Cheese: Playing favorites

Our food artisans series is back as we force Ellwood Thompson’s cheesemonger, Dany Schutte, to do something akin to a mother owning up to favorite child: picking a favorite cheese. Read on to learn more about her pick.

Welcome to the latest installment in our food artisan series in which some of Richmond greatest food enthusiasts and craftspeople share what they love about what they do. Here Dany Schutte, cheesemonger in the Indulge Department at Ellwood Thompson’s, tells us about her favorite cheese currently on the market.

My favorite cheese, hmmmm. Kinda like asking a mom to own up to a favorite child. Honestly, keeping up with my favorite cheese is quite like chasing a moving target at best. It will change with the seasons, it will change with my mood. I could possibly be stuck on the same thing for a while or have it change in mere minutes. That said, I am currently in love with a cheese. And let me tell you what, it has been a couple of years since I was this in love with a goat cheese.

I’ll share it with you in a moment, first allow me to wax poetic about goat cheeses in general. Like most Americans my only experience with goat cheese was grabbing that too familiar bright white goat log in a cryovac package — tart, tangy. And honestly, if this is goat cheese, ummm, no thanks. However, as fortune had it, my learning experience in the world of cheese happened in North California — Mecca for the world of American Artisanal Goat Cheese culture, home to giants like Laura Chenel, Jennifer Bice of Redwood Hill Farm, and my friend, Mary Keehn of Cypress Grove. Their wonderful cheese, like Mary’s Humboldt Fog, gave me a moment to pause and reconsider my palate. Then I began to experience a world of French aged goat cheeses, most of which at the time were unpasteurized, and the love affair was on.

After coming back home to Richmond, my love for goat is fed by Goats R Us out of Blackstone, Virginia. Lovely, creamy… not that bitter, tart stuff, but also a good age goat. A lot of the French aged goats coming into the states underwent some change after 9/11. Most are now thermalized, which means they’re pasteurized at a higher heat but put through a shorter hold time. Consequently it is harder to get the unpasteurized styles I had come to love so much. However, Ellwood’s recently started carrying cheeses from Capriole Farms in Indiana. Judy Schad is the cheesewoman there and has been for 30 years. The cheese we have right now that makes my mouth water is the Old Kentucky Tomme. It’s nutty (with a hint of sweetness to it), very layered and complex, and especially long-finishing. I have fallen in love with this cheese.

Ah, the delight and joy I get when that one customer comes through and I get the sense about them, that they might like this cheese.. and I taste them on it.. and get a “Wow, yes please.” This is why I do what I do.

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Dany Schutte

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