Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Shoppin' For Cheese

Today I was in Manhattan eating about a thousand dumplings with my friend. After we parted, I went to a cheese shop where I used to work to pick up a few things for my Cheese Plate Prototypes.

See, creating a menu for me can't be a theoretical thing. I have to make one each of every type of cheese plate, with the accompaniments, and once I'm happy with the size of the portions then I weigh or measure everything and do the math and come up with my cost, then the price.

Tomorrow I'm meeting with the cafe owners to go over my cheese plates I'm making for them, and the rental of their shop every Monday. I'm bringing my prototypes so they can see them and we can eat them and they can give me their feedback.

I need to start the menu on the small side. Once it becomes popular I can add more varieties, but for now there will be two different plates. Each will have one kind of cheese, some Wasa Crispbread-type crackers, a pickled something or other, dried fruit, and honey-glazed pecans.

The cheeses I got were: two-year Boerenkaas, which is the farmstead version of Gouda (from Holland, of course), and Westfield Farm (Massachusetts) Capri, a very fresh goat cheese. I might not stick with Capri, it depends on a few factors. I do know I will have a very fresh goat cheese, though. Just not sure from which farm.

I also bought two jars of Rick's Picks pickled things. I paid retail - ugh, I know - because I need to taste-test them with the cheeses before ordering a case. Rick's is nice and will let me order mixed cases, but I have to decide on my flavors, first. Today I bought a jar of Phat Beets to go with the goat cheese and Slices of Life to go with the Boerenkaas.

I'm thinking of pairing dried Turkish apricots (ya know, the squishy ones) with the Boerenkaas and dried plums (a new dried fruit to me!) with the Capri. I have to try the plums with the goat tomorrow to make sure the flavors don't clash.

I am almost positive the honey-glazed roasted pecans will pair nicely with both cheeses, but tomorrow will be the acid test.

I'm also talking with the cafe owners about renting their shop on Mondays - when they are closed - to process my mail orders, AND open my cheese shop in their space. I will take over their pastry case and stock my cheeses in it, and people can come to try and buy the cheese! It will give me an opportunity to develop my customer base without taking the big risk of opening my own independent storefront.

I'm into collectives and cooperatives, so this kind of veers into that territory: sharing space! It's a good financial idea, too, both for me and for the cafe. I'll still sell their coffee, tea, espresso and pastries, but that's just because some people will come in, not knowing that today it's not the cafe, but Curds & Whey, and I don't have the heart to deny them their coffee and such.

Plus, it's bad customer service in general, and specifically bad customer service for the cafe. It could really piss off their regulars, and they wouldn't care that it's me denying them and not the cafe owners - the effect will be the same. It'll give people another reason to come into the store, too, and any time - but especially recession time - business owners have to give people lots of good reasons to come in the door. And come back and tell all their friends, too!

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