Sunday, May 1, 2011

From Arlington to The Alps!

Katie Carter Journeys to Switzerland

When I became a cheesemonger in 2004, I took it upon myself to learn everything I could from other serious cheese professionals and organizations. My education took me to New York every week for a "Master Cheese Class" at the Artisanal Cheese Center in Manhattan. It was during these classes that I discovered the work of Swiss Affineur, Rolf Beeler. Rolf Beeler does not make cheese, he selects cheese from only the best producers around Switzerland and carefully ages them to perfection in his caves. Beeler then puts his own label on the cheese and sells them throughout the world.

Like most other people, the extent of my knowledge of Swiss Cheese prior to being a cheesemonger was limited to mediocre Gruyere, Appenzeller, and really bad Emmenthaler knockoffs. It was because of Beeler's work that I fell in love with the cheeses of Switzerland.

Swiss Affineur (cheese ager), Rolf Beeler
Arrowine introduced as many Beeler and other great Swiss cheeses as I could to our cheese-loving customers. We all marveled at the diversity of flavors and textures, as well as the fine craftsmanship of traditional Swiss cheesemakers. I was so impressed with the new Swiss Cheeses, that when we began selling "Forsterkase", I declared it to be "life-changing" on its sign. Yes, this cheesemonger got a lot of laughs and funny looks for that one.

Turns out, that cheese IS changing my life.  In January, I attended a tasting in Manhattan to meet the creator of that cheese, Willi Schmid. Beyond tasting almost his entire collection of cheese creations (over 24), I became completely inspired by his work, his stories, his dedication to the craft. It was clear this man was at the forefront of a new movement of cheesemaking. I decided then that I had to learn more from him and that going to his tiny village in Switzerland was the best way to accomplish that.

Willi Schmid
Today, I will be traveling to Lichtensteig, Switzerland to work with Willi at his creamery in order to know as much as possible about him, his cheese, and his unique methods. In addition to working in the creamery, I will be traveling throughout Switzerland visiting other cheesemakers, farmers, and affineurs to learn the details of the country's cheese culture. Expect many pictures, stories, tastings, and lots of fascinating details. Follow my journey on this blog, Arrowine's Facebook page, and via twitter.

Wish me good luck, people! Did I mention I can't speak German...?
~Katie Carter

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