Thursday, November 15, 2007

So what's next

Well, nothing for a few weeks while we let the holidays blow over.

It doesn't mean we're idle, however. I'll be busy setting up the menu and cheese program for a new wine bar owned by the folks who created Harlem Vintage. Our debut tasting will be in early January.

Meanwhile the next Joy of Cheese event at 10 Degrees in the East Village will be in late January. We'll do our second annual survey called Ports and Blues and Other News.


Monday, October 22, 2007

A Man Called Rolf

The Joy of Cheese Presents A Man Called Rolf

Switzerland is one of the great cheesemaking nations of the world and Rolf Beeler is out to prove it. His Gruyere is so dense and wonderful that people have it and break out into song (well not just anybody, the singing man was a professional opera singer). His other cheeses make people who aren’t musicians hear music too.

There’s a lot more to the Switzerland tradition than Emmenthal and Gruyere and we’re going to explore them in the November tasting series at 10 Degrees. Expect cheeses like Forsterkase, Half Moon, Riesling X Sylvaner, Fricalin and maybe, just maybe…a very special seasonal cheese. Most of the cheeses will be by Rolf Beeler but not all; we will introduce cheeses by up-and-coming affineurs as well, and we will probably sneak an American into the mix for comparison.

Overall we will investigate 12-14 cheeses; there will be dark chocolate, fruit and two mystery cheeses. I am happy to answer questions about these cheeses and about cheese in general.

The tastings are Tuesdays November 6th and 13th as well as Thursday November 8th

As always the tastings run from just after 7 until around 8:30 at 10 Degrees, the wonderful wine and high end spirits bar at 121 St. Marks Place in the East Village. Admission to the tasting is $30 and you pay for your drinks as you go.

Reservations are a must. Contact me at

And The Joy of Cheese now has a column, The Joys of Cheese at

Next tastings: January dates tba, our second annual celebration of Ports and Blues


Saturday, October 20, 2007

Cheese that's rocking my world these days

Tarentaise: a wonderful Vermont interpretation of the French classic Tomme D'Abondance. Whereas its inspiration offers a gentle balance of nuttiness and earthiness, Tarentaise, especially when aged nine months or longer, is a big burst of roasted macadamia nuts. I love it melted.

Persielle Des Tignes. Speaking of mouthfuls, this cylinder of firm goat's milk cheese hails from the Rhone Valley and it's a big mouthful of dirt. In a good way. Show this to the next person who says you can't pair goat's milk cheeses with red wine. This baby screams for a Chateauneuf du Pape.

Bleu D'Auvergne Mons: Not just any ol' Bleu D'Auvergne, but the one from Herve Mons! Harvey's spin on the basic French blue is a sweet creamy and biting. You'd almost think it was a Roquefort.

The World needs more Cheesemongers!

Friday late afternoon, I was at Dean and DeLuca's Soho branch waiting behind a customer who was getting a nice spread of cheese. The customer looked at the wide variety of chevres available and wondered aloud where to begin. I pointed him to Gianni Cora's Caprino Castagna, a beautifully supple fresh goat's milk cheese from Tuscany wrapped in chestnut leaves. When his counterperson returned, the customer mentioned that he was interested in a chevre and that this Caprino Castagna looked interesting. The counterperson immediately brushed aside his interest and talked him into Humboldt Fog, a well known goat cheese from Northern California. Excitedly, the counterperson said"it's a goat cheese but it's not stong!" as if that was some sort of ringing endorsement.

Oh well. Great cheese counters should have competent staff, but that's probably asking too much these days.


Friday, September 28, 2007

The next tasting

The Joy of Cheese Presents Cheeses to pair with Autumn wines

Ever notice that all of the wine and cheese pairing strategies come from the wine community? At The Joy of Cheese we’d like to counter that with some wisdom from the cheese side.

Autumn wines tend to be a fruitier and sweeter than their warm weather counterparts, and to a cheesemonger way of looking at the world, that means it’s time to break out the more aggressive cheeses. At our next Joy of Cheese tasting, look for such off the beaten path delights as Shawandase from Long Island (yes, Long Island), Rocotiere from France, Calcagno from Sardinia and a host of other loud and proud cheeses.

The tastings will take place October 16, 18 and 23 at 10 Degrees, the wine and high end spirits bar at 121 St. Mark’s Place in the East Village. The tastings start just after 7 and run until 8:30. Tickets for the tasting are $30 and attendees pay for their wine (or any other spirit that suits them) at the bar separately. To reserve space, e-mail me at

Our tastings usually begin with an introductory cheese, then a flight of three cheeses followed by a round of fruit, and a mystery cheese to keep folks on their toes. This flight/fruit/mystery cheese sequence is repeated twice then at the end, we finish with a round of chocolate (usually 60% dark from Jacques Torres). I’m happy to answer any and all questions about cheese. Although many of the regulars call these classes, instead they are more like informal discussion groups where a delicious series of cheeses are served.

Next tasting: A Man Called Rolf, the cheeses of the great Swiss affineur Rolf Beeler November 6, 8 and 13.

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

The Essential Problem for high end retailers of cheese

You probably have friends who cook and friends who don't, but both go to great restaurants.
When the friends who cook tell you about their meal, they go into some detail, for instance, they may have had the monkfish seasoned with lavender and fennel, drizzled with blood orange juice and roasted in a banana leaf. When your friends that don't cook tell you about their meal, they tell you that they had the fish, it was great.

Here's the issue for cheesemongers. The overwhelming majority of customers don't make cheese and what's more, that overwhelming majority haven't even handled cheese.

Thus our cherished lexicon, pressed, raw, washed, etc. is all Greek to them. And if they're Greek and speak their native tongue, then it's all Swahili or some such. Thus they're all in the boat of the person who doesn't cook yet goes to great restaurants.

So for cheesemongers the issue is selling cheese and bringing them up to speed on cheese. It's hard work. Most customers at a cheese shop would like to just say, I'll have what I had last time and hope that you know what that means.


Tuesday, September 11, 2007

The next tasting

The Joy of Cheese Presents Cheeses of Spain, Portugal and Colorado, yes, that Colorado

There’s a lot more to cheesemaking in the Iberian Peninsula than Manchego.

The first Joy of Cheese event of autumn will focus on the great cheesemaking traditions of Spain and Portugal and how these techniques have spread to unlikely places.

Our selections will likely include Queso De Mano (an American), Serpa, Monte Nebro, Roncal, Quinta Boa Vista, Pau, Garrotxa, Serena and several rare varieties.

Your wine drinking may be shifting toward sweeter whites and more red in general and these cheeses are an ideal match.

The tastings are scheduled for Tuesdays September 25th and October 2nd as well as Thursday September 27th.

As always the tastings run from just after 7 until around 8:30 at 10 Degrees, the wonderful wine and high end spirits bar at 121 St. Marks Place in the East Village. Admission to the tasting is $30 and you pay for your drinks as you go.

Reservations are a must. Contact me at

The Joy of Cheese blog is up at

Next tastings October 16, 18 and 23: Cheeses for Autumn Wines


Wednesday, September 5, 2007

okay, so how did I get into cheese?

This is probably my most frequently asked question.
It's a long story but this is the easy, short version.

I grew up in a family that loves to cook, and I caught on before I was in the third grade.
I worked in the deli section of a big superstore in Dallas when I was in high school.
In 1984, needing a part time job while I got my writing career underway, I took a gig at Bloomingdales flagship store in Manhattan working in their fresh food area. I figured it would be a lot like my gig in Texas. Wrong. The inventory was WAY more exotic, the clientele WAY more haughty and our training was in obsequiousness rather than product. My young colleagues and I were ambitious and we needed this job to facilitate our other pursuits work, so we taught ourselves about fine cheese and charcuterie and had a blast doing it.
Bloomies liked to broom the staff every two years or so and since I hadn't been hired as a columnist at the Times just yet, I had to move to another shop, Petak's, on 90th and Madison. The clientele were richer but the cheese was in sad shape. I took over the department and built an outpost for American farmstead cheeses. That worked out really well; from 1986-91 we were a must do on any foodie's Manhattan trek. I was even offered a job at Neal's Yard in London but turned it down, the writing career was starting to take off.
After that I spent several years gradually downsizing my involvement in the business while becoming a full time freelance writer.
Post dotcom crash, 9/11 and music industry meltdown, I hung on to my cherished dream of a career until in early 2003 when bereft of savings, down 65K on my credit cards, four months behind on my rent, and with not even a $25 record review assignment in my inbox, I decided it was time to return to the food biz. I lucked into a 3/4 time job Garden of Eden 14th and 5th Ave. They had an excellent cheese department and even better they were in close proximity to several of the city's best wine shops. Better still, neither of my coworkers drank, so I by default became the resident wine and cheese pairing expert. Since I loved cheese and liked the selection, it made me a popular fellow. Shortly after I began working there the writing career regained it's old pace.
Still I was the third man of three in a department that probably should have had five employees. After ten months I was beyond exhausted. That's when a friend suggested I start this business of holding cheese tastings. I left Garden of Eden and took a generally less exhausting position at Bedford Cheese Shop and got this going.
And here we are!


for those just tuning in...

The Joy of Cheese is a tasting service. I will come to your home (or for alumni associations and the like, come to a venue of your choosing) and hold a cheese tasting. Unlike some well known retailers, when I hold a tasting I don't hold back. We investigate anywhere from 12-14 cheeses (sometimes more) plus dark chocolate, and fruit. And to make sure you don't just bliss out, there are two mystery cheeses and the answers to the riddle lie in the flavor of previously tasted cheeses. Prices start at $300 for groups of 10-12 or so.
I also do the same sort of events on a monthly basis at the wine and high end spirits bar, 10 Degrees, 121 St. Mark's Place, in the East Village. The events start just after 7 and run until about 8:30. The cost for the cheese tasting is $30 and you pay for your drinks as you go (but at 7 you get to take advantage of happy hour discounts).
The upcoming schedule for the tastings goes a little like this.
September 25, 27 and October2: Cheeses of Spain Portugal and Colorado (yes, that Colorado)
October 16, 18 and 25: Cheeses to pair with autumn wines
November dates tba: A Man Called Rolf, the best Swiss cheeses on the planet.

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Slight revision to the upcoming sked

I've thought it through a bit and there will be no tasting September 18.
Instead the Spain and Portugal series will run September 25, 27 and October 2.

Everything else remains the same.
Cheeses for Autumn Wines October 16, 18 and 23

A Man Called Rolf: November tbd

The Joy of Cheese greatest hits: December tbd

Ports and Blues and Other News 2 January 2008 tbd

And Cheeses for Summer Wines August 16 and 21.


Sunday, July 29, 2007

The August Tastings

The Joy of Cheese Presents Cheese for a Summer Evening

That’s a riff on a movie title and the first few people to correctly identify the film get extra cheese at the tasting.

Anyway, we all know about summer wines; they’re bright, dry, spicy and above all, often chilled to take the edge of the heat. What cheeses match them? You might want to avoid a deep, dense Gruyere but why not a lighter Alpine make like Tarentaise or Seelisberger? A classic grassy English Farmhouse Cheddar probably has too much heft but what about a variant like Doddington or Mrs. Kirkham’s Lancashire? Many chevres are perfect for summer wines but which ones are best?
These questions and more will be addressed at the next Joy of Cheese Tuesday Tasting at 10 Degrees, 121 St. Mark's Place. We’ll rumble through at least 12 and probably 14 or 15 cheeses that match warm weather wines. Our selections will likely include most of the above as well as wonders like Hoja Santa from Texas, Myrtlewood from Georgia and Bra Duro from Italy.
This should be a lot of fun. These are cheeses that should pair well with almost every white wine on the menu and the rose. If you insist on drinking red wine or beer, I won’t take umbrage.

The tastings are scheduled for August 14th and 21st as well as Thursday August 16th

As always the tastings run from just after 7 until around 8:30 at 10 Degrees, the wonderful wine and high end spirits bar at 121 St. Marks Place in the East Village. Admission to the tasting is $30 and you pay for your drinks as you go.

Reservations are a must. Contact me at
The Joy of Cheese blog is up at

Next tasting: Cheeses of Spain and Portugal September 18, 25, and 27.

Monday, July 23, 2007

The Next Tastings

Where to from here?
The Joy of Cheese tasting sked for remainder of 2007

August 14, 16 and 21: Cheeses to pair with Summer Wines

September 18, 25 and 27: Cheeses of Spain and Portugal

October 16, 18 and 23: Cheese to match Autumn Wines

November: A Man Called Rolf: The Joy of Cheese Rolf Beeler celebration

December: Our greatest hits: the most loved cheeses from the 2007 tastings.

Monday, July 2, 2007

The Joy of Cheese presents Mostly Mons

The Joy of Cheese Presents Mostly Mons

Move over Mozart, July is time for great French cheese, and those cheeses are typically aged by affineurs.

The July edition of the Tuesday Tasting series at 10 Degrees will hold a post-Bastille Day celebration with a survey of great French cheese and the focus is on the work of affineurs like Herve Mons, Chantal Plasse and Pascal Bellevaire. We will explore the extraordinary range of cheeses handled by these three and we will do some A-B comparisons of cheeses from affineurs and those not. Expect at least 12 and probably 16 or 17 great cheeses from all over France.

This should be a lot of fun. These are cheeses that should pair well with almost every white wine on the menu and several of the fruitier reds.

The tastings are scheduled for Tuesdays July 17th and 24th as well as Thursday July 19th.

As always the tastings run from just after 7 until around 8:30 at 10 Degrees, the wonderful wine and high end spirits bar at 121 St. Marks Place in the East Village. Admission to the tasting is $30 and you pay for your drinks as you go.

Reservations are a must. Contact me at

Next tastings August 14, 16 and 21: Cheeses for Summer Wines


Thursday, May 31, 2007

The Joy of Cheese Presents the Young Americans

The Joy of Cheese Presents The Young Americans

Yes, I’m big on David Bowie.
With July 4th approaching, let’s celebrate the rising American hand-crafted cheesemakers.
America’s hand crafted cheese tradition actually goes back to Plymouth Rock (some of the first New England settlers were from dairy farming communities, but it got lost in the rush to industrialize. Now, that tradition has been revived and Americans are making cheeses that match any in the world, even France and Italy. So we’ll investigate our own changing national heritage of cheese by sampling at least 12 and probably 15 different superb--and possibly extraordinary--cheeses from all over America, even obscure places like Georgia, Idaho and Texas.

This should be a lot of fun. These are cheeses that should pair well with almost every white wine on the menu and several of the fruitier reds.

The tastings are scheduled for Tuesdays June 12th and 19th as well as well as Thursday June14th.

As always the tastings run from just after 7 until around 8:30 at 10 Degrees, the wonderful wine and high end spirits bar at 121 St. Marks Place in the East Village. Admission to the tasting is $30 and you pay for your drinks as you go.

Reservations are a must. Contact me at

The Joy of Cheese blog is up at


Thursday, April 19, 2007

The new Whole Foods Cheese Department

Whole Foods, that juggernaut of upscale shopping has opened a new store on Houston Street and in stark contrast to their other New York City outlets, this store is serious about cheese.
It's a persistent mystery to me that WF rather ignores cheese in New York City. Until now, there stores had the same Citerella caliber selection of middlebrow cheeses. For a store that labors so mightily to tell you how much they value locally grown produce and small producer goods, it always felt like something of a contradiction that when it comes to cheese that they would buy so many factory made products and sell them in precut, cellophane suffocated pieces.
I rather suspect that that was the plan for Houston Street and that what is now the cheese cave was going to be a wine shop. However, in one of NYC's most unfortunately quaint laws, you can't sell wine and food under the same roof. Since WF makes a lot of money selling food, the wine had to go. Enter cheese.
Great cheese is sold in NYC but it's typically done at the boutique level (my weekend employer, The Bedford Cheese Shop is one such boutique), so I'd often wonder what it would look like if a big store sold great cheese.
Now I know.
And it is pretty but I doubt it'll last. WF hired away a buyer from Artisanal, brought in big name consultants, and hung pictures from Neal's Yard. They have cheeses from Rolf Beeler, Herve Mons, Luiggi Guffanti and several other key figures that cheese lovers revere. So far so good. The one thing they didn't do was train the staff.
Hell of an oversight. If you can't present great cheese well, then the public that doesn't know the diference will stick to the middlebrow cheeses since they cost about half as much.
I've been three times and each visit I keep wondering what they'll put there next.

Sunday, April 15, 2007

More All About Chevre Tastings

In addition to April 17, 24, and 26 we're also on for May 1.
Official word below.

The Joy of Cheese Presents All About Chevre

No, it’s not just “goat cheese.” Not anymore. Cheeses made from goat’s milk are essential offerings of every great cheesemaking nation and we’re going to try something from everyone. Leaf wrapped soft cheeses from Tuscany, firm chevres from the Pyrenees, old favorites from Switzerland and Italy, Goat goudas from Holland and California, hopefully even a great British goat or two, and of course several from other parts of America. In addition we’ll be doing a few comparisons of the industry standard then and now.

This should be a lot of fun. These are cheeses that should pair well with almost every white wine on the menu and several of the fruitier reds.

The tastings are scheduled for April 17th, 24th, 26th, and May 1st. .

As always the tastings run from just after 7 until around 8:30 at 10 Degrees, the wonderful wine and high end spirits bar at 121 St. Marks’ Place in the East Village. Admission to the tasting is $30 and you pay for your drinks as you go.

Reservations are a must. Contact me at


Friday, March 30, 2007

The Next tastings at 10 Degrees

The April series is called All About Chevre. If I felt more secure in my branding, I'd have called it The Joy of Chevre, but hey. maybe next year.

12 (probably 14 or15 really) interesting goat's milk cheeses of varying textures and nationalities, will be sampled and discussed. As always there will be dark chocolate, fruit and the mystery cheeses (though you know what animal the milk comes from)

The tastings are presently slated for April 17, 24, and 26. If all goes well, there will be several others within this theme too.


Green Veggie of the moment

I like big, leafy green veggies and as best I can tell they like me too. Which is why I've been loving the recent overabundance of Swiss Chard. Seems like every retailer, not just the usual suspects is rocking the straight out of a good food porn shot, chard, red, green, whatever.

I could live off the stuff especially sauteed with shallots or sweet onions.


Friday, March 9, 2007

Pairing back the Martini Madness sked

Blame it on the weather, or blame it on a certain local glossy, either way, the tasting sked is getting pared back. We'll do the Martini Madness tasting on the 13th and 27th.
Unless persuaded otherwise, the 15th, 20th, and 29th are cancelled.


Wednesday, March 7, 2007

Only the NY Times could...

...suggest wine with barbecue and keep a straight face.

I dig Blue Smoke, but their house ale, brewed by the Brooklyn brewery, is the only way to go.


Tuesday, March 6, 2007

The best reason to shop at Murray's

Ottomanelli's is right down the steeet. Black Angus Ribeye, $13.99 a pound, cut to order. Black pig pork chops, $7.99/lb.

Second best reason is the selection.


Now, it's set in stone

The Spring Tasting Sked

All About Chevre: April 17, 24 and 26

Viva Italia (first anniversary celebration of The Joy of Cheese @ 10 Degrees with many extra cheeses and delights)
May 8,15, 17 and 22

The Young Americans (artisanally made cheeses from new American creameries)
June 12, 19 and 21

The tastings take place at 10 Degrees, 121 St. Mark's Place, 212-358-8600

A Joy of Cheese tasting consists of 10 cheeses within a theme, two mystery cheeses, dark chocolate and fruit.

For reservations contact me at


the website is wrong

No, not this blog, but my own, website.

The prices for level one tastings are now $300. Level 2 cost $425. Level 3 no longer exists.



Just remember this: if you have to ask if the bread is fresh, then either a. you shouldn't be buying bread from this particular establishement or b. you shouldn't be buying bread.
Fresh baked bread, even that from a great local bakery like Amy's, Sullivan Street or Balthazar, has a slightly wilted sad look on the second day. No shop in their right mind will sell it.

Yes, I get asked a lot if the bread at Bedford Cheese is fresh from that day, my back winces as it's no fun to lug 15 bags of bread in every Sunday and Monday morning.



Cheese can be many things. For instance, it can be grassy, dense, sweet, salty, nutty, light, vegetal (in many variations), fruity (in many variations), funky, barnyard-ey, concise, and well you get the idea.
Cheese isn't the following: strong or mild. There's too much to a cheese's personality to sum it up so simply.
If you're shopping at a place where the cheesefolk routinely describe cheese in such a reductionist manner, then either A. they don't know cheese, or B. they don't know english. Neither is a good situation.
There are at least 300 great cheeses available to New Yorkers and they should be purchased from folks who can tell you whether they're grassy, nutty, etc. and whether they pair better with a Pinot Noir or a Riesling.
People with a binary undestanding of cheese flavor probably aren't cheese lovers and they certainly aren't doing their cheeses justice.


Friday, March 2, 2007

Best cheap wine of the moment

When Union Square Wines and Spirits moved from their Union Square West location to 13th St. and 4th Avenue, they knew that competition was coming from Trader Joe's wines and their renowned Two Buck Chuck.
Well leaving aside the fact that I've yet to have a wine from TJ's that wasn't either cooked or simply a vast disappointment (even at the price), USQ has the answer, a Malbec from Astica that retails for a meager $4.99. It's very drinkable with a enough distinct dark fruit to be a bargain at twice, maybe even three times the price.

Just for the record, I'm pairing it tonight with Ascutney Mount.


Tuesday, February 27, 2007

what to read

Guide du Fromage by Pierre Androuet
The english edition is old and out of date and still a great resource, you can probably find one on for less than $30. Well worth the effort and expenditure.
The Cheese Primer by Steve Jenkins
A fine "101" cornerstone book, by the man who has done more for specialty cheese retailing in New York City than anyone.
The Cheese Plate by Max McCalman
From the maitre fromagier at Artisanal comes his take on a cornerstone book. Not as complete as the "Primer" but well worth the time and some excellent food porn photography
Cheese: A Connoisseur's Guide to the World's Best by Max McCalman
His 102 (or is it 201) book, a superb consumer's guide to the best cheeses in the world and what to pair with them. The pairing ideas are worth the price alone; he goes well beyond the conventional wisdom.
American Farmstead Cheese by Paul Kinstedt
Truly one for the curd nerds. This is an intro text for everyone interested in learning cheesemaking at the University level.
The World of French Cheese by Patrick Rance
Okay, this one is grad level stuff, and a beautiful 600 pages in which nearly 100 are devoted to the idiosyncracies of geography. It's dense and wonderful and worth searching the rare book sites for it.

A few blogs
Anne Saxelby runs the coolest cheese stand in town, an American artisanal cheese shop in the Essex Market on the Lower East Side.
needs no explanation
The blog of Sasha Davies and Micahel Claypool, who drove across the country and back in 2006 visiting many of the major creameries that are putting American cheesemaking on the international map

Cheese and Coffee?

No, that's not an upcoming tasting.

It's just that 10 Degrees isn't the only great cheese program downtown.
Think Coffee, 248 Mercer St. also has launched it's own hand-crafted cheese and wine program. It offers a bunch of fine cheeses including Lincolnshire Poacher, Marcel Petite Comte, Seankanter, and everybody's favorite new American classic, Humboldt Fog.
The wines are heavily tilted toward old world with a nice diversity of dynamics.
Best of all, Lincoln and Shane, the two folks who run it, know their shit.

It's a coffee shop at heart so it's only open till midnight, but when in the Village, it's where to go.


Monday, February 26, 2007

Cheese of the Moment, 02.26.07

I love almost all sheep cheeses: pecorinos like Grand Old Man or Foja Di Noce, Manchego styles like Roncal or Zamarano, Brits like Berskwell and Spenwood, Americans like Weston Wheel, Shepherd's Basket, and of course Vermont Shepherd, and of course I particularly love the firm cheeeses from the French Pyrenees like Ossau Iraty, Abbey De Belloc, and Tourmalet.
I also love almost all the cheeses aged or distributed by Rolf Beeler.

So it's a mystery to me how I let Stanser Shafkase escape my notice for soooo long. It's a sheep cheese (the name transliterates sheep cheese) from the German side of Switzerland yet it has all the balance and delicate sweetness of the Pyrenees delights, as well as a bit of the hazelnut middle that distinguish so many cheeses of Switzerland. It comes to the U.S via the caves of Rolf Beeler outside of Baden.

I'd pair it with a Pinot Noir, and I'm eager to see what Dave at Spuyten Duyvil thinks about beer matches.


Sunday, February 25, 2007

Future Joy of Cheese Tastings

The 10 Degrees tastings after the Martini Madness will be All About Chevre in April (probably April 17th and 24th and 26th but that's not etched in stone yet). And Viva Italia (probably the 8th , 15th and 17th).

Should be fun.


Friday, February 23, 2007

Martini Madness Takes over 10 Degrees

The Joy of Cheese Presents Martini Madness

I was chatting with Max McCalman of Artisanal one night and he offhandedly said, you can’t pair cheeses with vodka, can you?
I took it as a challenge, not a decree. The more I thought about it the more I liked the idea. Find 12 cheeses that don’t have a strong funky finish, but are still distinctive, intriguing and flow well together. After thinking about the matter for a few minutes, I had 30 possibilities.
The next step was to figure out when to schedule the tasting. I chose the dead of winter because, well, it’s the dead of winter. Martinis and great cheese seem like the perfect way to brighten the dull days between Valentine’s Day and the arrival of spring.
So please join us for a tasting that will roll through some JoC faves like Doddington and Ascutney Mount as well as many other cheddar, gruyere, manchego, percorino and aged gouda variants. Although this menu will be heavily titled toward firm cheeses—and we’ll discuss how the production of each varies--there will be a few softies. I doubt we’ll have any blues (but you never know). Of course, there will be dark chocolate, fruit and a couple of mystery cheeses.
I’ve pegged these cheeses to classic gin and vodka martinis, but if that isn’t your drink, cosmos, sweet white wines or a pinot noir will also pair well.

Tuesdays March 6th, 13th, 20th, and 27th as well as Thursday March 15th and 29th from 7-8:30 at 10 Degrees, 121 St. Mark’s Place, 212-358-8600.

10 Degrees is a stellar wine and upscale spirits bar that opened in May.
Tickets are $30; you pay for your drinks separately.

To reserve space contact me at

I hope to see you there!


Cheese Lovers of the World Unite!

Okay, maybe not the world, but cheese lovers of New York City unite!
Welcome to the Joy of Cheese blog.
For those of you new to this, The Joy of Cheese is my roving cheese party business. Since May 2005, I've gone to homes from Park Slope to East Brunswick holding cheese tastings. And since May of 2006, I've held monthly tastings at 10 Degrees, the wine and high end spirits bar in the East Village at 121 St. Mark's Place.
To bring cheese to the people!
There's more truly great cheese available to the Gotham public now than ever before, yet the gap between the people interested in that cheese and the cheese itself has never been greater. Routine specialty food retailers like Fairway, Citerella, Zabar's, Garden of Eden, Gourmet Garage, etc., carry a small--very small--fraction of these cheeses if they carry any at all. Unless you frequent a select handful of places like The Bedford Cheese Shop (where I work on weekends), Murray's, Artisanal, Stinky Bklyn, Saxelby Cheesemongers or Formaggio Essex, you might never encounter some of the great culinary wonders.

But why?
Well, I've worked in and around specialty cheese since 1984, with a prominent gap from the mid '90s until 2003, and when I returned I wanted to find a way of working in this business without doing the 60-hour a week retail hell that I'd endured in the late '80s and early '90s. The Joy of Cheese was just such a vehicle. I enjoy talking to people about cheese. This is a way to do it and have them have fun while they listen.

Okay, but what is a Joy of Cheese tasting?
It involves 8-10 cheeses within a theme, fruit, dark chocolate, and two mystery cheeses (no I'm not asking people to sample a cheese then stand up and say "oh, why that's Ticklemore, a firm chevre from Devon England" or "oh, that's the Tuma Persa from Sicily." More power to you if you can identify those cheeses, but mostly the mystery cheese is a way see if you're paying attention to what your palate is telling you. The cheese will always reference a type of milk or a cheesemaking tradition from earlier in the tasting.
Anyway, there's an introductory cheese, followed by a flight of three cheeses, fruit and a mystery cheese, another flight, more fruit and another mystery cheese, another flight and dark chocolate to finish. During the tasting, I'll talk--have you noticed I'm kinda wordy--about each cheese and I'm happy to field questions about cheeses from fat content to the politics of pasteurization.
Even I have fun, though I'm ready to keep quiet for the rest of the night by the time the tasting is over.

See other posts for tasting schedule.