You can call Jeff Grenfell cheesy, and he won't mind a bit. The Arizona native can be found at Cheuvront's Restaurant on Central Avenue, where he is not just sommelier, but also "fromagier" - reportedly the only one in town. Can't tell your Camembert from your triple crème brie? Never heard of a washed rind? Not a problem. It's all in a day's work for Greenfell. He'll help you curate a cheese plate faster than you can say Gorgonzola Cremificato.
Chow Bella: People say cheese is alive - why is that?
Jeff Greenfell: It's like wine - they reflect the health and happiness of their animal (the milk), they're seasonal. And it gets ripe, like wine and fruit.
CB: How can you tell when it's ripe?
JG: G: You just smell and taste it. Cheese is also like a rose. It smells the best when it's ripe and blooming. When a cheese is young, it can be chalky. When it's ripe, it should be clean and fresh.
CB: Is there a cheese that is great right now?
JG: The Spanish Goat cheeses are fantastic. Or when it's cold, the bleu cheeses are creamy and they just come alive. Cheese is seasonal just like fruit.
CB: What's the best way to store cheese?
JG: In 95% humidity, around 50-55 degrees. Nobody really has their own cheese cave, so in general the refrigerator is fine. There is a perforated paper that is better to wrap artisinal cheese in. Cheese needs to breathe. If you seal it off it gets slimy.
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CB: Why is cheese better served warm?
JG: For the same reason a great wine is better when it's not so cold. You can taste the aroma and smell scents better when it isn't cold. Most cheeses are meant to be served at room temperature. Except the Humboldt goat cheeses- those are much better cold.
CB: What cheeses would you recommend keeping on hand?
JG: Something versatile for cooking like a Comte. A sharp, salty cheese like Piave Vecchio that you can grate on salad or pasta or for topping a cassoulet is perfect. A bleu is always fun. If you're looking to stock a cheese tray or board for a party, it's important to vary texture. A good rule is something hard, something creamy, and something soft.
CB: What cheese do you use for grilled cheese?
JG: I like grilling the bread and then a big smear of Brillat Savarin. You can't cook that cheese because it'll burn but on grilled bread it's just amazing.-- Sloane Burwell