Meet Orlando’s Cheese Monger

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I LOVE cheese. It’s salty, and creamy, and rich, and fragrant, and complex, and hearty, and I can’t imagine ever being a vegan and not eating it. But loving it and thinking that it tastes amazing is about the extent of my expertise. Thankfully, Orlando has Tonda Corrente, a cheese monger trained in the art of all things cheese. What’s a cheese monger, you ask? Read on…

First of all, what is a cheese monger?
A cheese monger is anyone who serves cheese, studies cheese, and who you can go to and shop with that can point you in the right direction. These are people who know the nuts and bolts of this industry.

How do you become a cheese monger?
I always say that cheese found me. I started studying cheeses a few years ago when I landed a job at a local wine shop. Because I had a culinary background they asked me to work in the deli, which I knew nothing about. It was a whole new world for me.

I had been studying wine for many years, loved wine, and loved all the nuances you can pull out. And because I had such a defined palate, cheese became a natural thing. Immediately, I wanted to start pairing and was drawn to the complementary way cheese and wine perfectly go together when you get the paring right. It was my immediate passion to learn as much as I could. I studied, and tasted, and read books, and thankfully, because of my history with wine, this came naturally to me.

What are you teaching in your classes?
Most people know very little about cheese. People know a little about wine and craft beer, but few people know anything about cheese. The classes are never for people who really know this industry. They are mostly for people with little to no background in cheese. I use the classes to give people a keen discovery of their palate and a true understanding of how flavors come together. That discovery helps people pair flavors together in all areas of their culinary world, not just with wine and cheese. It’s really a whole flavor course, and it helps people enjoy food more and cook better.

Any tips on handling cheese in the hot Florida weather?
You always want to wrap your cheese in wax paper, which will allow it to still breathe and will also prevent it from suffocating so much in plastic, which can make the cheese sweaty and can disintegrate the cheese faster. Obviously carrying an ice pack to keep it cool is important. You’ll want to eat cheese at room temperature because the colder it is, the less you can taste it. Ironically, this weather is ideal as long as you eat your cheese pretty quickly. It allows all the flavors to come through, just like with your wine.

Finally, some of the more hard and aged cheeses will stand up to the heat better. If you’re going to eat quickly, I would recommend Green Hill, a soft ripened, Brie style cheese from Sweet Grass Dairy Farm in Georgia and pair it with Quantum Leap Winery‘’s Pinot Grigio from Italy, which is very tropical and has lots of pineapple. The pairing brings a fruit-driven but acidic note to a creamy cheese that’s very buttery and rich. For a harder one, something that would pair well with beer, I’d recommend Midnight Moon, a goat’s milk, Gouda style paired with Orlando Brewing Company’s O-Town Brown.

What can people expect to find at your space inside East End Market?
Obviously, I have awesome cheese for sale, but there are a lot of places to buy cheese. What my focus will be is trying to find very hard to find cheeses that are really unique, and especially cheeses we make domestically. I tell a story with every cheese. I am not just a cheese chick behind the counter at a grocery store. I have created an entire career out of my love for cheese. I teach lots of classes in the event space at East End and bring in cheese makers and leaders in the industry to share seminars and classes as well.

Stay updated on Tonda’s events via her Facebook page and website.

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