The not-so-big cheese

Posted: March 15, 2012 in Food, Personal
Tags: , , , , , , , ,

What fun!! Yesterday was my first foray into the world of selling chèvre to a restaurant and setting up the encounter myself. How did I get to this place from four years of teaching high school PE, a few years of working at a health and fitness club, a time of demonstrating equipment at a Sharper Image, doing personal training for about sixteen years while also home schooling our two girls through high school? This was nothing I’d ever imagined doing.

Some years ago, while making my weekly Saturday morning stop at the (indoor) winter farmers market (or farmer’s market or farmers’ market, whichever you prefer), I notice a woman in a cowboy hat and boots, with samples of chèvre on the table in front of her. Cowboy hats and boots in Cleveland attract my attention as did her friendly smile so I stopped to try her goat cheese.

Jean Mackenzie had fairly recently begun making goat cheese in Hiram, Ohio, and was already winning awards. (You can read about her journey here: She hasn’t stopped since. I bought cheese periodically and loved putting it out for guests and they loved it, too. Perennial favorites were chèvre topped with a cognac-fig topping, another sporting an apricot-ginger topping and a third, a log-style, with peppadew peppers.

Somehow last summer, neither of us remembers exactly how, I started helping her son, Rob, selling cheese at the outdoor market. He and his wife had moved back from Florida, (brave people), so Rob could help with the business, allowing for expansion. I fell into the habit of doing my shopping, then stopping by to help for an hour or so until the library opened. Suddenly, I was working the entire four hours, talking with people, convincing them to taste, having a blast. Since then, I’ve loved selling a stellar product to so many enjoyable customers.

Now my mind turned to how to get this great cheese to people I knew would appreciate it. It’s not that Jean and Rob haven’t done a great job of this, but I wanted to do my little part as well. That’s where Chef Amaury came in, His restaurant is now located in Aurora, Illinois, a southwestern suburb of Chicago, but we first had a memorable anniversary meal there when the restaurant was an unlikely star in an almost empty little strip mall near the edge of Naperville. We had a five or six course meal which was fabulous, created from foods that, whenever possible, were local or at least from the United States. So I thought Mackenzie and Amaury’s were a perfect match.

Chef Amaury is nothing if not approachable and friendly. He also has a great memory for people, since he remembered me and my husband, even though we’d only (unfortunately) eaten there a few times! We set up a time and I went there this afternoon and was able to introduce not only him but a few other people to Mackenzie’s anything-but-plain unadorned chèvre, the herbs-de-Provence chèvre, the black truffle, the cognac fig and their latest offering, an aged Bucheron-style log called Baby Buche. This last has been so popular that when we first introduced it, we sold out in half an hour and it’s been almost impossible to keep it, in any amount, long enough to let those who enjoy a leisurely morning on Saturday and coming late to the market have any to sample.

I think the meeting was a happy one and I anticipate the distinct possibility of more cheese tastings in the future. I still think Chef Amaury and Mackenzie Creamery are a perfect match and better yet, I think they believe that, too. It’s been an interesting ride so far, one I never would have dreamed of since I’ve gone through life wanting to teach, which I have done, in one form or another, since college. I guess now I’m teaching people to appreciate outstanding chèvre and enjoying talking with them and hearing their stories. Not sure where this will all go, but trying new things is a great way to keep life interesting and I hope to keep doing so for a long time.

  1. cabecada says:

    Stack yo chedda chedda

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