Unprecedented, pivoting, these are big words that we have heard so many times that they are beginning to lose their meaning. In a year where everything is unexpected, I take deep comfort in anything that feels normal. The rituals we will not give up on keep us whole this year. For Mongers’ our virtual tastings have been a real testament to this. No matter what the circumstances, we are still going to connect with people and share food. We are so appreciative of all of the people who have joined those tastings and helped shape those experiences.
As we look at the Holiday season just coming around the corner, of course the holidays may not look the same. But there are things that you can count on! We have our holiday favorites already scheduled to come in. We are equally excited about eating and enjoying these cheeses as we are about supporting these amazing cheese makers and companies we have built strong relationships and traditions with such as Essex Cheese, Uplands Dairy, and, of course, the internationally acclaimed Rogue Creamery.
Essex Street Cheese has helped define my calendar year since 2008 when I first started working at Zingerman’s. As we learned in our Essex Deep Dive Tasting, Essex brings us some of our most beloved staples of the shop like Parmigiano, Comte, L’Amuse, and Brabander.. This time of year, we get two really special cheeses from Essex . In addition to our everyday Comte from Fort St Antoine, we get one wheel of the highly allocated Comte Sangess (meaning wisdom in French). This is a Comte that tends to be over 2 years old and sometimes even tips the scale at 36 months (considered somewhat of a unicorn cheese).
In our Dutch line of goudas from the legendary Betty Koster, we get a special treat hand selected by Betty herself. Black Betty (cue the music) an extra aged wheel of her Brabander Goat Gouda. If you have not tried this, you owe it to yourself to add this to your holiday traditions. It is only available once a year, from November through February. These cheeses will both be available to us on November 6th.
For our domestic line up, Uplands Dairy is considered one of the most well respected dairies in the country, let alone Wisconsin. Andy Hatch and his team have won Best in Show awards 3 times (2001, 2005 and 2010). This puts Pleasant Ridge Reserve in a category all its own, the only 3 time winner of this award in history. Andy makes a raw milk mountain cheese only when the cows are on pasture. Each cheese that Andy and his team makes is a true expression of Terrior,hat was the condition of the pasture, which cows were in rotation that day, what was the weather like and so on. Sean Hartwig of Zingerman’s and I were due to visit Andy and select our batches for the year before the world stopped us. Instead of making my first pilgrimage to Wisconsin’s Driftless region, Andy sent us 4 different batches for us to choose from. We are going to be selling Pleasant Ridge that was made on August 7, 2019. It has depth that I have come to love with enough youthful quality that I am excited to find out how it ages over the rest of the year. Come taste this cheese now, and then see how it changes by the time you make your New Year’s Eve Tray!
We will not miss this season’s Rush Creek Reserve either. We should get our first batch around October 26th. Andy and his team make this cheese for a few months of the year starting around September. As the cows start transitioning to grain, the team makes one of the few soft raw milk cheeses enjoyed in the United States. Based on a Vacheron M'dore this cheese is a spruce wrapped, washed rind cheese. It has been aged 60 days and when they are on the younger side they still maintain the slice a bit. When they get on the older side you can cut the top off and dive right into the creamy and gooey cheese.
In our opinion Holiday boards should have blue cheese. It just works with all the flavors of the season. There is no more special of a choice than Rogue River Blue. This opinion was shared by a panel of judges at The World Cheese Awards last year in Bergamo, Italy. This was the first time an American cheese had won this contest in its over 30 year history. Rogue River is a blue cheese made with the same mold as the famed Roquefort. The cheese is lovingly wrapped in grape leaves that have been soaked in pear brandy. It is only released after the Autumnal Equinox and it ages throughout the year. The cheese is always amazing and starts more bright and cheesy in the fall. Then mellows out expressing more of the booze flavors in the cheese by New Years Eve, if there is still any around. Each year you have to fight for your wheels of this cheese. There is never enough to go around and you can only imagine what this year is like after this international award.
Although this year has certainly been unrivaled, our holiday cheese selection will celebrate the traditions we have been building over the last 4 years. We cannot wait to connect with you! Whether it’s an online order, part of a virtual tasting, in the store, or you call and email us with a question, we are excited to help you make your holiday picks. We have some great products in the store and more coming as we build up to the end of the year!