In Part 2 of our exclusive Q&A with Nugget Market's Director of Specialty Cheese Operations (catch up with Part 1 here), we went all in with Jeremy Patin. Read on to find out more about his cheese expertise and what names he dropped when asked which products were trendy and hot.
What are a few types of cheeses that you would say are having a moment culturally right now?
Jeremy Patin: A lot of what I’m seeing trending is raw milk cheese. There are so many small producers that are able to take the time to make a raw milk cheese, and they're really highlighting the grass-fed and artisan nature of their farmsteads. I see a resurgence of small artisan creameries. Big creameries aren't going to go away, but this raw milk movement acts as a foundation for small creameries to flourish and thrive. The flavor profiles that come out of a raw milk cheese are completely different than something that's pasteurized because you're tasting what is pure, unadulterated, and unchanged in the milk—exactly how the cow and God intended it!
Can you tell me about a few cheese and beer/wine/spirit pairings that you’ve been interested in lately?
JP: We love to experiment at Nugget. That's one of the fun things about coming to this position without a cheese background—you don't know you're breaking the rules because you're just trying everything and anything together. You want to balance the flavors in your mouth—the salty and the sweet, the savory and the acid. The key to a good pairing is one plus one should equal three or even four! You’re looking for a third flavor experience that you don’t get from just the cheese or the wine, beer, or spirit alone. One of my favorite things to pair with cheese is whiskey, which is such a great thing to pair with cheese because it brings out the caramelization and butterscotch undertones that are in so many of our aged cheeses. All of a sudden you have this barrel-aged vanilla, caramel butterscotch, candy corn flavor that is just stunning.
What advice do you have, at the store level, for turning pairing advice into a better in-store experience?
JP: One of the great things about our cheesemongers, which we have behind the counter at each store, is that you can go in seven days a week and actually have that experience of talking face-to-face with somebody who's passionate about their craft. The thing you need to do to have a great pairing is to try it over and over and over. Like I said, we're always encouraging our associates to experiment and then to share that experience with the guest. So when they taste a great cheese, we're encouraging them to try it with other things like either an adult beverage or jams or nuts or chocolates until they find something that's magical. We've found so many fun, crazy, off-the-wall pairings that we would have never tried before had someone not said, ‘hey I tried such and such with kimchi and it's easy’ or, ‘I tried this with recently with peanut butter cups and it was a go.’ You’re opening each other’s minds to what is possible when you're looking for that third flavor.
For more exclusive behind-the-scenes chats with some of the major players in deli, dairy, bakery, and specialty foods, stay tuned to Deli Market News.