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Posted on January 18, 2012

This past Saturday, I did a radio interview on the Fresh and Local Show in Minneapolis. I was more than a little nervous approaching the microphone, but Susan Berkson, the able host, made it almost painless, guiding me from one topic to the next with grace and ease. You can hear the podcast by clicking the link above.

While there, I met Stephanie Meyer, writer, food blogger and photographer extraordinaire, who was kind enough to invite me to be a part of the group Minnesota Food Bloggers. And, while I’ve been posting bits and pieces to facebook over the past several months, I haven’t blogged since August. Consider this my re-entry into theblogosphere. I’ll catch you up on what has definitely been the most eventful stretch of Alemar Cheese’s existence.

Even before we placed at the American Cheese Society conference, I knew we were going to be included in last fall’s issue of Culture Magazine. They do a cheese plate each issue, and I was thrilled to get a call from Kate Arding, one of the magazine’s founders, asking if I’d like to have our cheese included in an upper Midwest collection. Ken Monteleone of Fromagination in Madison, Wisconsin, has been a fan and suggested Bent River’s inclusion. Of course I was thrilled to say yes.

Also last summer, I got a call from Darren Ryan, owner of Cream and the Crop Cheese Selections out in northern California. He’d visited a cheese shop whose buyer had been in Wisconsin, tasted Bent River, and said he’d like to sell it if possible. Darren was just getting started, but the idea of bringing Alemar Cheese to my home state has been a long time goal. Plus, he seemed like a really great, earnest guy, so why not give it try?

The results have been a terrific. Darren has gained entry into numerous markets, cheese shops, and restaurants. Over the holidays, he worked out a deal with Teatro ZinZanni, a high end dinner-theater-meets-Moulin-Rouge production that runs from Thanksgiving to New Year’s. Over the course of the performances, over nine thousand people started the evening off with Bent River. Cool, huh?

While we’re on the subject of distributors, I must give much love toClassic Provisions. Based here in the Twin Cities, they have taken over the delivery and sales for Alemar in Minnesota, and what a stellar job they’ve done. With the help of Sally, John, and everyone at Classic, demand for our cheese has risen, and I have more time to make cheese. They have been a joy–no exaggeration–to work with.

And make cheese I have. I doubled production over last year’s holiday season, and with all the help and another year under my belt, it almost seemed easier. Credit is also due to my new right hand, Josh Gravelin. Josh and I worked together years back in the bagel business. He went on to play bass for a number of national acts in Austin, Texas, but eventually the call of Minnesota held sway. He still plays locally, and has a pickup business (for guitars and basses), but he’s had enough time to intern with me, and that has made a huge difference. Thanks, Josh!

A few other notable press mentions: The Heavy Table featured us on aMinnesota cheese plate, and local cheese blogger Jill Lewis gave us a rave in her blog, Cheese and Champagne (she also wrote the HT article).  Also, this nice post–from Wisconsin, no less.  The biggest story came from Dara Moscowitz Grumdahl, one of the giants of Minnesota food and wine writing.  She did a segment on All Things Considered on MPR, and filed this article.  Last, a rave from David Rosansky, cheese buyer at Surfas in Los Angeles.  Surfas sells to many of the top restaurants in LA.  Heady and humbling stuff to have this kind of positive attention.

So, the final half of 2011 was busy, fun, and memorable.  It is so gratifying to get recognition, not to forget make a living, doing something this personal and important to me.  My profound thanks to everyone who has played a part in moving Alemar Cheese forward.

What did this lengthy missive teach me?  To blog more often.  Which I probably will.

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