Held twice a year around the Specialty Food Association’s Fancy Food Shows in San Francisco in January and New York City in June, and a recently added Chicago competition in April, the Cheesemonger Invitational has become an iconic competition to separate the best from the best cheesemongers from across the country.
In addition to a number of challenges, including a written test; taste and aroma tests; cutting and wrapping; salesmanship evaluation and putting together the perfect beverage pairing and plate, competitors are required to create the perfect bite.
Here, CMI founder Adam Moskowitz has provided a small taste of bites from past events.
Jasper Hill Farm, Greensboro, VT:
The Blue Jay, Deer Creek Cheese Co.; Rye shortbread with thyme and Nepalese truffle, shredded roasted beets and garlic, Campari Marmalade reduction and fresh parsley.
Formerly of Nugget Market, Woodland, CA:
Homemade cheese cracker made with Face Rock Extra aged two-year Cheddar; a slice of Face Rock Extra aged two-year Cheddar; olive oil powder; espresso balsamic “caviar” and edible gold dust.
Mill City Cheesemongers, Lowell, MA:
15-month Gruyère on a sesame-kelp crisp with orange-saffron-cardamom marmalade. The idea behind it was to challenge assumptions about culture and traditional flavors by bringing in the Asian influences. The sesame balanced the Gruyère’s nuttiness; the seaweed brought in a little bitterness for contrast; the citrus and South Asian spices warmed everything up. The garnish on top is toasted nori, to bring back the roasty nutty flavors.
Staff of Life, Santa Cruz, CA:
Castel Regio Gorgonzola Dolce; Jamon Serrano cured ham, raw cacao nibs, OMED Spanish Yuzu extra virgin olive oil and a Go Raw Organic Choco Crunch Sprouted Cookie.
Milkfarm, Los Angeles:
Tallgrass Reserve from Landmark Creamery, with pear bourbon butter, curried pistachios, cracked black pepper and Asian pear.
The Cellar, San Clemente, CA:
Dried Calimyrna figs stuffed with toasted walnuts, chunks of Parmigiano Reggiano Valserena, radish sprouts and topped off with a drizzle of aged balsamic.
Eataly, New York City:
Provolone at the Tokyo Embassy; a bamboo skewer of Pondini semi-stagionata Provolone, torched shishito pepper and candied San Daniele Prosciutto, which is topped with a dollop of whipped Provolone broth and puff-fried sushi rice, then seasoned with extra virgin olive oil and a balsamic reduction.
Cowgirl Creamery, Petaluma, CA:
Counselor Gary’s Famous S’mores; Gruyère graham cracker, High Water Brewing’s Campfire Stout Chocolate Sauce, brûléed marshmallow and Gruyère AOP Reserve, garnished with Sel des Alpes.
Regalis Foods, Chicago:
Elotito; roasted freeze dried corn, corn ash, sweet paprika and Vermont Creamery fresh goat cheese.
COD Consulting, Richmond, VT:
Pink peppercorn macarons dusted with edible gold and filled with Meyer lemon curd and a buttercream made with Cowgirl Creamery’s Mt. Tam cheese.
Aperitivo, Grand Rapids, MI:
Rustic Bakery’s Tart Cherry and Cacao Nib Artisan Crisp as a base, topped with tart cherry and port jam from Beau Bien Preserves, a wedge of Jasper Hill Farm’s Bayley Hazen Blue and a piece of Luxardo Cherry Candies Bacon with a sprinkle of dark chocolate.
MONICA KUSAKA HERRERO
Cowgirl Creamery Devil’s Gulch; a wafer cracker with roasted red bell pepper, extra virgin olive oil, arugula and paprika salt.
Cheese Bar, Portland, OR:
Alp Blossom; fermented carrots + Daikon, fresh cilantro, Thai basil and hoisin sauce.
C’est Cheese, Port Jefferson, NY:
Mimolette; Calvados + espresso caramel, Granny Smith apple, pickled red onion and Calvados Sea Salt Toffee Shard.