Australian Regional Food - January 28, 2011
“When are we going back to San Francisco?” Mike asked. When I sounded vague he said “To shoot the cheese story! Didn’t you see the link in my last email”. Now I have and in the process I’ve discovered Gordon Edgar, the Chelsea Green website, their Chelsea Green TV, so I’m sharing that all around. There’s a shorter version of this video but, if you’re into cheese, watch the half hour version below. There’s a few mundane cutaways to stills, (Yep, that’s a Velveeta pack alright. Gee.) but it’s a good cheesy story and Gordon attacks a few terms like ‘artisan’, grass fed dairy, and tells you when it’s ok to use lots of adjectives to describe a special cheese. Otherwise, it’s just, well, cheese but some is clearly much more interesting than others. I’ve included a brief section below that gives you a sense of his realism and activism, if the video hasn’t already impressed that on you...
Read the original review.
Mature At Last, Marin County's Cheeses Stand Alone
Contra Costa Times
August 9, 2010
There are those who say Marin County's Cheese Renaissance began on July 7, when Point Reyes Original Blue was crowned "Best of Show" at the California State Fair.
Then there are those who say the renaissance began five years earlier, when the Marin French Cheese Co.'s Rouge et Noir Triple Cr me Brie took top honors at the World Cheese Awards in London.
"When Marin French won an award for brie in a European contest, it was the equivalent of when (Napa Valley's ) chardonnay won in Europe and put California on the map," said Lynne Deveraux, director of the annual California Artisan Cheese Festival. "It finally brought American cheeses into the international arena."
Marin's cheese industry may be small - though with new producers like the Nicasio Valley Cheese Co. entering the mix this year, it's growing all the time. Yet in terms of quality, the county's cheeses are already world class, says cheese connoisseur Gordon Edgar.
Read the whole article here.
Cheese Education: Cheese Books That Rock
It's Not You, It's Brie Blog
August 4, 2010
Cheesemonger, by Gordon Edgar, is one of my favorite books, period. Using humor as a guiding force, Edgar links his love for cheese to social activism and explains how what many see as nothing more than fermented milk can inspire a full and aware life. And it’s flippin funny.
Read the whole article here.
Cheese Appreciation 101
Say CHEESE Media
Learning about cheese is within easy reach of anyone who has a sense of adventure and access to a good cheese store. Here are some tips to jump-start the journey.
Gordon Edgar purchases more than a million pounds of cheese a year, has crisscrossed the country in its pursuit and written a book about his career path from punk-scene player to cheese monger. With the best of them, he can reel off names of obscure cheeses, describe with exquisite detail their nuances and offer firsthand knowledge about the people who, as if by magic, transform milk into cheese.
But here’s a little secret: Edgar, author of “Cheesemonger: A Life on the Wedge,” cut his cheese teeth on bright orange blocks of Velveeta, proof positive that a) in at least one respect, he’s on equal footing with most Americans and b) there’s ample room and opportunity for anyone to advance their cheese adventures.
The cheese buyer for a food cooperative in San Francisco for more than 15 years, Edgar long ago bid adieu to his mass-produced-cheese beginnings. A purist of sorts (one gets the sense that he would eat a maggot-infested farmstead cheese before he would a processed cheese-food spread), he happily shares both the knowledge and opinions built through years of tasting, buying and exploring. He finds immense pleasure in such far-flung treasures as French Ossau-Iraty, Italian Taleggio and Swiss Emmenthal yet doesn’t pass judgment on customers who buy the exact same cheese every time. “Good for them,” he says. “They know what they like.” Even Edgar admits to an enduring, lowbrow affection for the simple pleasures of block Cheddar and nearly always has some stashed in the refrigerator.
Traveling the Cheese Course
Expanding one’s personal cheese repertoire is an ongoing evolution, a path of informal—and immensely enjoyable-- study that includes tasting and experimenting, pushing forward from the basics and discovering the many flavor and textural treats that exist within the and vast, ever-changing cheese universe. Aided by curiosity and abetted by a good cheese department, Edgar says it is simple to move from one level to the next.
“The most important step is tasting. That’s how you learn,” he says. “Ask to sample a few different types at the market. Try something new and different and be open to suggestions.”
It helps to visit markets that will shave off a piece to sample. High-noon on Saturday may not be the best time but during slower hours, staffers generally are more than willing to offer guided tours through the cheese case. Edgar also says farmers markets are great places to learn about cheese. “Many small cheese makers sell this way. You can learn so much for them,” he notes, adding that they encourage tastings and are well-equipped to discuss their cheeses’ unique traits. They also can liken their own cheese varieties to more-familiar styles, sharpening the sensory focus.
Honesty and a few well-chosen cues will help unearth cheeses that aren’t so bold as to be scary but that will introduce cheeses that are distinct and different. “When someone asks you what you like, tell them the cheese types and the traits that work for you,” coaches Edgar. “Be prepared to tell them if you want something sharper, creamier, pungent, strong or more challenging. And tell them what you don’t like—blue cheese, runny cheese, goat’s milk, ultra-fatty. They’ll guide you in the right direction.”
Gateway to Success
Assembling a simple cheese tray is the reason many patrons head to the cheese counter. Edgar offers easy guidelines that bring interest to the selections without them being intimidating. “Before you start selecting cheeses, ask yourself what the real goal is. A crowd-pleasing experience will be different from an impress-your-foodie-friends event,” Edgar notes.
With the end goal in mind, strive for variation in milks and textures, building around three core choices. “Start with a “gateway” cheese, something that gets them excited without having them recoil in fear,” he says. The selection depends on where you and your guests stand in the cheese world; if your most exotic cheese experience so far has been Monterey Jack, consider moving first to a well-made Teleme and from there perhaps a bigger leap to Epossies.
Edgar next recommends a rustic sheep’s milk cheese. “They are often mild with a creamy texture; those traits appeal to a lot of people.” Spanish Manchego is one possibility. Ossau-Iraty, which Edgar says is a perennial best seller at his shop, is another consideration. Made in the French Pyrenees Mountains, it has a buttery rich texture and richly nuanced flavor that pairs well with many white wines.
Believing that their olfactory bark usually is worse than their bite, Edgar urges customers to add a “stinky” washed-rind cheese to the mix. “Something that has a strong stink but is still fairly mild in taste will do wonders for them,” Edgar insists, adding that Taleggio almost always wins fans once they discover that the flavor is more elegant than its nose suggests.
“The point always is to get them to try something new and different. Chances are, they will like it,” Edgar says. “Then they can move on to the next cheese experience.”
Read the whole article here.
Cheese at Omnivore Books
May 15th, 2010
Here’s Gordon Edgar – Cheesemonger at Rainbow Grocery, and author of one of the best food books I’ve read this year. His book, ‘Cheesemonger: A life on the Wedge‘ single-handedly doomed me to uncontrollable cheese cravings for the past month. (Fortunately, my family just gave me a gift certificate to Rainbow Grocery for my birthday, so I now have the funds to spend it all on cheese. I’ll have to use restraint.)
I loved this book because the voice is uniquely Gordon Edgars’ – and is as passionate about cheese as he is about politics, activism, music, and the Bay Area. I learned more about my city from reading this book than from living here. (Which just tells me that I have to be more involved. Folsom St. Fair anyone?) In fact, I enjoyed it so much, that when I finished reading it…. I went back to his livejournal, which to my delight has archives dating back to 2002. I know, I’m a little creepy.
Read the whole article here.
A Life on the Wedge: An Interview with Gordon Edgar, Cheesemonger
Submitted by Collin Dunn
Tue Mar 30, 2010 01:46 PM ET
Makenna Goodman: What's it like being the cheesemonger at the largest independent grocery in San Francisco?
Gordon Edgar: The beauty of working at a worker-owned cooperative is that I know that I don't have to do everything. My job is to source cheese, buy it, and to organize when it comes in, but I know that the people I work with every day are just as committed. As a worker-coop we have very low turnover - especially when compared to, for example, non-union natural food chains that may carry similar products - so we have a lot of experience and expertise behind the counter every day. Because of the nature of my job, I probably wake up with cheese anxiety dreams more than my co-workers but I also have to cut and wrap a lot less than I did 15 years ago.
MG: How does your love of cheese affect the way you live?
GE: I must admit that I have geared a lot of vacations around visiting cheesemakers over the last decade. In addition, I am always asked by friends to bring cheese to parties. Also, my parents order the cheese plate at restaurants now in order to tell the waiters that I'm a cheese buyer. The waiters never really care, but they pretend to, which is the most reasonable reaction.
MG: When you're considering farms to buy cheese from, what's the first mark on your checklist?
GE: The cheese itself is always the first thing, not the farm. What is original about it? What does it taste like? Is it better or worse than other, similar cheeses? Is it unique or would something have to be discontinued in order for it to have a space on the shelf?
Usually something else will have to go if I bring a new cheese in so I ask: is it local? Is it US-made? What's the size of the operation? Do they have a policy on the use of bovine growth hormone? What's the wholesale cost? Does it have some kind of special niche? I'll add all these things up in my head and assess whether I will buy it or not.
If a cheese is small-production, made in the US, and I haven't had to deal with any obnoxious sales reps or brokers, it will definitely have a leg-up.
MG: What's your take on factory-made versus artisan cheese?
GE: Factory-made cheese is all about producing the exact same product every time. I'm not here to put down factory-made cheeses like some snobby foodies out there. Factory cheese feeds people, provides jobs, and helps preserve rural communities. I mean, if you can afford to regularly make mac and cheese for your kids out of the Cabot Clothbound Cheddar that's aged in the Cellars at Jasper Hill (one of my favorite cheeses) that's great. It is just not reality for most people. There's a reason that our (rBGH-free) Mild Cheddar that's made in a factory is our biggest seller in terms of volume. Depending on the price on the Cheddar Block Market, we sell it between $3-$4/lb.
Artisan cheese is almost by definition more interesting. It can vary depending upon the season or the whim of a small producer. If the animals graze, the cheese flavor is locked into a community based on the local grasses and flowers. It's also a great way for small dairies to make a living because, while the price for milk is often controlled elsewhere, an individual can control their price for a finished product like cheese.
Read the whole interview here.
Over at Rainbow, blue cheese flies
SF Gate - Home of the San Francisco Chronicle
Thursday, March 11, 2010
Your nose may have been buried in Marcel Proust, Jane Austen, James Patterson or Danielle Steel. My own has been buried in "Cheesemonger: A Life on the Wedge," the recently published memoir of Rainbow Grocery cheese man (and former punk rocker) Gordon Edgar. There's a lot to learn in this fact-filled book, but, as the mold said to the Havarti, I don't want to be a spoiler. Nonetheless, some irresistible facts and citations:
-- The Rainbow Grocery Cooperative is the largest retail worker-owned cooperative in the country. The average cheese consumption of Americans is more than 30 pounds a year. The International Dairy Association says the world leader in per capita consumption of cheese is Greece.
-- Cheesemongers can be sentimental: "When visiting farms, I always feel better when the milkers are named and the dairy workers know their distinct personalities."
Read the whole article here.
Make Room For Books on Cheese
A summary of what's coming up in the world of cheese
By Lynn Andriani -- Publishers Weekly, 10/26/2009 8:00:00 AM
It’s a big season for books about cheese. The coming months will see the publication of books on making cheese at home, building and running a small dairy, and cooking with cheese. There are books about people who’ve devoted their lives to cheese, and even a memoir by one of them. And, of course, there are reference books (which are necessary, since there are some 700 kinds of cheese in existence). Here's a summary of what's coming up…
Cheesemonger: A Life on the Wedge by Gordon Edgar (Chelsea Green, Feb. 2010)
Edgar buys the cheese for San Francisco’s Rainbow Grocery and demystifies the biz, talks about cheese myths and politics, and discusses his 15 years in the world of cheese.
Read the whole article here.
Cali Cheeses Rack Up Awards, But the Real Winners Might Be Ones You've Never Heard Of
San Francisco Food Blog
By John Birdsall, SFoodie Editor in Cheese
A half dozen California cow's milk cheeses snagged more than a dozen awards at the 2009 World Cheese Awards earlier this month in Las Palmas, Gran Canaria. The annual event is a slugfest of more than 2,000 entries and dozens of countries. California winners included Le Petit Dejeuner from Marin French Cheese in Petaluma, Bellwether Farms' Carmody, and smoked mozzarella from West Berkeley's Belfiore Cheese Co. So that means we rule cheesedom, right?
Not exactly. Rainbow Grocery's self-styled cheesemonger, Gordon Edgar, told SFoodie there are sort of more cheese contests out there than even a diligent cheese expert can keep up with. "As a retailer, most of these awards don't mean a hell of a lot. What contests measure is, what is the best cheese at that contest in that room with the judges at that particular moment," he said, even as he admires many of the cheeses that won in Gran Canaria.
Instead, Edgar's excited about some emerging California cheeses that are still hard to find at store counters. "There's an exciting new Marin dairy, Barinaga Ranch, a sheep dairy up in near Marshall, making some amazing cheese in small quantities -- California makes some of the best cheeses in the country, but it doesn't make a lot of sheep's milk cheese." Edgar also pointed to goat cheese makers Bohemian Creamery in Bodega, and Marin's Bleating Heart.
Edgar's first book, Cheesemonger: A Life on the Wedge, is due for publication Feb. 17 from Chelsea Green. He also blogs at Gordonzola.net.