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Cheese, please!


Pungent or mild, whatever you fancy, local cheese blocks are full of choices!

Carol Cole-Frowe November 30th, 2011

Hundreds of delightful cheeses are popping up in markets and grocery stores, from assertive blues to washed-rind Taleggios or fresh, unripened ones like a queso fresco or queso blanco.

It’s a little overwhelming to peruse a case with hundreds of cheeses. How does one pick? How does one serve it, cook with it or pair it with wine or beer? Where to begin?

Easy: One bite at a time. Forward Foods hosts cheese classes at its Oklahoma City store at 5123 N. Western. But those interested have to act fast whenever a new class is announced. The Dec. 1 event on Coop Ale Works beer and cheese pairing, taught by Forward Foods co-owner Steve “Wampus” Reynolds, has been sold out for a couple of weeks.

But there is still room in the grocery store’s unpretentious “Cheese 101” class at 6:30 p.m. Tuesday. Education coordinator and cheesemonger Bailey Schreier teaches that flagship class, which includes lots of cheese and wine sampling. Attendees start basic by learning the eight different styles of cheese. Complimentary condiments like olives or pickles are often included.

right, Philip Bjorklund at Forward Foods

“We’re making cheese more accessible,” Schreier said. “It can be intimidating to walk up to a case of 200 cheeses.” They should know. At any one time, Forward Foods features 200 to 300 selections at their prime ripeness, but because so many cheeses are seasonal, the store inventory includes about 600 different cheeses.

Around the Globe
Another way to break cheese education into bite-size pieces is by geography. So far, Forward Foods has hosted classes on cheeses from Portugal, Spain, France, Italy, Holland and several other countries. Upcoming plans include classes on German and English cheeses.

Schreier said there is no end to ideas for potential classes. They are  planning sessions for 2012 to tackle demand for cheese making and to explore ripeness.

Gift certificates for classes can be purchased at either Forward Foods location. The Norman location will be moving west early next year to a slightly larger storefront in Carriage Plaza on W. Main Street, and more cheese classes will be added accordingly.

To find out when classes are scheduled, sign up for Forward Foods’ email newsletter at forwardfoods.com.

Atif Asal, owner of Mediterranean Imports and Deli, 5620 N. May, stocks wide-ranging cheese selections from around the world. He started with 75 to 100 kinds three decades ago, and now stocks about 250 to 300 at any given time. Asal said to learn about cheese, one has to taste, taste, taste.

A visit to his store usually yields a sampling or two of some kind of cheese.

“We do it almost all the time,” Asal said.

His staff patiently provides samplings of any of the cheeses in stock, along with recommendations.

“We encourage people to ask to taste something different,” he said. “The way to learn is to try cheeses and read about them.”

Homeland stores recently hosted a “Festival of Cheese” at selected locations, with sampling of Henning’s Cheddar, Belletoile triple cream and triple-cream Brie. A cheesemonger was on hand to answer questions and assist in selection of cheeses.

The recently opened Whole Foods store in the Classen Curve shopping center usually offers cheese for sampling. A visit there yielded a nice taste of grand Camembert on a whole-wheat cracker.

Pungent or mellow, cheeses delight, transform and tease taste buds, and are perfect for holiday soirees.

 
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