Best Birthday Gift
Today’s my birthday and, perks of being the one who writes this email weekly, I get to proclaim it to the world. I even gifted you all the Great Conjunction alignment of Saturn and Jupiter for the first time in 800 years. (Check it out tonight!) Hah! But I only mention it by way of saying THANK YOU! You all have made this an amazing birthday - on the heels of our busiest week of business ever in our 10-year history. We are racked with all sorts of amazing problems today - shortages of cheese, substitutions in gift baskets, a packed parking lot, and an exhausted team of passionate cheesemongers. We had to start planning for the holidays in late summer and you can’t imagine how challenging it is to order thousands of of pounds of cheese and artisan foods during a pandemic. We knew if we didn’t have it, we couldn’t sell it. But we also knew it was so risky… would we order lots of product that would just perish on our shelves? THANKS TO YOU, that’s not the case, and we’ve been able to support American and artisan cheesemakers in a profound way this holiday season. We appreciate you for including us around your dinner table each evening. I can’t express my gratitude deeply enough. May this atypical holiday season bring you unexpected joys and reasons to be grateful, even in the midst of much hardship. So just, simply, thank you.
New Shop Cheese: Adopt-an-Alp Yes, we’ve got another way you can do good by eating good! Although it was delayed a bit this year, we are excited to welcome a new Alpine cheese, as part of our annual participation in the Adopt-an-Alp program organized by famed cheese selector Caroline Hostettler of Quality Cheese: “Adopt An Alp 2020 includes operations from 32 participating Alp operations. Each one has a unique story, from the families that run them to the different cheeses that come out of it. Transhumance – the move of people and animals in accordance with the seasons – is a centuries-old tradition. It serves several purposes both nature and society wise, and its ultimate perk are the fabulous Alpage cheeses it lets us enjoy year after year. But spending summers far away from civilization and making cheese is less rosy a lifestyle than most of us imagine. It is marked by a lack more than by luxury, and it comes as no surprise that the amount of people still willing to take the burden is decreasing slowly but steadily. Adopt-an-Alp unites Alp farmers in Switzerland, where transhumance has originated over 8,000 years ago, and American cheesemongers by shedding a realistic light on everyday life on the Alp.
Through telling the story of each family, sharing photos and updates, both cheesemongers and their customers are able to follow their adopted family and herd and to understand this very particular lifestyle. And only by understanding transhumance can we fully appreciate and respect all the work these people do, and with it the Alpage cheeses we so love. Which, on the other side, motivates and inspires the farmers and thus helps to keep the tradition alive. Actively supporting farmers and getting rewarded with spectacular Alpage cheeses? This is a win-win situation indeed.”
Charletalp Schafkase Thanks to Erich and Sandra Betschart-Imhof, who operate on Charetalp above Muotathal, we have a rare alpage cheese made from sheep milk. Erich is a true Älpler, having spent summers on an Alp since he was 2 weeks old! He and wife Sandra have three boys who help out: Alex, Andi, and Ronny. Erich has experience and degrees in farming and agricultural machinery. Their farm sits on a heavily-sloped 14 acres, more suitable to goats and sheep than dairy cows. Practicing transhumance, the family hikes 3 hours with their herd of 50 goats and 20 sheep to Alp Bärensol in the valley of Bisisthal (altitude just under 5000 ft) each June.
In mid-July, they walk the herd to an altitude of 6000 ft to Charetalp, to land they’ve been leasing since 1985. Since there are no roads that lead to Charetalp, two Haflinger packing horses are used for transportation. At the first signs of autumn, usually mid-September, the crew goes back to Bärensol until about the beginning of October. In its first year participating in the Adopt-an-Alp program, we are thrilled to feature their Charletalp Schafkase, a rare raw milk sheep cheese made from the milk of sheep grazing diverse foliage in the Alps, making for a unique, flavorful, and nuanced milk. We only have it til it runs out, so make sure to get some!
Empty Shelves?! What’s Left?
Okay okay, I’m being a bit dramatic. We still have LOTS of goodies left to sell…. Just not enough labor to cut cheese, pack boxes, and hustle out to your car. Here’s the highlight reel:
Cheese of the Month Club Subscription - Available in 3, 6, or 12 month subscriptions. We change up our selections yearly and rotate between Taste of Place, Meet the Maker, and One-of-a-Kind fun themes, like “Cheeses Made by the Sea,” “Cheeses Aged in Caves,” “All Award Winning Cheeses,” and more. There are also discounts for boxes picked up locally from the shop (instead of shipping). Orders placed through 12/31 will be shipped the second week of January. (We ship our monthly club the second week of each month.) - ATX or Nationwide Shipping
January Cheese Class Tickets (or a class gift card) - From classes on a Taste of Spain, Italy, or France, to Perfect Pairing classes with Preserves, Pickles, and Cured Meats, and the list goes on. We are loving coming to you virtually almost daily with fun and educational cheese tasting experiences. We’re even launching a few dairy-free events in January - like an all meat class! So check it out. Not sure which date to gift? Then give an electronic gift card. (Note: These are for folks in Austin who can pick up or courier a plate; not available for shipping.) - Austin only
Book a Raclette Experience - A quarter wheel of raclette cheese, a machine to melt it, and all the fixins (cured meats, potatoes, an assortment of pickled goods, salad, and bread) that feeds up to 6 folks. This is a fun, interactive dining experience and oh-so-decadent. We have 4 machines to rent out daily, and you must return it before noon the following day (so we can spread the love!). Completely booked for 12/22, 12/23, but two left for 12/24 Christmas Eve! Also availability (at the time of writing this) for 12/28, 12/29, and 12/30. - Austin only
Dec & Jan Virtual Tastings
Local: Our complete December schedule is below, and we’ve also gotten a jump start on our January schedule. That way, you can gift tickets to a cheese class if you want! You can search by class topic here or by date here (scroll down and click on the date). Questions? Check out our most frequently asked questions here.
Outside Austin: While we can’t ship you our cheese class plate, you CAN still take a virtual cheese tasting with us. Check out our Cheese Class in a Box, available for nationwide shipping in the continental USA. Each box has enough goodies to feed up to 4 folks (or leftovers for 1 person!), comes with a 10-min plating video, and an hour-long guided tasting led by John and me (Kendall). Folks can simply enjoy everything at their own leisure or take the included class. (Note that any orders made online now will be shipped the first week of January.) Current selections include:
Direct Links & Resources
From Anywhere in the United States:
John & Kendall
And Your Awesome Cheesemonger Team.