The “It’s Not You, It’s Brie” British-Irish Invasion

Hafod Cheddar

As I type this, I’m flying over the Nevada desert towards Heathrow, London. Starting today, all newsletter updates and blog posts for the next two months are going to be sent from the British and Emerald Isles! If you’re asking yourself, is this months-long British and Irish exploration cheese-based, your answer is yes. I’m going to eat more Cheddar, Wensleydale, and thistle-rennet goat cheeses than I’ve ever eaten in my life. And you can bet your bottom pounds and euros I will tell share the dairy glory.

I’m more than a little excited. First a month in England, off-and-on, then some time in Ireland. I’m also a little nervous. I’m hoping that at some point during my trip I master using phone country codes and that the British and Irish friends I’m visiting honor the beauty that coffee brings to a morning while I’m crashing on their couches (they already have). But more than anything, I’m excited. And hoping that the whole driving-on-the-left-side-of-the-road thing isn’t as difficult as Irish car hire insurance policies suggest.

Cheddar Sheets

The purpose of my trip is, you guessed it, cheese inspired and general tourism! I’m visiting producers who I’ve been enamored with from afar for years and just hanging out in general. Just a few cheese folks I’ll be visiting: Hafod, Quickes, Hawe’s Wenslydale, Gubbeen. Seeing the rolling hills of Somerset, and being stopped in the middle of the road by sheep when I’m late to catch a train or do something important pretty much seems like the best thing ever right now.

I’ll keep you all posted with blog updates (as jaunting across the pond and a little behind on blog updates, you may see a rendition of this newsletter here, but remember, you read it first!) and then, later after I return to the U.S., there will much more writing. And there will be articles and classes.

Keep posted on my whereabouts via my blog, and feel free to drop me a line in the comments section, or at kirstin@itsnotyouitsbrie. I’ve love to hear your local recs while I’m exploring the culture, history, and deliciousness of the cheese from these two beautiful countries. I’m honored to have this chance to roam and can’t wait to share my adventures with you!

Hooping Cheddar Curds

 
 
If you’re anticipating needing a cheese fix once I return, 
here are a few classes I’ll be teaching when back in the U.S:

Winter Cheese & Wine, Tuesday, Nov 25th, Cheese School of San Francisco

What begins as fresh milk in the spring, results in a well-aged cheese to keep us nourished and satiated through the winter. These cheeses are meaty and rich and make the perfect foil for wine both red and white. Wine maven Kirstin Jackson will introduce you to eight beautiful examples of the fruits of spring and some wines that are also worth the wait.

Winter Sparklers: Wednesday, Dec 10th, Cheese School of San Francisco

Prosecco, cava, California sparkling wine, champagne. If you ask us, everything tastes better with bubbles. But some cheeses really do sing to the tune of fruity, floral effervescence. Join author and wine and cheese pairing savant Kirstin Jackson for a festive evening exploring the best cheeses to pair with sparkling wine. After this class you can consider yourself holiday-party ready.

Where’s My Favorite Cheese? Raw milk, pathogens & the FDA.

Picture this: You walk into your favorite cheese shop. It’s the one whose mongers eyes light up because they can’t wait for you to sample their new small-batch wheel from Missouri or Sonoma that just arrived. It’s the shop that taught you that not all Roquefort is created equal. It’s the one that stresses that Gruyere and Comté are not the same cheese made in two different countries, and it’s the one that doesn’t try to sell you pre-grated low-moisture mozzarella for your pizza when you really want the balls that bob in water. In short, it’s the one that has been supporting, educating, and fulfilling your cheese cravings for years.

Things at this shop might be different the next time you walk in.

If you had asked me a year or two ago which direction the cheese industry was going in the United States, I would tell you that things were getting better by the day. They were already pretty awesome. Our cheesemakers are making the best cheese that this country has seen. Distributors are looking beyond the big brands to bring in smaller producers. Those who are selling, making, storing, or writing and teaching about cheese’s deliciousness are highly passionate, and educated. Cheesemonger certification exams and recent books are schooling folks in cheese science, proper storage, and culture and history. Harvard microbiologists are holding hands with artisan cheese companies. Things seem to be looking up. Right?

 

Well, it’s a little bit of touchy topic right now. It’s an interesting, hopeful, and sometimes scary time to be in the cheese biz. For consumers, it could be a sad time to walk into your favorite cheese store if you have your heart set on something particular made with raw milk- like Roquefort for example. New FDA regulations and testing methods are re-dictating what cheese will be in your favorite shop at any one time. 

 

photo by Molly DeCoudreaux

Domestic and Imported Cheeses Both Affected

Remember that scare about the FDA possibly outlawing the aging of cheese on wooden boards in the make-room even though using wooden boards to age cheese is a practice that’s been traditionally keeping cheese safe and tasty for years? Well, the FDA backtracked because of petitions sent to the government and the attention paid in the press, much of which damned what the FDA was trying to do. However, hundreds of cheesemakers who built their caves based on board aging thought their business was in peril, and while the FDA backtracked, they didn’t declare specifically that aging on boards was determined to be officially safe. They said that more research was needed. Could this issue come up again? Quite possibly, depending on what research the FDA consults or does, and who they hire to do it. Just a few cheeses this could affect: Parmesan, Comté, Dunbarton Blue, Fat Bottom Girl. This isn’t just a domestic cheese issue. 

Next, the FDA changed their allowance for Microbial Contaminants in cheese in 2010 to allow much smaller amounts of possible microbial pathogens in a finished cheese. They did this under the radar. Why is this a problem? Think of it this way.

A wheel of cheese is a symbiotic life form. It’s fermented, and it’s made up of proteins, fat, yeasts, molds, enzymes, and beyond. These things, in healthy amounts, are good. In the cheesy symbiotic life form, certain yeasts and bacterial microbes act as safeguards to keep some bad bacteria out or other bacterias in lower counts. This is similar to how planting good plants in an organic vineyard discourages certain pests, or helps to keep the bad, nutrient-leaching weeds that threaten the structure of a vine out. That is to say, microbes are inherently in cheese and even bacteria whose names people can fear can be perfectly safe in small amounts.

So when the FDA changes their microbial allowances, this throws everyone off. According to some, it’s not too difficult to make a raw milk aged cheese to fit their regulations. But making a softer, younger raw milk cheese that meets their guidelines is incredibly difficult because it has such a high moisture content. You can’t just make a cheese with, say, less non-toxic E. Coli because it would change the structure, taste of the entire cheese. Some American cheesemakers like Andy Hatch of Uplands have decided to stop making such delicious creations like the soft, raw-milk Rush Creek entirely this year, mainly because if the FDA recalled a batch after testing, say because it had even too much of a ton-toxic pathogen according to 2010 FDA guidelines, such a recall could threaten the economic future of a creamery.

What are these tests like?

When the FDA pulls samples, they buy a wheel at wholesale cost to sample. Sometimes it takes as long as three weeks before a cheesemaker gets test results back- in the mailbox. While that cheese is being tested, most cheesemakers hold off on selling other wheels from that batch because if by chance the batch were re-called, they’d have to recall everything they sold from that batch from shops, distributors, and homes.

Unfortunately, if a cheesemaker decides to hold a batch while it’s being testing for three weeks or so, and say it’s a raw-milk soft cheese, that batch will become another cheese animal while it’s sitting and waiting for test results. By the time it hits the distributors, then shops after that, it might be over the hill. That’s a huge loss if an entire batch of cheese can’t be sold. Rather than face potential loss, disappointed customers, or messing with the integrity of the cheese, some cheese makers are deciding not to make certain cheeses until FDA testing or standards change. Which means that we may have to say goodbye to some of our favorite cheeses for the time being. 

 

roquefort1

But it doesn’t stop at domestic cheese, or even in a cheesemaker’s cave.

The FDA is pulling cheese, raw-milk in particular since the FDA has decided it’s more threatening (for the most part, I highly disagree) at all stages in cheese’s life- both domestic and international. They do it from the cheesemaker’s make room and cave, from the distributer, and then again from the cheese shop.

Lately, a huge amount of raw-milk cheeses have been pulled aside from France as soon as they hit the docks and have been kept for testing. Then the next batch is tested after it comes in again from that same distributer/affineur from France. Result- by the time cheese gets to the distributers, the cheese has changed. Often it’s not up to par or what affineurs or cheesemakers want it to be. Because of this, some affineurs have stopped are are considering halting shipping to the U.S. altogether.

And oh yeah, remember Roquefort? Do you remember anyone hearing anyone getting sick from raw-milk Roquefort? Me neither. Well, it turns out this raw-milk, high moisture cheese most often has too high of non-toxic E.Coli count for FDA tests (under 10 parts per gram) and entire batches of it have been denied entry into the U.S.. Affineur Jean D’Alos no longer exports my favorite Roquefort (or any Roquefort) to the U.S. because of so many batches being turned away, and for the time being, even if I wanted to carry the classic cheese in the wine bar I manage, the only one I can acquire is made from pasteurized milk. You can bet your bottom dollar it tastes different. From what I last heard, Jean D’Alos has halted shipping his creations entirely- at least to the west coast- for the time being.

 

How can we help?

The FDA has been talking to the American Cheese Society to better understand our industry. This is promising. Let’s all encourage them to keep the conversation open, educational, and mutually beneficial. This isn’t just about having all of our tasty foods available to us; it’s about preserving tradition, foodways, freedom of choice, and supporting our friends, family, and economy through making sure its safe for them to sell what they devote their life to.

So! Sign all the petitions you can that encourage better and more thorough FDA research of microbial allowances, request that that they properly utilize current research out there (there’s plenty in France), and that they change their testing procedures so that its more economically viable for cheesemakers. Feel free to share any petitions, links, or notes in the comments section. And remember, we have the power to influence!

 

 

 

Marinated Manchego: A Different Kind of Party Trick

MarinatedManchego2 (1 of 1)

This is how it goes: There’s a party or social occasion to which I am invited. Food is involved. Because the party is thrown by my friends or family, beer or wine is also involved. People at party ask people to bring a dish to share. Kirstin goes to the party. Kirstin brings ______.

When invited to any occasion involving food (or even just alcohol, because what pairs swimingly with booze..?), I always bring cheese. And maybe something to slather on it, but mainly just a fermented milk star or three. I make sure that the selections I bring are glorious specimens of the dairy world (not hard in this well-rounded cheese age), but sometimes, I feel I should do more. Like me going to a party and unwrapping beautiful wedges of cheese and putting them on a platter for people to revel in their perfect simplicity isn’t enough.

Most times I’m able to ignore that feeling. Therapy has helped. After all, I remind myself, we live in an age where we always feel like we should do more, but in reality the simple pleasures are often the most enlightening and enjoyable.

MarinatedManchego3 (1 of 1)

Despite the truths I’ve come to own via heavy cheese soul-searching, occasionally when I’m invited to someone’s house for the third time in a row, I like to mix it up. I wouldn’t want them to think that I don’t know how to weld a knife or that I’m a one-trick cheese pony.

So sometimes I’ll slice up and marinate cheese!

 

MarinatedManchego1 (1 of 1)

 

Marinated Manchego

This is my recipe for marinated manchego. It’s inspired by a recipe of Spanish chef José Andres’s in Tapas: A Taste of Spain in America in which he coats Idiazabal cheese with olive oil and herbs. Idiazabal is a Basque Spanish cheese. Though most Idiazabal that arrives in the U.S. is smoked, the majority in Spain hasn’t been touched with wood. Because I like the idea of marinating an unsmoked cheese, I picked one of my favorite raw-milk small production manchegos. You can substitute any lovely sheep’s milk cheese you’d like- just focus on finding a semi-firm, 4-8 month-old cheese. I like using one that hasn’t been heavily pressed and whose paste might have a hole or two. Then the olive oil can sink into its grooves like melted butter does into a crumpet’s. Also, this could be the easiest cheese recipe ever. Seriously. Six ingredients (substitute at will), five minutes to make, and an hour to marinate. Almost as easy as unwrapping cheese on a party platter if you’ve done that the last five times you’ve gone to a party. 

Serves 2-4

5.5 ounces Manchego
1 teaspoon chopped rosemary 
1 small clove garlic, minced
1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
freshly ground pepper

Remove the rind from the Manchego and slice the cheese into cubes. Don’t worry about cutting perfect cubes- rusticity adds character. Place the cheese in a small bowl. Add the rosemary, garlic, olive oil, and a couple grinds of black pepper to the bowl and stir until the Manchego is well-coated with the oil and herbs. Let marinate for at least an hour or overnight. Serve at room temperature. 

My 6 Favorite Parts of CheeseCon: An ACS Break-down

The Cheese & The Microbe.

The Cheese & The Microbe.

Three nights after The Festival of Cheese featuring over 1,500 varieties of fermented milk to eat (then follow up with a salad), it’s time to hang up the #cheesesociety2014 hashtag. Or, the #acs2014 hashtag if you wanted to be a rebel and connect with the American Chemistry/Chemical Society from time to time. The American Cheese Society Conference this year in Sacramento was amazing. I’m not going to say it was my favorite, because I said that last year and the year before, and I’d hate to get repetitive on a blog that focuses entirely on cheese, so I’ll just say it was glorious. And I’m still full.

 

My 6 Favorite Parts of #CheeseCon2014

1. The Cheese and the Microbe.

See first photo. 2014 was the year the microbe and cheese solidified their romance at ACS. While they were always aware that they were intertwined, linked, related, much closer than cousins once removed, they really got to know each other this ACS week. They were spotted sitting very closely at sessions like Microbiology of Cheese Rinds by Rachel Dutton and Benjamin Wolf, Ph.Ds. of Harvard University. They were seen whispering mold-type words in each other’s ears at Cheese Salami and Microbes: Parallels and Discoveries with Wolf, Jasper Hill’s Mateo Kehler and Fra’ Mani’s Paul Bertoli (both of whose goods are pictured above). They even made an appearance in the session I co-presented. A couple more beautiful than even Eva Medes and Ryan Gosling, cheese and microbes have decided to hide their connection no longer. They’re out, they’re proud, they’re linked through Penicillium Candidum.

 

Coffee & Cheese at The Rind

Coffee & Cheese at The Rind

2. Coffee & Cheese.

Thanks to the folks at The Rind, I discovered that cheese and coffee are also quite close. Who knew, you ask? Well if you attended the ACS session that paired the two a couple years prior, you might have known. But that session was at 8:30 in the morning in a time zone that was two hours earlier than mine, and since occasionally drinks and late nights go hand-in-hand at ACS and hence I didn’t make it to that particular morning session, I didn’t know. However, this past Tuesday I went on a walking tour of Sacramento with other conference attendees, where Sara of The Rind paired Old Soul’s single origin coffee with cheese. She also paired them with Ginger Elizabeth’s chocolates, which good god were amazing, but the coffee pairings were what stuck. The lightly bitter and bright finish of the coffee melded perfectly with the richness and sweetness of the cheese. And her pairings were perfect- certain coffee appellations that were stunning with one cheese she selected fell short with those that she avoided. If you ever get a chance to take a coffee and cheese pairing with this woman, do it.

ButterACS (1 of 1)

3. Butter.

The last day of the conference kicks off with a morning brunch of butter and yogurt. As varied in scope, texture, and color as shag rugs in a seventies household, the butter table was gorgeous. Some was cultured, some was clarified, some was salted, some was goat’s milk, and others were cow’s milk. A dear friend was kind enough to go back to the table for seconds for me. I swiped third tastes when no one was looking.

Presenting!

Presenting!

4. Presenting.

My first time presenting at the ACS, I c0-taught a session called California Cheese & Wine: What Works, What Doesn’t, and Why. My co-presenter was the lovely, charismatic and devastatingly intelligent Anita Oberholster, Ph.D., University of California, Davis. Even, I imagined, if I made a grave mistake like calling Sauvignon Blanc Chenin Blanc (I did) or knocking over the projector, ordering the wrong cheese and ruining the entire session (I didn’t), I knew that I would be happy to just be able to present with Oberholster (Ph.D. idol). I was also a little nervous. We were connecting wine science with cheese science with which I was familiar, but hadn’t before presented to a panel of 22o of my peers. But all in all, it went really well. I had a blast, the pairings were wonderful, the attendees were interested and kind, and I only tripped once outside of the room in which I presented and not on the stage itself. I was honored and proud to present. Thank you, ACS society for inviting me do so!

Flavor: The Third Experience.

Flavor: The Third Experience.

5. Sessions.

One of the many sessions that stuck with me was Flavor: The Third Experience with panelists Emiliano Lee of Farmshop, Russell Smith of Dairy Australia and Leigh Friend, Casellula Cheese & Wine Café. Not only did we go over some of the fantastic pairing combos and reasonings behind them at Casellula and Farmshop, we underwent sensory evaluations. Using unlabeled cups filled with graduating amounts of bitter, sour, and sweet compounds, we identified at what points we were able to detect particular flavors. According to Smith, 20% of people in the U.S. and 40% of those in Britain can’t detect bitterness. So we did that, and then we ate a little.

Sprout Creek Farm

Sprout Creek Farm

6. The Awards Ceremony this Year.

This year marked the first in a while where the majority of the big winners were the small production farms and creameries. See the lovely Audrey from Sprout Creek Creamery in Poughkeepsie, New York above? Three of her creamery’s cheese won awards this year. Three of Bleating Heart’s in Sebastopol, California strolled away with ribbons. Two of Briar Rose’s in Dundee, Oregon won. ManyFolds Farm in Chattahoochee Hill Country, Georgia earned two. The list goes on – Lazy Lady, Ancient Heritage Dairy… and more. In a cheese world where many of big guys have heavy-hitting funding and an arsenal of culture cocktails on their side, it’s wonderful to see independent, small creameries demonstrate that that small batches can go big. Congratulations, ACS winners! And judges. Small or large creamery aside, I didn’t taste one cheese that won whose reason for winning wasn’t revealed in one bite.

We have an awesome thing going here, guys.

 

7 (numbers were never my strong suit) The People.

We work in a fabulous industry. While you never really have the chance to talk to everyone as much as you’d like, each conference brings the opportunity to eat and drink with old friends, and to verify the coolness of new friends whose awesomeness you’ve only suspected prior to conference hang-outs. Until #acs2015- I’ve said awesome enough times in one post, and I already miss everyone. Signing off.

 

 

Rauchbiere Triple Whammy: Pairing Smoke & Cream

Rauchbier Cheese

Like Mike Reis, educator and beer writer at Serious Eats, discusses in Smoked Beers: Your Secret Weapon for Beer Pairing, I detested my first sip of rauchbiere (smoked beer). And my second. And my fifth.

Smoked beer, made with smoked rather than toasted barley malt, is a force. Some of it tastes as light as the breeze wafting by on spring day after a neighbor lights a bbq. Some taste like they have been vigorously stirred with a just-charred stick. And others unabashedly flaunt their resemblance to a late-night camp fire pit that’s just been doused with a bucket of water before folks retire to their tents.

That is to say that it has quite a presence. Beer used to all be made this way. Prior to the days of electricity, propane, or coal, all barley was cooked (and inadvertently, smoked) over open flames, so it all had a smoky note to it. Now people make smoked beer as a nod to those days, or because they genuinely like the flavor. Admittedly, that “genuinely like the flavor” part is hard for some to grasp. Because my first and second sip of it made me think more “ashtray” than “artisan” or “lost art,” I can understand why. But now, my friends, I’m a believer. And a drinker.

Rauchbier (1 of 1)

I like smoked beer. Especially with triple-creme cheese. 

A few months after my fifth unappreciated taste of the smoked one, I picked up a rauchbiere that pleased me. Though I wasn’t sure I would finish a second bottle, I sensed skill in the subtle smoky application, and definitely finished the first bottle. Then I saw Reis’s article Smoked Beers: Your Secret Weapon for Beer Pairing in which he talked about how anyone could grow to love a smoked beer with the right food pairing. And what my friends, is the right food pairing? Cheese! Always, cheese!

Because he suggested pairing rauchbiere with heavy, smoky foods, grill-ables, or rich, sweet foods like pie, I thought, hey, maybe a triple creme would work. It’s in-your-face rich, sweet, and, I thought, might be able to stand up to the ferocity that is a smoked beer.

RauchbierBrillatSavarin

So when teaching a “Perfect Pairings” class at The Cheese School of San Francisco, I decided to test this theory. Reis helped me select the lightly smoked beauty above, because, well, I had no idea what I was doing. The Schlenkerla It’s a lightly smoked, wheat, marzen beer.

The class loved the pairing. Not all of them liked the rauchbiere immediately on its own, but even those that didn’t liked it with the triple creme. I guess 75% butterfat helps make even the smokiest of ( delicious) medicine go down. And those whose favorite style of cheese wasn’t a triple liked the buttery wheel better with the beer. Together they tasted like… smoky ice cream, which I can tell you, is pretty darn impressive.

The triple we chose that day was Brillat Savarin. Creme fraiche is added the whole milk when the cheese is made, hence amping up the butterfat factor to a velvety 75%. Other triples I’d turn to are: Nancy’s Camembert, Delice de Bourgogne, Mt Tam, Kunik, or… do you have any ideas for this pairing? 

Next time you’re heading to a bbq, think of picking up a couple rauchebieres for your party. One to try with the grill-ables, and another, to serve with a creamy cheese for a triple-whammy pairing.

Breaking it Down: 80 Pounds of Parmesan

Parm1 (1 of 1) Did you ever waltz by a wheel of Parmigiano Reggiano in a cheese or Italian goods shop and wander how they’d cut that huge, eighty pound wheel into tiny little chunks so you could take it home and grate it? As far as you knew, the FDA didn’t allow chain saws in food establishments. Or maybe you never even realized Parm was such a sizable wheel since you bought it in small pieces. It was like that for me for a long while- kind of like the tuna fish equation. If you never saw the original fish’s glorious hundred or so pounds, you’d never guess that what fit into that itty bitty canned disc came from a finned animal that could knock you, and your lifeboat, over in the water.

Well, my friends, someone’s got to break down this huge beauty. It’s done with daggers. The Sunday before last I co-taught the Ultimate Pairing class with Juliana Uruburu from Oakland’s Pasta Shop at the Cheese School’s Three Day Intensive course. When I heard that if I arrived a little early, I could witness the famed Parm break-down, I hoped on Bart as quickly as I could and stationed myself in front of that huge wheel of cheese above. Though I worked in cheese shops before, I had never been around on the day that The Wheel was broken down- something I sorely regretted.

Parm8 (1 of 1) To soothe my regrets and to satisfy our Parm curiosities, here is a step-by-step photo break-down of Parmigiano Reggiano, being broken down by Juliana and the Three-Day Cheese Intensive Student Crew. Please, any cheesemongers who do this every month, every week, every Tuesday, feel free to comment any hints of the trade in the comment section! We’d love to learn more about your big wheel skills. Step 1: Score. Using that cheese dagger shown above, score a straight line all around the center of the wheel. This cheese belt will help to guide you as you dig in.

Parm2 (1 of 1)Keep in mind: As shown by Juliana, use your whole body when you dig in with the daggers and break down any wheel of cheese. Cheesemongers can easily injure themselves if they only really on their hands, wrists, elbows, shoulders to provide the muscle. Breaking down a big wheel of cheese should be a whole body work-out.

Parm3 (1 of 1)Step 2: The first attack. You go in first with the thinnest, longest dagger blade (in case  you’re wondering whether Juliana carries her own blades wrapped in linen around with her, she does. Don’t mess with this woman) to create the initial fracture. Wiggle it around a little.

Parm4 (1 of 1)Step 3: Keeping the first blade in, reference where you earlier to scored to decide where to put the next knife. Juliana likes the next blade inserted to be shorter and wider. Not sure how other cheesemongers prefer their next hit.

Parm5 (1 of 1)Step 4: Dig in. Insert that blade, and push it down all the way. More wiggling is encouraged. After you wedge the dagger in, push the handle away from you so the blade is helping to form a bigger crevice in the Parm.

Parm6 (1 of 1)Step 5: Repeat: Insert, wiggle, pull, push away.

Parm7 (1 of 1) Step 6: Drag: Now get in there and round the edge. Pull that third dagger towards you and the bottom of the wheel that’s resting on the table. Put your knees into it! Sometimes cheesemongers use much more than just three blades.

Parm8 (1 of 1) Step 7: Flip that wheel over and repeat. Dagger the other side and score again if need be. The point is to wedge a crevice into the cheese that will eventually part the cheese in two. Step 8: Failed to get a pic of this (sorry guys), but after both the top and bottoms are sufficiently daggered as shown, above, pull the wheel to the edge of the table and repeat Step 6 on the side of the cheese until you reach the very bottom of the wheel that rests on the table. By this point, you’ve formed a crevice on that extends throughout the entire cheese. Now you have a wedge that… breaks the wheel in two!

Parm9 (1 of 1)Step 8: Enjoy. Have you ever smelled a freshly cut wheel of Parm? Heaven. Even more heavenly? Tasting a fresh flake from that wheel.  This is your reward.

A little advice: make friends with your local cheesemonger and ask to be there when they cut their next wheel of Parm. Some do it away from the main cheesemongering area, but many shops like to do it in front of customers so they can appreciate the glory. If your shop does it publicly, make sure to pay a visit one day when they’re daggering so you can buy a chunk fresh from the wheel. It’s a life changing sensory experience.