082 – Sara Adduci, Cheesemonger at Feast!


“Cheese wins. Always.” —Sara Adduci, Feast!

Cheese Work. With Extra Cheese Please. Welcome to Episode 82 and my conversation with cheesemonger Sara Adduci of Feast! Sara worked front of house at various restaurants for 26 years. At a certain point she was moonlighting as a photographer. It was during a shoot for the wedding of a wine and cheese shop owner that her new career was born. She began working at Julia Battaglini’s Secco Wine Bar in Richmond, spending all her earnings on cheese. It was an edacious romance with an extra aged gouda that set her on the path to learning everything there is to know about fermented milk.

How did she educate herself? Tasting! Taking notes afterward. Reading books. Sara just returned from a 6-week whirlwind cheese tour through Europe. An educational summer abroad began with a 2-week internship at L’Amuse Fromagerie in Amsterdam. She even spent time on an island of sheep! An island where Dutch folks bring livestock to graze and people and cars are forbidden. From there she traveled to Sicily,  Spain, and France, including a visit to a comté producer. Sara got to see the caves where hundreds of wheels sit quietly aging, gathering the nutty, buttery flavors that good comté is known for. Sara got to hand-select a wheel to bring back to Feast!, the shop in Main Street Market where she plies her wares. They even carved her name into it. It’s at the shop now. Go get you some before it sells out!

Her education shows. Sara has competed in The Cheesemonger Invitational multiple times, winning a bronze medal in 2016. What are some of the paces the judges put her through? We talk about it. At Feast! Sara is given carte blanche to order whatever cheese she thinks will sell, a balancing act of educating folks on new and strange cheeses but also catering to their tastes by including old favorites. There are some cheeses Sara loves that folks just don’t like. Price is also a factor with some cheeses just being too expensive to offer on a regular basis.

“There are some things that are a little obscure, a little different, but that’s part of the joy of being a cheesemonger is really being able to introduce people to things they aren’t familiar with. Explaining where it came from, how it was made, who made it, why it’s so good, what you can do with it. That really is for me the best part of doing what I do.”

Cheesemaking is a 24-7 job just like farming. Folks who do it are not in it for the money but for the love of the craft.

“If you ever spend 24 hours on a working cheesemaking farm, you will understand completely why cheeses cost what they do. It’s a job that never ends. They do it because they love it not because they’re making a huge amount of money.”

“I’d rather spend $5 on a small piece of cheese made by people that you know about and you know how they raised their animals and you know how they make their cheese and you know how much they care about it as opposed to a $5 huge piece of cheese from a supermarket that’s made in a commercial factory with milk that’s pooled from who knows where?”

Exactly. One of the goals of Sara’s summer abroad was to learn how smaller producers can stay successful, creating artisanal products without the danger of going out of business. Is it community support? Agritourism? What is the magic formula for success in cheese? How do all the components come together so you can create cheese the right way? Every single time? The culture of cheese is different in Europe as well. People eat more of it for one thing. It’s rare to sit down at a meal where you don’t find a little bit of cheese to nibble. How do we translate that culture to American tastes?

Caring for good cheese is vital as well because it can easily pick up flavors in your fridge. Make sure you slice off a tiny piece of the outside before serving so you have a “clean face”. Wrap it in parchment, not plastic. Cheese needs to breathe. It’s also important to serve it at the right temperature. Luckily, a good cheesemonger like Sara can walk you through everything and it never has to be an intimidating experience. Just talk to her! Tell her about your event even if the event is Tuesday Night. Tell her what you like to eat and she can direct you to a new favorite or a better version of an old one.

Are there cheesemongers who are lactose intolerant? What cheeses are best for those suffering from this condition? What cheese can you throw into the rice cooker to infuse it with flavor? How do you ship a giant wheel of cheese from Europe anyway? How do American cheesemakers dance through the many regulations placed on cheese production? What are the Cheesemonger Feats of Strength? Listen to find out!

I’ve followed Sara’s photography on Instagram for years. First met her during a Farm Dinner at Caromont, Gail Hobbs-Page’s querencia of goat cuddling and excellent cheese. How appropriate! Give this episode a listen. Then get yourself to Feast! and load up on some good stuff. Cheers!

SHOW NOTES – Links to resources talked about during the podcast:

  • Five Finds on Friday – Sara Adduci’s choices were so creative! And delicious.
  • Concert for Charlottesville – Did you see it? Wow.
  • Taste This! – A wonderful fundraiser for Meals on Wheels.
  • Help Puerto Rico – Please. Please. Please.
  • Caromont Farm Dinner – This October! Ian Boden from The Shack is the chef this go round. I’ll be recording. It will sell out. Get your tickets now.
  • WTJU Jazz Marathon – Donate early and often.
  • Gabrielle Hamilton – My podcast dream guest. My favorite chef, restaurant, and food writer all in one. Keep your fingers crossed I get to talk with her sometime very soon! She will be appearing as part of Richmond’s Fire, Flour, Fork. Get your tickets here.
  • Foggy Ridge Cider, Dugspur, Virginia – Not just great cider, Diane’s Garden Cottage is heaven on earth.
  • Chordify – Learn to play an instrument within minutes! I did.
  • Help Scotty Recover – My best friend has Stage 3B colon cancer. Bills are piling up. He can’t work. Can you help? Share! Donate! No amount is too small. Thank you and BIG LOVE to everyone who donated and shared the Big Love Bake Sale and Big Love Birthday! Next up? Tee shirts! Look for them soon.
  • Subscribe to This Podcast. Stay Edacious! – Come on, after this episode? You know you want to. Subscribers get new episodes instantly, while non-subscribers have to wait a few hours or days depending on the iTunes gods. Never miss a chance to be edacious!
  • Subscribe to Edacious News – Never miss a food event in our area! Learn about regional and national food stories so you can stay edacious!

This episode is sponsored by Teej.fm and listeners like you who donated their support at Patreon, who wants every creator in the world to achieve a sustainable income. Thank you.

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