Margaret Cicogna is one of the united state’s leading authorities on Italian cheese. “People call me the Cheese Lady,” she told Cheese Connoisseur over coffee in New York City. “But I do a lot more than cheese. I went to school. I have a family.” Still, Cicogna’s deep knowledge and passion for cheese, and close relationships with the producers she’s worked with over many decades, have more than earned her the title.
David Gremmels is at home in many arenas, a renaissance man with wide-ranging interests and expertise: from 1950s Beat Art to long distance cycling, from fine woodworking to vintage trucks and German Shorthair Pointers.
While the Netherlands is renowned for its 17th century old master paintings, IJmuiden-born Betty Koster is famous these days for refining another local art form with 12th century antecedents. In the realm of Dutch masterpieces, cheeses from Koster’s Fromagerie L’Amuse — including her signature two-year warm-cellar-aged Gouda L’Amuse and Brabander, an uncommon goat Gouda — are celebrated as among the very finest cheeses in Holland and beyond. Only a few are imported into the U.S.
As the co-founder of Forever Cheese, Michele Buster has been instrumental in bringing incredible cheese to the U.S.— from Pecorino Romano from the Fulvi family to La Mancha’s premium Manchego to Paski Sir from Pag Island, Croatia. She’s developed markets for cheeses, brands, and specialty products and done it all with tenacity, discernment and passion.
Big is a small word that succinctly describes the role cheese mecca Murray’s Cheese has played in Rob Kaufelt’s life. The relationship began in 1991 when Kaufelt — badly in need of a job after a failed New Jersey business venture and divorce — moved to Greenwich Village looking to start over. He got his big break when, by chance, he was standing in Murray’s Cheese and learned that New York’s oldest cheese store had recently lost its lease and owner Lou Tudda was thinking of returning to Italy.
It’s a sub-zero December evening in small-town northern Vermont, and the dining room of the Highland Lodge is packed. A side closet overflows with down coats and wet snow boots. In one corner of the dining room, rosy-cheeked people of all ages circle around a fondue pot, while on the other side, revelers in holiday sweaters graze across small mountains of cheese wedges. A shout goes out for everyone to quiet down, and a man with a gray sweater and five o’clock shadow stands up on a chair above the crowd. “2016 was a rough year,” he says, “But I’ve got a feeling 2017 is going to be Jasper Hill’s best year yet.” The crowd smiles and raises their drinks in agreement, before joining in a joyous cheer. They are on board with Mateo Kehler. “Something special is happening here.”