Welcome to the blog of the Rehoboth Beach Cheese Company. Pull up a bar stool and experience our Counter Culture!

I'm Andy Meddick, Owner and President of the Rehoboth Beach Cheese Company. In 2005, I left my corporate I.T. job in Washington DC, to relocate with my spouse's business to the DE beaches. What to do now we live in a state where chicken houses can often outnumber human? Faced with a four hour round trip to the closest decent food market, I opened my first store, Good For You Market, a full service grocery store, focusing on organic, natural, and gourmet foods. In the worst economy since the 1930s, I won Best of Delaware awards three years running. After four years, I decided to simplify the business, re-aligning to focus on what we did best. The result is the Rehoboth Beach Cheese Company. We sell (retail and wholesale) artisan/farmstead cheeses, charcuterie, organic produce,and other specialty foods such as spices and seasonings. We also teach cheese classes, cater, sell online, and consult with other businesses to build their cheese programs.

I've learned much since starting out. For example, staffing was a steep learning curve, and I discovered that a savvy sales and marketing professional lay dormant in an I.T. geek! Systems analysis, business analysis, database design and development, data architecture, web design, specialty cheeses and foods, organic farming, catering, and cooking. What do all these threads have in common? Curiosity! It begets technique, which in turn begets better solutions to commond needs. Why complain about lack of choice, if you're not willing to offer an alternative? Our move, and my business development has taught me to participate in life, and to be ever curious! Enjoy!

Dec 22, 2011

A wise man once said, "When you have nothing to say, it's best to say nothing." So, just sayin', I ain't been sayin', know what I'm saying?

Here I am, an hour to kill waiting on some software to download to complete a client project. So, off the clock, and to the blog to finally say something
Yikes, December 22 already. Scratch that, finally! This year has been like wading through treacle. Or like watching our two Jack Russell Terriers try to get through the dog door at the same time. A lot of activity, no apparent progress. I haven't felt like I had much to say recently. Not much news on the business and professional fronts. For much of this year I alternated between feeling barely above water, or going crazy with the frustration of all plan, no progress. As I look back on this year, I realize it wasn't half bad. It actually was a most interesting year. When things seem to be slow, there's really lots going on!

I'm not a big fan of New Year's Eve. I'd prefer to do it Masterpiece Theater style, rent an old cottage on a remote coastline, hunker down with a bunch of friends, and experience drama Alan Ayckbourn would be proud to script. Failing that, spouse, dogs, and I hunker down in front of the TV, and they're waking me for midnight. Beach towns in Delaware - not so big on the festivities. I'm thankful I have a family to hunker down with, regardless of falling asleep before the Swarovski chandelier drops.

St. Govan's Chapel, Pembroke Coast, West Wales
I'm always in a funny mood this time of year. Maudlin verging on muddling. Excited verging on over- stimulated. How does one process the cognitive dissonance of looking back as well as forward? It's all a little schizophrenic. If we're not spending the holidays in Wales, I get very homesick. Odd when I've been in the States going on twenty years. I miss my family very much, and in a great smack in the face with a wet kipper kind of irony, I had no appreciation of how beautiful Wales was whilst living there!

Cliffs - Rhossilli, South Wales

Here in Delaware, the mid-Atlantic coastline naps, emitting the quietest of  sighs. Quite lovely in its understated elegance. Yet in this year of subliminal progress, I feel the need for cliffs with their raw outrage squaring off shoulder to shoulder with the sea, energizing my mood, challenging my assumptions. I miss landscape in this flattest of states. I miss a dramatic meeting of land and sea.

Tom laughs when visiting UK coasts. "Why are there no fences? How can you walk right up to the edge?" Well he's not quite that polite about it! It was the same outrage when trying to find Stonehenge on a very dark December evening on Salisbury Plain. "You'd think a national monument would be lit up!" I think they're too busy appreciating the view to ponder a plummet and well, who in their right mind would visit Stonehenge in the dark? Just sayin'...

It's, "Armageddon Week" on the History Channel. Any other year, the timing of such an odd collection of programming would cause a few raised eyebrows in this season of celebration and joy. Yet this year with everyone in such a high state of anxiety, it actually gets viewers - hard when you're up against the open house schedules. Nothing like a good apocalypse to get you in the party mood.

So, back to the treacle. Oh the irony. I love treacle! There's two jars of it in the pantry awaiting the day when I get the odd urge to mix up a sponge pudding, or pastry for a tart. This year seems to have been about appraisal, closure, simplification, and, appropriately for this season, an anticipation of hard work, and good things ahead. My high school biology teacher on seeing my scruffy lab desk cautioned me, "Mr Meddick, work in a puddle, mind in a muddle." It appears this year's theme for me has been working on the puddle. No puddle no muddle. No muss, no fuss!

I got my early professional training in software development for IBM UK. A key part of putting a project into production was the post implementation project review. We called it the, "Lessons Learned Review." I was one of the wierd people who looked forward to this meeting. The job was done, the overtime checks cashed (those where the days!). The meaning in the post-implementation review, for me, was in lessons to carry ahead - forward momentum, not about life in the rear view mirror. So this week as we move through and beyond the symbolism of the Christmas and Channukah celebrations, we hit that quiet week before New Year. No physical work really gets done. Retailers and service professionals are exhausted. Manufacturing and other production businesses are quiet. We go within. We reflect (nurse hangovers!), consider our lessons learned, and make forward plans, "resolutions" if you will, that take us on with the new year.

2012 - it's going to be a great year!
So, do not misunderstand me reader. I love this time of year. Why? Because I love any time of year, the whole darn experience - spring, summer, fall, winter, Christmas, New Year, and on... Each brings its own rhythm. Sometimes, admittedly, the best you can do, is get through this moment now. Yet, you reap what you sow, and learn from those moments also. Take this season to reflect, appreciate, learn a few lessons, and sow good things for the coming year. Above all let your curiosity outweigh your fear, and always live with an 'attitude of gratitude.' I have some great things resolved for the new year - on the professional, and the business front. Stay tuned for some exciting announcements on the latter. What are your resolutions (plans) for the new year?

Thank you everyone for your business this year and for your support and encouragement for our future plans.

Have a safe holiday period wherever you may be celebrating.

Faith, peace, love, and great food y'all.

P.S. I did learn something of interest on Armageddon Week. One of only two large extinction-size meteorites to hit the earth impacted in the Chesapeake Bay. We still have a 500 mile crater in the sea floor to show for it. We almost got cliffs! Pity the poor dinosoar sitting at Starbucks that day, complaining that nothing ever happens in Delaware. Bang! Then again maybe he didn't hear the impact above the coffee grinders. Just sayin'...

Nov 5, 2011

Remember, remember, the Fifth of November. Gunpowder, treason, and plot...

Running a small business means you wear many hats: IT Manager, HR Manager, Payroll, General Manager, Marketing and Advertising, Buying, Cheesemonger, Educator, traveling salesman, occasional Farmer, you name it! All of this hat wearing can sometimes result in, well, head wearing! So this week I’m going to take a fun diversion and share some of my British culture. I’m going to tip my worn head to a UK festival occurring today, November 5th

When we were kids, we used to call the November 5th festival, “Bonfire Night,” but it is also known as, “Guy Fawkes Night”. November 5th marks the Gunpowder Plot of November 5, 1605. A group of conspirators attempted to blow up the British Houses of Parliament, the King and his government. The plot was thwarted, barely! 
Why did we call it, “Bonfire Night?” Festivities, both public and private center around building of large and small, ‘bonfires’ – stacked up for a couple of weeks prior to the event. Effigies of Guy Fawkes (one of the conspirators) are burnt on the bonfire and fireworks lit.  Communities gather around a common bonfire. The community children will make their own effigy, or, “Guy.” We would trawl through our community dragging the poor guy, which we made out of donated clothes and my Mom’s knotted panty hose stuffed with newspaper. We would knock on doors, calling, “Penny for the guy!” This was a common way for us to raise the necessary monies to pay for community fireworks. In the public park at the end of our road, adult volunteers would build our bonfire using donated scrap wood, furniture, newspapers, and so on. We would take turns guarding the bonfire since it was not uncommon for the kids from other communities to raid your bonfire. It was a huge coup if you managed to kidnap a neighboring community’s guy and you thought yourself honored indeed if you were chosen to store your guy in your Dad’s garden shed! On Bonfire Night, individual homes in the community would build small fires around the community bonfire and we would use them to cook food for the evening.

Since it gets dark very early in November in the UK, we would be let out of school early to get home in time for our community festivities. The community leaders would light fireworks, and the highlight of the evening would be the placing of our “Guy” on the top of the bonfire. We’d all light the main bonfire using torches from our own smaller fires. Finally we would share our food around the large bonfire before dragging ourselves home exhausted and stinking of smoke! The main bonfire would still be burning the next evening when we got home from school! In later years due to concerns over injury from private events, the government clamped down, practically eliminating private events, replacing with local government sponsored public festivities.

Typical foods eaten during the Guy Fawkes, or Bonfire Night festivities are: black treacle items (no jokes about English teeth please!) such as Bonfire Toffee (treacle toffee), Parkin (a soft cake made of oatmeal, ginger, and molasses), Toffee Apples (candy apples), Baked Potatoes (baked in aluminum foil in the fires), a dish made with Black Peas and vinegar (ychafi!), and baked groaty pudding (a stodgy, heavy sponge pudding made with soaked groats, beef, leeks, onion and beef stock) and similar in texture to “Spotted Dick.”

So, back to Guy Fawkes and the Gunpowder Plot since history fascinates me as much as food! Why did Guy Fawkes and friends want to blow up the English parliament? Short version: Queen Elizabeth I died in 1603, and was succeeded by James I. English Catholics had been persecuted under Elizabeth I’s rule, and hoped that James I would be more tolerant of their religion. This was not the case, and a group of thirteen men, led by Robert Catesby, and including Guy Fawkes, decided on the violent protest of blowing up the Houses of Parliament, killing the King, Prince of Wales (the male heir to the British throne), and members of Parliament unsympathetic to their cause. It is rumored that some of the group became concerned over the harm they would cause others and a letter sent to a member or parliament warning him to stay away on November 5 was intercepted, and brought to the King’s attention. The plot was foiled, and Guy Fawkes was caught ‘red handed’ with 36 barrels of gunpowder in a room beneath the House of Lords. Awkward! Some time later all conspirators were caught, and true to the brutal times, were hung, drawn and quartered as a public message of deterrence.

You have to ask yourself, what exactly are the British celebrating? That the plot was foiled, or that it was attempted in the first place? Either way, Bonfire Night sparked my imagination as a kid and was a jolly load of fun. I shall be eating baked potatoes on the grill this evening and waving a candle around since I don’t think the City of Rehoboth would think too kindly of a bonfire downtown!

Interestingly for those in Lewes, Sussex County, Delaware, the town of Lewes in the English county of Sussex hosts one of the largest public Bonfire Night festivities in the UK, necessitating the closure of the town center. Mayor Ford, any local volunteers? 

Be careful on these dark nights, whatever you’re celebrating. 

Oh, don't forget, put your clocks back one hour tonight for 'tis the end of daylight savings!

Oct 21, 2011

Holy Mongers Among Us (Batman)!

It's Friday. I have to sell cheese in a muddy field. I cut my finger. I'm cranky! I needed a diversion. This story caught my eye. Lots of people have picked up on it, but, I found the real story lies beneath the story. Where's Paul Harvey when you need him?

The Center for Retail Research in a recent report with the mildly threatening, yet irresistible name of, "The First Worldwide Shrinkage Survey," found that cheese is the most frequently 'lifted' item out of shops at the global level. Well, they phrased it as, "Shrinkage Losses of Most Vulnerable Lines." Oh, where do I start with that?

This got me thinking, in a (bi)lateral kind of way. The venerable institution never called me! I beg to differ in all of the shops I've had, and all of the venues I sell in/at. I've not found their statistics to bear true. Why? 

Here's my theory. If we as customers support the true cheesemongers among us, then the retailer curiously experiences less, uhm, 'shrinkage,' (and who wouldn't want to support that? Look, if I have to endure politely all those, "Who cut the cheese?" jokes, then please indulge my Beavis & Butthead euphemisms!

Why would the retailer experience less 'shrinkage' (itself a euphemism for pilfering)? Simply put, it's hard to put the lift in shoplift when fine cheese is cut to order, not pre-cut and left to 'age' in the open environment of the store. Customers are getting short-changed if they miss out on the theatrical experience of buying artisan/farmstead cheeses from a knowledgeable professional at the cheese counter. Sure, we cut some part of our inventory to meet the needs of our, 'grab and go, got somewhere to be 'now' customers, but the cheesemonger will know their inventory and determine what is suitable to be sold this way. Would you like a story with that (cheese)?

So, my point is, please support your friendly, professional, local cheesemonger who cuts to order for you. Not only do you get a great product, custom picked for your needs, but you also get the knowledge transfer to make you look good. Additionally, please reassure yourself that, by standing on line at the cheese counter, you're helping the retailer minimize shrinkage, keep prices down, and get more of the artisan cheesemaker's hard work in the hands of the people in a manner that supports everyone's bellies and pockets, not the 'shoplifter.'

Let's hear it for the mongers amongus! Are you a member of the American Cheese Society? Do you plan on getting your staff certified as cheese professionals?

Oct 20, 2011

When the Garroxta Gotcha, or Tales Out of Leftie Field!

I read in one of my many cheese books (all apologies to the author, I can't remember which), that sooner or later it happens to everyone at the cheese counter. That mother of all cuts. Not a casual knick and a curseword. No, a Monty Python gusher of a flesh wound, with all the accompanying woozy spells...

Well, as the saying goes, s**t happens! S**t happened to me last night. I got, 'the cut.' That this had to happen in the restaurant kitchen of my friend, a chef and restaurateur, treating us to an informal private pre-opening dinner, was, well, humiliating! Yes, we watched as my pride left the building, preceding my fall from competence. As it happens, Cat Stevens was wrong, the first cut is not the deepest. The first cut was a graze. This was deep! Deeper than the pile of metaphors I'm burying myself in!

I tried to brush off how awful I felt - dizzy, woozy, slightly nauseous. All caused by the sudden loss of pride, not the amount of blood (which was impressive), or cabin pressure. My friend the chef, already a little crazy (in a talented, creative wild man kinda way!), is made crazier by the fact, that after months of hiking up the mountain of obstacles to open his new restaurant, he now sits in that elevated plateau of rarified air, weeks away from opening, and subject to zealous bursts of oxygen and sleep-starved creative energy. I should have known better than my poor choice of joke intended to lighten the load of my humility and put the focus back where it should have been - his food and the restaurant. You see, this idiot (me) thought it appropriate to offer my copiously pumping blood as paint somewhere in the building. I think he actually wanted to do it! Oh, my poor attempt at humor gets worse. Me, noticing the chorizo that Chef friend has made, quips, "Well you could always use the blood for a blood sausage." This consequently steals the thunder from his presentation of the blood sausage he is about to show us. Still, everyone forgets later when they tuck into the sausage. Why do I not notice when I'm the only one laughing at my jokes?

Spouse stepped in, not in that 'lick of the handkerchief soothing maternal way.' No, more in that, "I'll knock you into the middle of next week if youse two don't stop your whining, don't make me come in there" kinda maternal way! Spouse tells me to stick my arm in the air, suck it up and eat. We'll stop at the E.R. on the way home because, "It would be rude to leave now since Chef friend had gone to all this trouble!"

While spouse sits knocking back the wine (whine), Chef friend, also a volunteer firefighter, saves my thumb by using an elastic band to tournaquet; then goes back to the quarter pig roasting, while simultaneously attending to the blood sausage and chorizo he'd made by hand! My hero, I swoon (lack of blood)!

So, what culinary crime did I commit to earn my badge of shame cut? I offered my help. I was delegated the cheese board to prepare. Distracted by chatting, I reached for a different knife, so that the Colston Basset Stilton knife would not contaminate the Garroxta I needed to cut next. I did not even notice that instead of a ten inch chefs knife, I had grabbed a ten inch paring knife. It gets better! I used the knife upside down. When I sliced down with all the pressure I knew appropriate to slice a wheel of rinded Garroxta, the blade sliced me, and the cheese was merely tickled by the top side. I swear I heard it chuckle as the knife bit to the knuckle! You see, the Garroxta (prounounced gah-ROTCH-ah), well, it gotcha!

What have I learned? Well, Jack Byrnes (Robert DiNiro) was right. It's all about, "opposable thumbs" (Gregory). Having one out of commision has turned me into a leftie, wondering how the heck I'm going to, "Suck it up" and live to serve Milton Farmers Market with cheese tomorrow! One has to laugh! One has to open that book on knife skills I got for my birthday, and quit relying on Top Chef to learn cutting technique!

The cheese I featured in this article were Garrotxa, and Colston Basset Stilton. For more information, on Garroxta, click here, for Colston Basset Stilton, click here.

Who is my Chef friend? For those who know spouse and I well, you can probably guess. I won't divulge yet though. Chef has a great new concept, authentic, of its time and place, and unique in our area (at least for now - imitation will be the sincerest form of flattery). He is so close to opening, I do not want to steal his thunder. All I can say is I've had a glimpse of how the space will appear. Impressive! We've enjoyed more than a glimpse of the food. Yes, it gets our, "We Know Yum" stamp of approval. Rustic with a sophisticated twist, and delicious!

Oct 18, 2011

Poppadom Preach...

So, I was ruminating (no it will not ruin your eyesight!) the other evening. Why is there only 1 Indian restaurant in Delaware? I love Indian food. The attention to detail. The use of the freshest spices, the colors, the aromas, the textures, and yes, the nutrition.

I come from a land where there is an Indian restaurant and associated pub every block (kind of like donut shops and funeral homes in New Jersey), and the national dish is "Chicken Tikka Masala." Trust the Brits to create a 'fake' Indian dish based on a cuisine from a former colony! That's a lot of chutzpah! A lorra, lorra chutzpah (my British readers will get that cultural reference). Any guesses my American friends?

The almost complete absence of Indian food in Delaware has forced me to experiment, and become adept at cooking Indian food, much to the chagrin of my LSS (long suffering spouse). When my Mam in Wales makes a curry, it is a 2-day event. Mam makes it all from scratch, even making her own curry spices from cumin, coriander, galangal, ginger, tumeric, and so on. None of this store bought 'curry spice mixture' for her boy! Being Brits we will incorporate chips also (chunky French Fries)!

So,what's my favorite Indian dish? It's a vegetable biryani with a panak paneer sauce and Peshwari Naan bread. Biryani is typically a meat based dish, but I prefer the vegetarian version.

Oct 13, 2011

This post appeared in the, "Ask The Cheesemonger" section of this week's E-ssue of our newsletter, "The Grapevine." It is a dynamic article in that I've been updating as the passion takes me!

Q: Why are cheese names so confusing?
A: Uhm, you lost me!
Q: There're European ones that sound like towns - Gruyere, Cheddar. Then there're the funky random ones that sound like beers - Billy Blue, Constant Bliss, Bloomsday...

A: Ah, etymology! "What's in a name? That which we call a rose by any other name would smell as sweet." Yes, that is the William Shakespeare Rose, left.

When many people first delve into growing their knowledge of fine cheeses, figuring out the names of cheeses is something that drives us nuts! Our brains are hard wired to look for context, a definitive frame of reference by which to judge new experiences. Most of us do not like to operate in gray areas. The world of cheese, if you forgive the analogy, operates in nuances of gray. Embrace them!
As part of our ongoing web site upgrade project I’m designing a ‘Virtual Cheesemonger’ to guide you through our online store. I don’t want to give too much proprietary information away, but the basis of our Virtual Cheesemonger is a classification of cheese. Where does one start? Texture? Origin? Variety? Milk Type? Production Method? All of the above!

Old World cheeses are generally named after the region or method of production. Open a good cheese atlas* at random and browse the famous varieties of cheese such as Parmigiano Reggiano, Gorgonzola, Manchego, Reblochon de Savoie, Roquefort, Emmental, Comté, Stilton, Cheddar, the list goes on…  New World cheeses, while based on more famously named European cheeses are generally named after the farm on which they originated, often appended with a whimsical name with great meaning for the cheesemaker. For example, Cato Corner Farm Bloomsday. Alternatively, New World cheeses may receive a whimsical name alone. Consider, Consider Bardwell, if you will!

{* I like the "World Cheese Book" edited by Juliet Harbutt,

Dorling Kindersley Penguin Group (UK), 2009}

Let’s look at Old World cheeses as our illustration. There’s a joke in the artisan cheese world. We say, “Would you like a story with that (cheese)?” I’m unsure where this originated, but in a nod to the Slow Food movement, I think it suggests something antithetical to the eponymous, “Would you like fries with that?” Some of these cheeses are easy to spot why they’re so named. Others, not so much! What they all have in common, however, is that there is always a good story behind the cheese, and isn't that what good food is about? Sharing stories, community, if you will?

Parmigiano Reggiano, for example. Easy. P.R. (for short) originated in the province of Reggiano, in the Italian region of Emilia-Romagna. Parmigiano is the Italian adjective for Parma. Reggiano is the Italian adjective for Reggio Emilia. So, P.R. is named after the place in which it is made. Easy, right? Until you consider that no cheese is made in Parma! Parma is more famous for its ham, the pigs of which are fed on the whey bi-product of the famous cheese of the area. All clear?

Gorgonzola. I always assumed that there was a gorge involved. I grew up in South Wales overlooking the ‘West Country’ – the origin of Cheddar. Sunday afternoon car trips often ended at Cheddar Gorge. Before my editor freaks out, I should state, more accurately, that our Sunday afternoon car trips ended at the car park, adjacent to Cheddar Gorge! These trips forever marked my frame of reference for cheese! By the way, does anyone remember the Canadian animated series, “Bob and Margaret?” My favorite episode was the one where the couple entertained Canadian guests just a little past their guest sell by (stay by) date. Margaret fantacized about pushing her Canadian guests over Cheddar gorge. I digress! Gorgonzola – originally named, “Stracchino di Gorgonzola” derived from the Italian word, stracca, meaning tired. Gorgonzola was made in the fall when the cows returned, exhausted from mountain pastures to the meadows of Lombardy, where Gorgonzola was the main trading town. Easy!

Manchego. Not my favorite of Spain’s many cheeses, but easily the most famous. Named after the dry plateau of La Mancha in the center of Spain. The Moors named this region Al Mansha (land without water). It is the landscape that comes to mind when I think of Spain: hot, arid, dry. Such land is suited for sheep pasturing. It is the specific local breed of sheep, Manchega, that help give Manchego its name.

Reblochon de Savoie. You can be forgiven for thinking this stunningly beautiful, rich, buttery, washed rind, raw cows milk cheese is so named because it's from the (Haute) Savoie region of France. Why? You're half right! You see Reblochon has been made in the summer Alpine pastures of the Haute Savoie since the thirteenth century, but was unheard of until after the French revolution. Why? The name Reblochon comes from the old Savoie word reblocher, meaning, "to re-milk," or, "to pinch the cow's udder again!" Up until the French revolution the farmers were taxed according to the volume of milk their cattle produced. Farmers were forced to milk their cows in the presence of the tax collector. To avoid paying the tax, the farmer would only partially milkthe cows while the tax man was there. Once he'd left, the cows were re-milked. The remaining milk was much higher in fat and was reserved by the family for personal cheese making. After the revolution the tax was removed.

Roquefort. Folklore aside (2000 years ago love struck shepherd leaves his bread and cheese lunch in a cave while romancing, and returns to find it covered in a greenish mold), Roquefort, the most sublimely delicious sheep milk cheese EVER (think you don’t like blue cheese, put down that dressing and get thee to a cheese shop NOW), has been aged in the limestone caves of Cambalou, Southern France for centuries. In 1411, Charles VI signed a charter granting the people of Roquefort-sur-Soulzon the right to make Roquefort cheese. In a testament to terroir and the perilous way many of our traditional foods cling to existence, the specific strain of bacteria naturally occurring in the caves of Cambalou are also named for the cheese they help produce: penicillium roqueforti. All of this story telling does however have me stuck in a chicken or egg mind trap. What came first, the village, or the cheese? Easy or not? I’ll let you decide!

Emmental. Ah, the great melting cheese. I’m not going to cover its famous cousin here. Gruyère has a somewhat obscure, and very confusing, if fascinating etymology. Reasons of brevity cause me to walk on by, and well, “You know how to (Google), don’t you, Steve?”  Emmental, or Emmentaler, traces its origins back to 1293. However, the name was first recognized in 1542 when the recipe was given to the people of Langehthal in the Emme valley.

Comté. Produced for centuries in the region of eastern France known as, “Franche- Comté.” Could it be that easy? Yes, until you consider its alternate name, “Gruyère de Comté.” OK, I’ll stop teasing. Gruyère is purported to be named after the town of Gruyères in Switzerland. Sounds plausible until you consider that Gruyère also refers to the forests in Charlemagne’s Holy Roman Empire (which covered what is now France, Switzerland, and parts of Germany), over a millennium ago. Charlemagne’s men sold the forest wood to the local cheesemakers to fire the kettles they used to cook the curd for the cheese we know as Gruyère. Easy, non?

Stilton. Pop Quiz - named after the town in which it was made, or the town in which it was first sold? During the early eighteenth century, the town of Stilton was a staging post (town used to change/rest horses along the roads connecting major towns) on the London to York road. Cooper Thornhill, the landlord of the Bell Inn in Stilton, began serving a local soft, blue-veined cheese made in the neighboring town of Melton Mowbray (also famous for its Pork Pies also granted PDO - Protected Designation of Origin, by the European Union), Leicestershire. So you see, Stilton was in fact named after the town in which it was popularly sold, and not the town in which it was made. If it had been the reverse, what would have been the name of the famous Melton Mowbray Pork Pie? I once broke a tooth on a pork pie while on a childhood camping trip. Not a lot of people know that! The PDO control of Stilton means only three counties in England may produce a cheese called Stilton. I carry the Colston Basset variety. Yum!

Cheddar. I left the most complicated one until last! Easy when you consider that Cheddar originates from the village of Cheddar, in Somerset, South West England (AKA, “The West Country”). Cheddar Gorge (mentioned above), is on the outskirts of Cheddar village, and contains a number of natural caves, which provided the ideal humidity and constant temperature for maturing the cheese.  Cheddar cheese traditionally had to be made within 30 miles of Wells Cathedral. Easy when you consider that the name Cheddar also refers to the curd-cutting technique of repeated cutting and stacking, and draining of the curd blocks necessary to produce this type of cheese – “Cheddaring.”  Not so easy when you consider that in the domain of name protected foods (pun intended!), tragically, the name Cheddar was never protected. As such there are as many types of cheese named cheddar as there are ways to categorize (and hence name) cheeses! More in fact! Consider also that the history of Cheddar - a cheese that is very much part of the old world, is intimately tied up with cheeses in the new world American colonies. Cheddar etymology is very complicated! The European Union has designated a PDO (Protected Designation of Origin – a name protection) of, “West Country Farmhouse Cheddar” to denote cheddars that are made in a specific region of England that remain true to the historically accurate method of cheddar production and the resulting cheese. This type of cheddar is rugged, bound in lard and cloth, with many fissures where mold intrudes from the rough rind. This is the cheddar seen on medieval banquet tables! This type of cheddar is oft returned to the cheese shop because it is moldy! The history of Cheddar is a fascinating, complicated tale worthy of a PBS special. I shall return to Cheddar as an article in its own right. I also eagerly anticipate the release of Gordon (Zola) Edgar's new book on Cheddar, due out in 2012.

Now we turn back to the new world – the Americas (all apologies to our Antipodean friends!). The development of cheese production in the Americas is closely tied in with the colonies and with the expansion of settlement in the emerging country, together with the great cheeses of the old world. I will return to this in a separate article on Cheddar. For our purposes here, I will broadly claim that in order to understand our rapidly evolving numbers of American artisanal and farmstead cheeses, we firstly need to acknowledge the work and role of the American Cheese Society. Please visit their website and join this very important organization. Our enjoyment of fine cheeses in the USA is due to their efforts over the past thirty years. Also support independent cheese shops whom are members of The American Cheese Society. Ask them!
So, in brief I will say in order to understand naming of new world cheeses, firstly seek to understand the main types of great old world cheeses since our American cheeses are mostly based on some type of great old world cheese. This is a generalization of course. To the credit of The American Cheese Society’s work, American cheeses are evolving quickly. For now, at least it still helps to consider which type of old world cheese the American cheese is based on. Steve Jenkins' 1996 book, "The Cheese Primer" contains one of the most complete sections on, "The Great Cheeses" of the (old) world (pages 473 - 517). Another frame of reference, as I mentioned above, is that often the name of the individual farm, or dairy, is prefixed to the name of the new world cheese. A third frame of reference is the quirky pattern of naming the cheeses after the personality traits of the cheesemaker. Cato Corner Farm in Connecticut has some fine farmstead cheeses with an equally high caliber naming convention – cheesemaker Mark Gillman's love of James Joyce. 

Congratulations, we made it to the end of the article. How're you feeling? Overwhelmed? Tired? Confused? Enlightened? Hungry? In conclusion, my advice when it comes to understanding, heck, remembering, cheese names, is the same as I give to the panic stricken new hire at the cheese counter. Find a frame of reference that works for you. For me it’s as much about geography as it is methods of production. Use that as your yardstick, and work your way out from there, tasting indiscriminately as you build your own mind map! Use the tools available to you: books, articles, Google, and so forth. Rehoboth Beach Cheese Company’s Virtual Cheesemonger tool in development now will help guide you through methods of classifying cheese based on texture, milk type, country of origin, suggested use, and so on. What’s that if not a naming convention?

At the end of the cheese platter (that's my, "Bacchanalia Platter" pictured above!), there is no easy answer to your question. A knowledgeable guide helps, but what it all comes down to, is, well, a matter of taste. Do you want a story with that?

Andy Meddick, for the Rehoboth Beach Cheese Company.

Sep 19, 2011

If you subscribe to our E-ssue of The Grapevine newsletter then you may have already seen this. Please enjoy again if so! If you'd like to subscribe to The Grapevine, then click here.

We have an "Ask The Cheesemonger" section in our E-news. It's a very popular guest section, appearing when I have questions trending amongst customers. Wine has long enjoyed its day in the sun as a pairing with fine cheese. However, I'm noticing that beer is emerging strongly and the number of beer pairing questions are getting some long overdue attention.

Due to this nascent interest in beer and cheese pairings, I decided to quit my wine-ing for a little, and begin a new series exploring beer and cheese pairings. Since I wrote this, I started with my favorite beer type: IPA, or Indian Pale Ales.

Here's a link to this first in our Beer and Cheese Pairing series, written in response to our, "Ask The Cheesemonger" section in The Grapevine.

Got a question for the Cheesemonger? Contact us by e-mailing rbcheeseco@gmail.com , subject "Ask The Cheesemonger?" 

Sep 1, 2011

I'm detecting a pattern with some of my wholesale business-to-business accounts. It's concerning me because I think the customer is selling themselves short, which may be affecting their sales. There's also potential for misunderstanding. What I thought you said is not what you thought you meant!

So, it's made me wonder am I missing something in my sales pitch? I'm getting the account, 'closing' if you want to get all Glengarry Glen Ross on me. I'm getting the set of steak (cheese) knives. I get the opening order placed, I come in train the staff, consult on merchandising (if it's a retail account), and menu planning (if it's a food service account), yet the same thing crops up a few weeks into the relationship. I'll call it the price grip.

Having won the customer over with the 'value add' of using my business services to order their cheeses and specialty foods, orders start to get fractionated, with no discernable pattern in product choice. I have a hard time seeing the relation between the customer order and the inventory plan I helped put together with them. I get requests for pricing that don't materialize into an order, and re-orders for good products do not materialize. On visiting the account I see that product has sold down, so where are the orders going?

I get caught in a price war, which is exactly what I counsel against when I close the account. Customers focus purely on product price and shop around with distributors. Now I'm not down on distributors. I've oft pitched them to hire my services! I get a lot (not all) of my inventory through them and would be lost without them and the work they do on my behalf. However, the reason I do what I do has a lot to do with frustration over having to work with distributors with disempowered sales reps, sales reps. with a very dim, hostile viewpoint on customers, antiquated information systems (where they exist at all), poor inventory planning, sparse product information (with concomitant interruptions in supply), no product samples or help on site at ones business, and long supply chains. I got so frustrated at the effects this was having on my own retail store and food service, that I jumped in, got educated, and did a lot of their work myself.

I worked for IBM in the '80s and '90s. During the '80s (before the downturn in the company, and its corresponding rise as a global services business), we all still had on our desks an ancient sign. This sign, directed for us to display by the original founder, Thomas J. Watson Sr., said simply, THINK. So I got to thinking. I thunk, and thunk, and thunk. Then I procrastinated a few hours away on Facebook, then I thunk some more. Here's the results of all that navel gazing:

  1. What is my business, my company, about?
  2. What value add do I bring to your business?
1. I retail, wholesale, cater, and consult on high end, artisan and farmstead specialty foods:
  • Product selection, buying, inventory planning and control, merchandising, pricing, brand development and brand management, equipment needs, sales and marketing (physical and online worlds), web site design and management, staff training, customer education, and menu planning. 
  • I work with other businesses to ensure that they do not have to go through the painful learning process I had to. It's very costly to your business for you to have to go through what I went through in the earlier days of mine. The costs, and service interruptions nearly sunk my business, a few times!
  • While my product prices are competitive and fairly priced, I do not compete on product price. I can't. Instead I compete on value add, which in turn, if you take my advice, will increase your sales, all other things being equal - I do not own your business concept, staff, or your location. Some things are beyond my control. Your judgement here is better than mine - it's your business. I make my living on my value add, not my product pricing. If all I'm doing is replicating a price you get elsewhere, then you have no reason to use my services and buy from me.
2. My aim is to consult with you, understand your objectives and your business and make appropriate recommendations for product placement and a coordinated sales and marketing plan which included anything that my be specific to your business. For example, Mediterranean cheeses and North African seasonings for a Mediterranean restaurant, menu planning and staff training. I ask you a blunt question here. I've been in many fine restaurants, very well run establishments, great service, food, and ambience. Usually there is a cheese plate/board on the well designed menu. Yet not one server has ever tried to sell me the cheese course. Ever. Why is this?

Enter Rehoboth Beach Cheese Company, stage left! You may have gotten that cheese at a better price from another vendor, but how much are you saving if it's not selling? Is there a coordinated sales plan for the specialty cheeses? Do you have someone on staff, other than the Chef/Buyer, whom understands the cheese selection, conveys that to the servers, and monitors server interactions to ensure that the training is paying off? It takes a brave, focused customer to overcome the intimidation and order the cheese plate! This is my perception. I've been that intimidated customer, listening to the server recite the specials, while I have one eye on the cheese board on the menu trying to figure out if I should skip the appetizer, or skip dessert and order the cheese course?

So, here's a consulting freebie in the interest of dairy harmony, and not to cover my dairyere! I'm counseling a retail customer right now, driven by a bottom-line focused owner to buy on price. My advice is to work with the boss, he/she is not the enemy. I've been that harrangued boss, worrying about payroll costs, rent, which of my invoices are net 14, 30, 90. Which ones need to get paid this week and how much we need to sell to make the numbers work. I advised the staff member, their cheese buyer, that he/she is asking the boss the wrong questions. In the process the department inventory plan is falling apart, and sales will be affected. Resources are limited and one cannot carry everything. I counsel instead to ask for a budget and to come up with a process that the boss can get the sales and inventory figures he/she needs to be reassured that the inventory plan is working. Maybe I'm biased but I say take a small hit on margin and buy through my company, with the comfort that, if you follow my recommendations, increased sales volume may recover the loss in margin due to my higher product prices over the distributor. Run your department in a proactive way, being able to plan your inventory instead of reacting and always be hurriedly calling around shopping prices, juggling multiple vendor order deadlines, and dealing with supply interruptions. I can't promise you I can solve all your problems - it's your business. However, I can promise you that we will have partnership for the long haul. Your success is mine. That's a guarantee.

Finally some more consulting freebies!

  1. Is your business a member of the American Cheese Society? Mine is. I recommend you join also. You carry a high end product - the availability of which is directly reinforced by this organization. Does your distributor belong to this organization? Do they attend the conferences?
  2. Did you know October is the first ever American Cheese Month? What's your merchandising or menu plan to take advantage of this? How is that call you're making to your distributor Do they carry that cheese you need from that small farm you want to support? How's it working for you calling around all those farms and arranging shipping? Don't worry I'm on it!
In closing, as my own business evolves, I'm realizing some gaps I need to plug in the end product I supply to you. I'm formalizing a package that will be developed within a set of standard procedures that I will apply when consulting with each business. While the process I go through is standard, each business is different and based on my meetings with you and/or your staff, you will be given a report on my recommendations tailored for your business. This is a new product deliverable for my business. It's a formal deliverable you can purchase from me in terms of consulting services. You can choose a consulting package to complement the informal deliverable you get just by ordering specialty food inventory through me. All the advice, and product information I provide to your business when you order inventory through me is built into the price I charge for the product. That's why I cost more than the distributor. I do more than they do!

Call me! The Big Cheese (302) 381-6182. Invite me into your business for a chat! Let's team up and get a custom long range plan in place to grow your sales.

Aug 9, 2011

I just got back from 4 days in beautiful Montreal, Quebec, Canada. I was the sole attendee from Delaware attending the American Cheese Society 2011 Awards and Conference. While it's good to be first, ultimately it's not good to be the only!

Another slightly embarrassing fact - there are only two (count us!) members of the American Cheese Society from Delaware. Delaware Economic Development OfficeDelaware Department of Agriculture, and, Delaware Department of Tourism, pay attention!

Readers - did you know membership (and conference attendance) is open not just to cheese/specialty food professionals, but also to the general public? The membership fees are very reasonable, and if you're a fan of good cheese/authentic foods, please join ACS. More of that in another blog posting.

Anyways, since I've gotten back I'm busy catching up with orders, e-mails, 'phone calls to return, deadlines, a website upgrade and performance tuning project, and the August board meeting of Slow Food Delmarva. Also I have a project getting of the ground to raise seed monies and operating capital for our new retail storefront, financial markets are in a panicked free fall, our eldest dog is sick, and spouse is running for Mayor of our town - Rehoboth Beach. Elections are this Saturday, August 13 - please come out and vote to Change The Tone, Vote McGlone! It's a busy time, to say the least!

While I'm still absorbing this wonderful conference (check out my flair - to the right!), and how I can translate my experiences there to support a cheese industry on Delmarva, I wanted to post a quick, informal overview of the Top Ten Things I Learned at ACS Awards and Conference 2011. I'll post a more serious summary of my conference experience later in the week. With the turmoil in the financial worlds this week, we all need a touch of levity. So, step away from the 401K statement, grab a chunk of cheese, a beverage of choice, and read on!

Drum roll please! Clear throat, you're on!

Top Ten Things I Learned at ACS 2011, Montreal

10. Pepsin spoken with a French accent sounds confusingly like Pepsi.
9. Cheese makers are a really fun, cool bunch! Thanks for hanging with us cheese mongers, retailers, suppliers, distributors/wholesalers, educators, and caseophiles. We would not be here without you.
8. Montréal, je t'aime!
7. 17,000lbs of cheese were used at the conference.
6. It is possible to eat one’s body weight in cheese in 4 days! I implemented my own round of Quantitative Cheesing!
5. 1,676 North American Cheeses were submitted for judging, plus cultured milk products, taking two days to process Canadian customs and government inspection. My hands and jaw are still aching from all the clapping and broad grinning at the awards ceremony.
4. Flocculation can be discussed in front of one’s grandmother, for floc's sake!
3. Cleavage is finally of interest to me!
2. Quebec, Ontario, and Wisconsin. I’m sorry - I had no idea the variety of your artisanal cheeses. You have my respect forever. Quebec, Ontario, et Wisconsin.  je suis désolé - je n'ai eu aucune idée la variété de vos fromages artisanaux. Vous avez mon respect pour toujours.
1. ACS – what a great organization blessed with dedicated people working hard on our behalf. Your membership fee and conference fees are a really good deal! Please join ACS and get involved on a volunteer basis. You have no idea what it takes to get heritage and artisanal foods on our plates!

C'est ça! Au revoir! A bientôt! 

Jul 17, 2011

Eighteen years resident in the USA has brought a lot of experiences: some downright confusing; some funny; some touching; some frustrating; some joyful; some just filed under, "Huh?"

I think about a photograph of myself and my parents at London's Heathrow airport, Labor Day weekend, 1993. Ironically none of us had any idea it was Labor Day weekend, since we'd never heard of it (pre-google folks!). I have a 30" waist and, well, fairly decent hair, in a Hugh Grant floppy kind of way. Common to all three of us is a washed out, shell-shocked kind of look. We're trying to be brave, not processing the inevitable reality - emigration! I was 28 years old, recently single, flush with the selfishness of youth! In short, bewildered and putting on a brave face! In the space of one month I'd quit a good job which I'd loved, closed up my apartment, sold off, stored, or donated all my furniture, sold my car, and attended the first wedding from the college crowd. No pause for breath.

I remember my first hint of what was to come. The prior month had been a blur of frenzied activity - the pressure of having to do so much in such a short time frame. This had caused me to do some nutty things - ironic when you consider the nuttiness of moving overseas, alone. I'd showered in my underwear, and to the disgust of an automobile service assistance guy working the late shift call-out on the M5, had dropped my car keys in with the trash at a service station. Actually, as we later figured out, I'd spat them into the trash since my hands were full of trash! This was after the nice man had broken into my car and we'd emptied it of furniture and assorted belongings being 'donated' with the sale of the car.

So, after a month of hectic packing, letting go of stuff, saying goodbyes, and yes, excited anticipation, I find myself standing outside my (now former) place of employment, with an embarrassed Boss asking for my security pass. Corporate security rules meant that I was to be escorted clear of the front doors.

Suddenly here I am outside a place I'd known many colleagues and made many friends for five years, alone, in the middle of a work day. Reality hit. Reality Bites? Reality bit me on the tukkas 30 seconds after my Boss returned indoors. Part of me wanted to go back in and beg for my security pass. Security pass = security blankie.

When you stand alone, contemplating what to do next, you suddenly feel very grown up! I also get very stubborn - determined to make things work! I remembered how I felt the first time I traveled overseas on business alone - a mere peon of a junior systems analyst trusted with an expense account in Amsterdam! I told myself to keep focused on the fact I'd made a decision, that it's hard to move forward if you're looking behind, and to keep concentrating on the goal. So, stunned head held high, I rejected the blankie, and sloped away meekly to the bus stop (I'd sold my car, remember?). Who gets the bus to work when you're impressing your way up the ladder? Leaving your (now former) place of employment by bus in the middle of the work day having been escorted out was not exactly a motivating forward momentum!

Fast forward eighteen years through a visa, green card, citizenship, weddings attended (one my own into a lovely family in Southern New Jersey), weddings missed, sadly - funerals attended and missed (can one miss a funeral?), happily - births (not attended - ugh!), a small assortment of consulting and corporate career moves, a relocation to the beach, head of my own business, and we come to a skidding halt, right at the door of the word, "BESPOKE!"

You see eighteen years of adjustment means learning when to fit in, and when to just let it all hang out. It also means learning how to, "Stand on your own two feet," as my Dad says.When you're the Boss at the company, something your employees don't see (you NEVER let them!), is that well, not having someone managing you, holding your hand over decision making can take some getting used to. You're the one they're all looking at expecting a decision! Eventually you get it, and just  like eighteen years ago when I reminded myself to focus on the job at hand (relocation), as the person charged with making the decisions, I just focus on the job that needs doing.

As we're taught, words matter. So, what's the matter, Cheese Man? All this time living in my adopted country. All this time being, "The Man" that others work for, poke fun of, respect (one can only hope, Miss Aretha). All this time 'naturalizing' into a new culture and one darn word can make a lot of difference!

I've been here so long at this point. Heck I chose to become an American. I took it seriously man (that citizenship ceremony was a teary eyed wonderful trip!). I studied a civics manual 1 inch thick to become an American. After all this, one word came along and burst my Yankie bubble! You see, sometimes, it can be hard, after eighteen years to remember which bits are the Welsh bits, and which bits are the learned, adopted, American bits.

I forgot that 'bespoke' is a 'British' term. Just like I forget sometimes that I have the habit of reversing my sentence structure. This habit is a hangover from the days when everyone in Wales spoke Welsh. Sentence structure in Welsh, like many non-English languages is backwards. Questions are added after statements. Statements are used for questions. Look in my direction at a party - is the person I'm speaking with looking confused? Chances are he/she is getting an American sentence all backwards just like it's being translated into Welsh!

Bespoke got me in a lot of trouble and may have cost the business a few cheese platter orders this past Christmas season. I advertise my (admittedly) beautiful (bewteefull, or luvlee said with a Welsh accent) artisan cheese platters as, "Bespoke." This is a quaint British word for, 'made to order' - custom built to your specifications. It's an old tailoring term back when suits were hand made. I like its elegance. It bespeaks to the quality of my work.

I still love the word bespoke. However, for now, I've grown accustomed to the word, "Custom." So, in my American and Welsh way, I'll acknowledge my heritage - Wales is a land I love and miss dearly, but I'm no, "Welsh-American." That coat doesn't fit me.

(Side bar - I love this colloquialism from South Wales. When a Welshman is confused over which coat to pick off the bed on leaving a party, he will ask, "Whose coat is this jacket?"  If it's spring and everyone is wearing jackets, this double-speak makes perfect sense to a Welshman! A jacket is a type of coat, is it not? Is it? If one merely asked, "Whose jacket is this?" the host would be left with a lot of coats at the end of the party.) 

Incidentally, I once had a volunteer job at a Baltimore theater. Mainly ushering, but sometimes concierge service, VIP handling, and oh the horror, Coat Check Attendant! "Whose coat is this jacket, anyone?" Good times!

You never want to be left with a coat in the cupboard after an event, staring down a VIP, and suggesting you call them a cab because you gave someone else their jacket (that contained their car keys). Not that ever happened to me since I naturalized!

I took the oath of citizenship. I'm proud to be an American, whom is proud that he's from Wales. Never a true word bespoken. Happy Birthday month America, land that I love, as much as Wales, and as much as Cheese! Eat More Cheese! Fwyta caws mwy o!

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