So last month I got the chance to learn all about the cheese industry from a really cool Certified Cheesemonger named Cody Lincicome at Whole Foods Market (Post Oak Location). You better believe me when I tell you that I learned more than I could have ever imagine about cheese! Not only did I learn how to properly choose a cheese but I learned so much historical information on cheese and about the unique laws there are for selling it in each country. It really brought my love for cheese to a whole new level.
Whole Foods Market is such an amazing establishment because of the education and work ethic that goes into each department inside of the store. This was my first time at the Post Oak location so I was really lucky to get a tour from Cody himself and learn more about his education and the certification he obtained on cheese. This location is now one of my favorites because it has an area upstairs to eat or study or get work done in a cozy, cool lounge environment.
Downstairs you have your regular grocery store but also a variety of options to choose from if you are hungry or if you want a fresh green juice or a smoothie or even a drink from the Whole Foods Brewery (yes they even have their very own brewery at this location). I learned that there are various sectors in the store that have professional licenses that can be obtained to further the knowledge and education for the employee that wishes to pursue it. Whole Foods is a company that really encourages their employees to obtain these licenses and get certified to better assist customers with answers and information that they may need when purchasing items from their stores.
Cody obtained his American Cheese Society Certified Cheese Professional license a few years ago and therefore he is now a Certified Cheesemonger at the Whole Foods Market on Post Oak. So during my visit Cody showed me various cheeses and explained the differences and gave me a brief overview on the making of them. I learned about the countries that they originated from and the best way in which to pair them. Something very interesting that I learned is to pair your choice of cheese with a wine from the same country. It was really fascinating to learn about the stories and traditions of the making of cheese and how each country has it's authentic way of making it. These recipes and standards have been passed down for many generations and have even become government protected.
The information on cheese and the differences of each type is one that is truly never ending but we decided to focus on Parmigiano-Reggiano because that was the main thing on our cheese tray. This cheese was named after the areas that produce it which are the provinces of Parma, Reggio Emilia, Bologna, Modena and Mantua in Italy. Italian law states that only cheese made in these provinces can label the product as Parmigiano-Reggiano. The Protection Designation Origin (PDO) is a legal term that states the area where the cheese was manufactured and protects the identity of a cheese and the authenticity of it as well. The one Cody chose was aged at 24 months and it had a lot of cheese crystals that contain the amino acid tyrosine. Tyrosine crystals are flavorless crystals that form from the chemical reaction in aged cheese, and when choosing your cheese it is important to choose one with lots of these crystals. These crystals are delicious because they add an extra crunch to your cheese and you know that the cheese will have a hearty complex flavor as well.
I have listed the items from the picture above for you to make this easy for your next cheese tray adventure. Cody chose Parmagiano-Reggiano (aged at 24 months). Castelvetrano Olives that are unpasteurized and raw. A handful of Marcona Almonds, and an amazing Rhododendron Honey that made this experience even more delightful. He added a beautiful Bartlett Pear into the mix for extra sweetness. I cannot even begin to describe how amazing this combination was!
I feel like a real cheese expert these days because I learned so much at Whole Foods (Thank you Cody) and this has forever changed my life. If you aren't brave enough to combine your own choices on a cheese tray just remember that you can head over to Whole Foods and ask a professional Cheesemonger to create one for you or help you out with any questions you may have. The Post Oak location has these cute mini cheese trays that you can find and they are created by Cody himself. Another one of my favorites that I didn't get to photograph but I will share the name with you (because I am obsessed with it) is the White Stilton with mango and ginger or you could even choose the one with blueberries. It is the perfect cheese to use for a salad or to just eat alone with crackers because the taste is so delightful and sweet. I hope you head over to Whole Foods and give some of these a try for your next dinner party or any other special occasion!