The hippest place to be in New York on July 8 is not in Brooklyn, but a nondescript industrial warehouse in Long Island City, Queens. Cheese glitterati from three continents will gather one week from today for the ultimate test of cheese lifting, slicing, wrapping and plating: the 2011 Cheesemonger Invitational. The first event was held last year, and due to an unfortunate scheduling conflict with my second child* I was unable to attend. Our New York correspondent, also known as my sister-in-law, grudgingly agreed to attend on our behalf, however and sent back a report on the raucous event, good eats (a cheese buffet and full slate of accompaniments) and celebratory mood amongst competitors and spectators alike.
This year, the Washington-area is represented by Perry Soulos of Arrowine in Arlington, Va. I stopped in earlier this week to meet the Arrowine team (pictured above) and find out Perry’s secrets to preparing for the ultimate curd showdown.
“I’m not bench pressing parmigiano reggiano,” Soulos said wryly, maintaining that his 10-years of day-to-day work at the cheese counter has been his best preparation. He admits to a little practicing at home on expressing himself in a cheese plate, boasting, “I don’t even need cheese, just shapes.” While his Arrowine colleagues have yet to stump him in blind identification of cheeses, he does plan to brush up on a few technical notes on the trip up to New York. While the competition from New York titans of the industry will be fierce, last year’s upset winner was actually Matt Rubiner of Rubiner’s Cheesemongers in Massachusetts. Will the home team(s) give up defeat as easily this year?
View the rest of the competitors — and vote for your favorite — on the Cheesemonger Invitational website. The Invitational is the brainchild of Adam Moskowitz of cheese importer Larkin and is sponsored by some of the biggest names in cheese, including Neal’s Yard Dairy, Rogue Creamery and Cellars at Jasper Hill. While the inaugural 2010 event had just nine competitors, this year close to 40 cheesemongers from the US, Canada, Ireland and Australia will compete for a prize pot totaling $10,000, in addition to the fame and admiration of their peers. Our friend Tia Keenan helms the food experience this time around. If you’ll be in — or can get to — New York next Friday, buy a ticket. You won’t be sorry.
* That scheduling conflict rears its adorable babbling head again this year, as we’ll be hosting our NY family in VA for her first birthday party. See you next year, CMI.