stops into the local pub with his local cheese, and a couple of weeks ago he was back!!  Cheese Man used to take an order sheet, but now it is FIRST COME FIRST SERVE!  Eek!  I know!  They were out of Swiss Rye by the time I got there, but thank goodness he still had Garlic...and Horseradish...and's GOOD stuff, trust me.  Cheese Man will talk to you about the fine art of cheese making if you ask him, he's very approachable despite his celebrity, he meets and greets his fans, always!

The Cheese Man makes his cheese in 1 1/4 lb. blocks.  He used to offer a smoked and non smoked version of each kind.  Now he only appeared to have the smoked cheese, unless I totally missed it?  You're better off, as I am told that the smoked cheese will last you a great deal longer than the regular even though most people find it hard to keep their cheese in the house for very long.  Rumor has it the cheese will draw you out of bed at night to eat it, the is stuff is that good!  True story!  The blocks are wrapped in cellophane and marked.  He has boxes of cheese; it's GLORIOUS!  Cheese so pungent that you can smell the delicious fire smoke through the Saran coat.  It's an exciting day at the Avondale when the cheese comes in.  Usually SOMEBODY cuts into theirs and shares.  This time we had a Cheese Party, with 4 blocks opened up for our sampling by awesome friends.  Someone even contributed crackers, as I was slacking and didn't have a box of Triscuits on me.  (I don't know what I was thinking.)

It is moments like these that I wish I had my Moleskine with me more often, but there I am, Twisted Tea in hand, chatting it up with the man of the hour!  I "interviewed" CM this time, asking him many questions about his craft, but I can't remember exact names of places.  WHAT is interesting and commendable, though, is the fact that Cheese Man strives to keep all of his ingredients coming from Pennsylvania.  He makes the cheese in "The Cheese House" that is a small little house that was used, I assume, to produce cheese on his family's farm back in the day.  He and his brother, I believe he said, acquired it from the family for cheese making.  He hand builds the smokers and chooses to make multiple smaller ones instead of larger ones, so as to have more control over the smoking process.  He purchases his milk from a local milk farm.  He acquires all of his ingredients and flavorings (the peppers, the horseradish, the rye, the garlic, etc.) from Pennsylvania.  He JUST stopped making CHIVE which was possibly my favorite, so this is sad.  Cheese Man said that this was because he couldn't get the particular chives for in it that he had before in prior batches, the suppliers seemed to have simply fallen off the map.  So, because of his cheese making integrity, he didn't even proceed with an inferior product this time around.  We'll see if he is able to find something in the future.

"CHEESE PARTY!" at the Avondale Hotel! From the bottom left going clockwise are blocks of Swiss Rye, Horseradish, Garlic, and Super Hot.
The Cheese Man also takes great pride in the smoked flavor of his cheese, he is very particular about the hickory chips that he uses to produce it.  These also hail from Pennsylvania.  There is something about this taste, smell, flavor, feeling...I swear I can FEEL the smoke, now!  I have had a fridge full of smoked blocks of cheese for over 2 weeks now; I am inundated with the aroma every time that I open the door.  Our milk is smoked.  It's like someone has a camp fire in my refrigerator.  GLORIOUS! 

"Air is cheese's worst enemy!"  -  The Cheese Man 

I bought 5 blocks of cheese off of the Cheese Man on this day.  2 I got for us, 2 for friends, and a block for my dad.  We've all but finished off our two, and I cut into a block of Garlic that was supposed to be for my buddy today.  I broke down.  I couldn't take it.  I only had a half inch of horseradish left and I panicked!  I made Celie and I gourmet grilled cheese with it tonight for dinner. I have that block of garlic and a full unopened block of HOT for my dad.  The smoked lasts quite awhile unopened; in the words of CM "Air is cheese's worst enemy."  I thought Dad would LOVE it, so I grabbed him a block.  After all, he's the one that started this.  He will love this cheese and he will also appreciate the tale of the man known in my local world as The Cheese Man.  

1 comment: