March 2024 Newsletter

Table of Contents

1. Welcome
2. Cheese News
3. Cheese Club Reminder
4. Upcoming Events
5. Cheese Tip of the Month: Freezing Cheese
6. A Cheesy Story: Cheesemonger Competitions


March marks the end of winter and the beginning of spring, something many folks in the Pacific Northwest look forward to with gusto after the long, dark days that brought us into the new year. Here at Street Cheese, we marched into this month with fewer events than ever on our calendar, but with our biggest plans yet on the horizon.

Today we launch a crowd-funding campaign to help us open a brick-and-mortar cheese shop. It is an exciting moment for us and our little business, but it is also terrifying to take a leap of faith. We are still looking for the right space to park the business, but we hope to have something in the works by summer, if not sooner. The crowd-funding campaign is intended to help us raise money for the equipment needs our shop will have – especially good refrigerated cases to keep all the cheeses in good condition. You can learn more about our fundraiser here. If you feel inclined to donate, we would greatly appreciate the support. And if you can’t donate, we understand. We hope you will help us spread the word by sharing our campaign and telling folks about our business – spreading the good word of curd, if you will.

There is a long, hard road ahead on the journey to a physical space for Street Cheese, but we are putting in the work to get there. Thank you so much for your support up to this point. Street Cheese is nothing without you. <3  

Yours in Cheese,
Courtney and Tailor

Cheese News

The weather has been weird, weird, weird lately. So many of you are trying to will warm weather into existence, even as the sky is trying to make snow and rain and sunshine all at the same time. Regardless of the weather, this is an intermediary time in the cheese world. Right now it is calving, kidding, and lambing season for many local farms that breed their animals on a traditional, seasonal basis. Lots of new babies mean fresh cheeses are in the works from those creameries that didn’t have any milk all winter – but we still are not quite there yet. Nevertheless there are some good cheeses on our shelves (or coming soon) to mark this time of year.

  • Jasper Hill Farm Maple-Washed Willoughby: pasteurized cow’s milk soft-ripened, washed-rind cheese washed with Green Mountain Distillers’ Maple Liqueur, from Vermont. You may remember this special-wash cheese from last spring. We sold out super quickly, and we are anticipating the same this month after it comes in. Regular Willoughby is brothy, beefy, a wee bit vegetal, and buttery. The maple liqueur-washed version is a delectable upgrade of an already-good thing, with just a hint more smokiness and a deeper sweet note imparted from the booze. We love to eat it with French fries.
  • Neal’s Yard Dairy Spenwood: raw sheep’s milk uncooked, pressed cheese aged 6 months, from England. If you tried the first wheel we brought in this holiday season, you know how amazing this cheese is. Made by Village Maid Dairy in the Berkshire village of Riseley, Spenwood is a raw, sheep’s milk cheese made in the style of Sardinian Pecorino Sardo. It has the most beautiful flavor profile and texture: it is firm and just moist, but a tiny bit crumbly; the flavor is nutty, milky, savory, and complex without being too much. It’s perfect for snacking, shaving, or pairing. We honestly love it by itself.
  • Hofkäserei Kraus Alp Blossom: raw cow’s milk cooked, pressed cheese coated in Alpine flowers and herbs, from Germany. If you are trying to make spring happen, this is the cheese for you. Bavarian creamery Hofkäserei Kraus makes this semi-firm Alpine-style cheese with a washed-rind, ages it for 7 months, then coats in a mess of flowers and herbs before shipping it off for sale. The current batch is covered in cornflower, marigold, rose, lavender, parsley, rosemary, garlic, savory, sea salt, onion, oregano, and paprika. It looks springy, was made in the summer, and is savory enough to go with your late-winter cooking. A true cheese for all seasons.
  • Fourme d’Ambert La Mémée: pasteurized cow’s milk blue cheese, from France. We forgot how great this cheese can be. Shaped like a little drum, Fourme d’Ambert is both adorable and delicious. It is more of a medium-intensity blue cheese, stronger on fresh cream notes and possessing of a lovely, fudgy texture. It’s just right.
  • Ferndale Farmstead Smoky Scamorza: pasteurized cow’s milk smoked and aged pulled-curd cheese from Ferndale, Washington. Scamorza is a cute little snowman of a cheese that is made by taking fresh Mozzarella, hanging it up to dry, and aging it. This local version is smoked, meaning it has just enough of that aroma we know all you smoked-cheese lovers are crazy about. Scamorza melts well and is great for cooking, baking, fancy pizzas and casseroles, and for putting on a cheese plate, too. It’s also delicious with a drizzle of local honey or sliced up with some spicy salami.

We have lots of tasty stuff in stock right now; check out our web store to see what’s what.

Cheese Club Reminder

In case you wanted to get in on it, our March Cheese of the Month Club will release on Saturday, March 9, during our next Pop-Up Cheese Shop at Discover Burien (3-6pm). There are two options you can choose from:

  • “Just the Cheese”: each month, receive 5 different cheeses (over 2 pounds) that have been hand-selected for club members, who get the first crack at them.
  • “Cheese & Cheese Accessories”: each month, receive 3 different cheeses (roughly 1.5 pounds) plus 3 accompaniments intended to complement the cheeses. These will also be first-chance cheeses that have been thoughtfully paired with new or tried-and-true accompaniments.

You can sign up for a one-off box, for a three-month subscription, six months, or a full year. When you sign up, you’ll be added to the club list, and then you will receive an email each month letting you know what the pick-up options are so you can select the one that is most convenient to you. (As always, if you need to find an alternative date or location, please email us as early as possible at
StreetCheeseSEA [at] gmail [dot] com to make sure we can accommodate you before you place your order.)

Upcoming Events

Here are the opportunities to get cheesy with us over the next month, and a sneak peak at our April offerings:

  • Pop-Up Cheese Shop: Saturday, March 9, from 3-6 p.m. at Discover Burien in Downtown Burien (611 SW 152nd St). We will be set up to sell cheese by the wedge or wheel, charcuterie by the chub or sliced-to-order, and accompaniments to go with your cheese or meal. If you order the Cheese of the Month Club, you can pick up your first release during this window. To place a pre-order head to our web store.
  • Whiskey Workshop: A Cheese Pairing: Thursday, March 14, from 7-9 p.m. at Westland Distillery in SoDo (2931 1st Ave S). We’re excited to partner with the folks making the world’s third-best whiskey for this tasting, which will include two whiskey cocktails, two straight pours, and four delicious cheeses paired to them for maximum deliciousness. (In case you need to hear this: neither of us are whiskey drinkers, but we think these pairings rock.) Tickets to this educational, guided tasting are $49 each and are available through Westland’s website.
  • Raclette Pop-Up: Thursday, March 21, from 6-8 p.m. at Logan Brewing Company in Burien (510 SW 151st St). We are partnering with the B-Town Silent Book Club to bring everyone’s favorite hot cheese dish back to our favorite local brewery. You don’t have to bring a book to enjoy the cheese, but it is a great opportunity to catch up on some reading if you want the excuse. For more information about the B-Town Silent Book Club, head to their Instagram account.
  • PopUp Cheese Shop: Saturday, March 30, from 3-6 p.m. at Discover Burien. This will be your next chance to walk up and shop from our full selection from the front window of our commissary kitchen. It’s also a great time to order a platter for Easter if you celebrate.
  • Swiss Fondue and Raclette Class: Tuesday, April 2, from 6-9 p.m. at The Pantry in Ballard (1417 NW 70th St). This hands-on cooking class will take you through the steps for making traditional Swiss Fondue, a riff on the original, and Raclette—along with all the fixings. There will also be lots of education, tips, and eating. Tickets are $140 each and are available through The Pantry’s website. The class will also be offered on Monday, April 15, and Tuesday, April 16, also from 6-9 p.m.
  • Fine Cider & Cheese Tasting: Thursday, April 4, from 7-8:30 p.m. at Republic of Cider in SoDo (2960 4th Ave S #109). Join us and the cider-fermentation wizards for this sensory journey through 5 cheeses paired with 5 fine ciders. In this class, we will work together to discover the best pairing partnerships and understand why they are successful. Tickets are $45 each and are available through Republic of Cider’s website.
  • Wine & Cheese Pairing Class: Saturday, April 27, from 4-6 p.m. at Fruit Wine Co. in Bellevue (1950 130th Ave NE, Suite 1). What happens when you pair a sommelier and two professional cheesemongers? You get an evening filled with education as you taste through 6 wines paired with 6 cheeses, learning as you go why they work together and what makes each partner special. Tickets are $60 each and are available through Fruit Wine Co’s website.

Cheese Tip of the Month: Freezing Cheese

Cheesemongers often have to field the question: can you can freeze cheese? It’s a controversial topic, and the answers are not so simple. While the general guidance is technically that you should never freeze cheese (and that it’s always better to buy less cheese, more often, so you don’t have to worry about storing it), it is true and totally normal that there are times when you might want or need to freeze cheese.

  • Soft, fresh cheeses: these are the cheeses (e.g., fresh Chèvre, Fromage Blanc, etc.) that are most OK to freeze. The texture will be different when you thaw them: instead of creamy and spreadable, they’ll likely be a little drier and crumbly, which is not a huge problem if you are cooking with them or incorporating them into something else.
  • Brie-style cheeses or soft, washed-rind cheeses: you do not want to freeze bries, camemberts, Époisses, or any other soft cheeses with a white mold rind or an orange, sticky rind. The delicate constitution of soft-ripened bloomy-rind and washed-rind cheeses is not cut out for that harsh freezer life, and both the texture and flavor of the cheese will be altered for the worse if you freeze them.   
  • Semi-firm, firm and hard cheeses: generally speaking, these cheeses will be OK if you freeze them. The texture will be a bit different, but it might not be different enough to make a difference for cooking or baking.
  • Blue cheeses: this is a huge category, so it comes with some big caveats. Most blue cheeses won’t perform well in the freezer, much like the brie-style cheeses and soft washed-rind cheeses above. But harder blue cheeses will be OK after a stint in the freezer, and crumbled blue cheeses will probably be fine. Again, texture will always be the first thing to suffer, and you may also notice differences in the flavor of the cheese where it might be a bit dull or may have picked up stale freezer notes.

When freezing cheese, make sure you start with cold cheese from the refrigerator into the freezer, ensure the cheese is well packaged when it goes into the freezer so it doesn’t get burned (possibly double-bagged or in a container and then wrapped in saran), and that you thoroughly thaw it out in the refrigerator before bringing it to room temperature again.

If you have a large quantity of cheese that you want to freeze, try freezing it into smaller, individual portions that might be more reasonable to thaw out one at a time, so you aren’t constantly freezing, thawing, and re-freezing cheese, which would absolutely harm the texture.

Finally, try not to keep your cheese of any kind in the freezer for more than three to six months. Remember that cheese is a living food with a microbial ecosystem that doesn’t love extreme cold temperatures. After all, you wouldn’t be in great shape after three months in the freezer, would you?

A Cheesy Story: Cheesemonger Championships

You might remember that last year was a big year for the folks at Street Cheese. In March 2023, Courtney competed in Cheesemonger Invitational: Masters in New York—and won! What she won was a chance to travel to Tours, France, in September 2023 to compete in the Concours Mondial du Meilleur Fromager, the world cheesemonger championships. (Don’t worry, Tailor got to go, too.)

What exactly is a cheesemonger competition? Well, that depends on the country you live in, and what level you are competing at. Here in the US, we have the Cheesemonger Invitational (also called CMI), which happens regularly in New York. It is a meeting of 30-40 cheesemongers from across the US who come together for two days of education followed by a gauntlet of tasks mirroring those they complete every day on the job.

The first round is the “knowledge round,” comprised of a multiple-choice test about cheese and cheesemaking and a blind taste test with five name-protected European cheeses (the monger has to taste the cheese and identify its name, country of origin, milk type, and style of cheese). Next is the “technical round,” which takes mongers through three speed tests: 30 seconds to cut two perfect, quarter-pound wedges of cheese, 30 seconds to wrap those two pieces of cheese perfectly in cheese paper, and 30 seconds to wrap two large chunks of cheese in plastic wrap so they look like they’ve been dipped in glass. This is followed by a blind aroma test, where mongers have to smell six glass vials of an aroma and identify what they are smelling.

Then there’s the “salesmanship” round, where cheesemongers have a fake cheese counter with cheeses that are assigned to them. A judge walks up and asks for help, and grades the cheesemonger based on how well they interact with the judge and whether or not they actually make a sale.

The grand finale is the “food service” round, which cheesemongers actually prepare for in advance. Everyone is assigned a cheese, and they have to plan out a perfect beverage pairing, a perfect plate, and a perfect bite with that cheese. Mongers have 30 minutes to create the beverage pairing and set it out for the judges to taste, 30 minutes to build their perfect plate (which is sort of like something you’d order in a restaurant, more than a “cheese platter) and set it out for the judges, and then 60 minutes to create 150 bites that will be served to attendees at the evening cheese party event and finals.

The judges score all of these tests and select 5 finalists, who go up on stage and compete to become the winners. On stage, they usually have to give a speech about a cheese, answer trivia questions, and compete in speed cutting and wrapping rounds. In the event of a tie, there’s also an on-stage salesmanship round to determine the winner. There are typically around a thousand people in attendance eating cheese and vibing out to the competition, and it’s amazing to be in a room where people scream with glee every time someone cuts a perfect third-pound wedge of cheese.

We both competed in CMI in 2019 for the first time. Courtney placed in the top 10, and went back in 2020 to win 2nd place. After the pandemic, she competed for a third time and again won 2nd place. (Both times, the first place winner was from Portland, so PNW represent!) Because she did so well in those competitions, Courtney was invited to compete in CMI: Masters last year, along with anyone else who had placed first through third at a previous CMI.

CMI Masters was modeled on the French competition, the Concours Mondial, so it was a bit different than regular CMI. Competitors still had to duke it out in a multiple-choice test, a blind taste test of name-protected cheeses, and a timed cutting challenge (5 minutes to cut four half-pound wedges of cheese without weighing them). But they also had to bring an example of a “perfect cheese” and present it to all of the judges in a 5-minute oral presentation, and there were five food service challenges:

  1. “Cheese Plate”: each person is assigned five cheeses that are unknown until the time of the test and has to create a beautiful cheese plate, basically like a plate for 1-2 people to eat at a restaurant.
  2. “Combination of Tastes”: everyone is assigned the same cheese in advance and has to create a two-bite pairing with that cheese and one additional ingredient or mixture of ingredients.
  3. “Cheese Preparation”: everyone is assigned the same cheese in advance and has to create a cold dish with that cheese, basically something you would be served as a dish on a restaurant menu.
  4. “Cheese Platter”: this is not a grazing table as we know it in the US. It is a large-scale display featuring cheeses arranged on various supports, following a specific theme, with only minimal accompaniments. It is all about showing how you can perfectly cut cheese and arrange it while interpreting the theme creatively. You don’t know what the cheeses are until the test starts. The theme was “Cheese in the Stars.”
  5. “Cutting and Presentation”: basically, a cheese sculpture, but it can’t look “sculpted.” It is a centerpiece you might create for an event—entirely out of cheese, no supports, and it has to look beautiful enough that you want to eat it. You don’t know what cheeses you will have to use for this until the test begins.

For CMI Masters, everyone was assigned Gruyère for the Combination of Tastes and Camembert for the Cheese Preparation. So, for the Combination of Tastes, Courtney made a riff on a Linzer cookie, taking slices of Gruyère and stuffing them with a slice of homemade caramelized balsamic onion pâte de fruit, with a little cutout in the top piece of cheese so you could see the pâte de fruit through the cheese. For the Cheese Preparation, she made a macaron with toasted pistachios and Camembert incorporated into the Swiss buttercream filling and candied orange peels as a garnish.

When they announced the winners of CMI: Masters, the winners were Sam Rollins of Cowbell Fine Cheese in Portland, Oregon (who had placed first at CMI in 2021), and Courtney of Street Cheese. This meant they had won spots on Team USA to compete in the French competition, and it propelled them both into a wild 6-month whirlwind of practice, weekly strategy meetings, technical and mental preparation, and never-ending refinement.

The nice thing about CMI: Masters being modeled on the world championship meant that Sam and Courtney knew what they were getting into and how to improve. But there were still many unknowns to contend with, such as what types of cheeses they’d be assigned in France, how to study for the blind-taste test with cheeses that hadn’t aged while traveling across the Atlantic Ocean and the entire US to get the Northwest, and how to win over a team of judges from all around the world—who already had pre-conceived notions about Americans as being sloppy, messy, and having no national cheese culture.

The conditions during the competition were also something they had to be prepared for: September in France, with no air conditioning, and wearing a long-sleeved shirt underneath a heavy chef’s coat during an 8-hour competition.

The competition took place in Tours, France, on September 11. It was structured just like CMI: Masters, except it was inside an exhibition hall where the temperature was above 90 degrees the entire day. Courtney had two battery-operated fans on her work station to keep her somewhat cool, and half the battle that day was understanding how and when to cut different types of cheeses so they wouldn’t melt before the judges had seen them.

For the oral presentation, Courtney brought Almnäs Tegel, the Swedish cheese from Almnäs Bruk that the cheesy story in our February newsletter was about. She had improved upon her Linzer cookie-style presentation for the Combination of Tastes round; the assigned cheese was Tête de Moine, a small washed-rind Alpine-style cheese that is usually shaved into little flowers on a device called a Girolle. Courtney’s take was Tête de Moine three ways: on the bottom, a frico made of Tête de Moine; in the middle, a sheet of caramelized balsamic onion pâte de fruit, then a thin slice of Tête de Moine with the cut-out of a cow’s head, topped with a shaved floweret of the cheese positioned to look like a cowbell.

She had also refined her delivery of the Camembert Macarons for the cheese preparation round, leaning into the French tradition of Macaron and Madeleine shops that specialize in those pastries and sell them in beautiful gift boxes, tied with ribbon.

It was a long, hard day, and everyone was glad it was over. Although Courtney placed 7th in the competition, we were so excited that her teammate Sam placed 2nd—the highest score an American has ever received. (And, for what it’s worth, the 3rd place winner representing England is actually from Seattle. We’ll call that two wins for the Pacific Northwest.)

The best thing about these types of competitions is seeing what everyone else is doing. We find over and over that folks in our industry are tremendously creative, and it was amazing to see that taken to a global level by the 16 competitors at the Concours Mondial, who hailed from 14 different countries. We came home with so much inspiration, so many ideas that we are figuring out how to enact for our own community—as well as lots of thoughts on how we are going to take 1st place next time.

And if you are wondering if Tailor is going to compete again, the answer is probably no. While she is competitive, she is not nearly as competitive as Courtney, and she hates following the rules. (And the Concours Mondial had so very many rules.) We’re happy to have Tailor’s unbridled creativity as the counterbalance to Courtney’s meticulous drive for perfection—and as far as Street Cheese is concerned, that is a perfect pairing in and of itself.

Until next time,

Courtney Johnson and Tailor Kowis

Co-Owners, Street Cheese LLC

StreetCheeseSEA [at] gmail [dot] com