Three Questions for Cheesemonger Emma Harvey | Grilling the Chef | Seven Days | Vermont's Independent Voice

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Three Questions for Cheesemonger Emma Harvey


Published August 2, 2022 at 2:40 p.m.
Updated August 3, 2022 at 10:02 a.m.

Emma Harvey - DARIA BISHOP
  • Daria Bishop
  • Emma Harvey

Emma Harvey loves what she calls "Costco Parm." She keeps a one-pound plastic container of the pre-shredded Kirkland Signature aged Parmigiano-Reggiano on hand for topping fried eggs, Caesar salads and Marie Callender's chicken pot pies.

"That's probably the worst thing that I do as a cheesemonger who has access to all these high-quality artisan cheeses," Harvey said. "But I use that stuff on everything. It's a utility cheese."

Harvey, 33, handles her fair share of fancy Parmigiano-Reggiano, too. In 2019, she cracked her first 80-pound wheel — a rite of passage in the mongering world. At the time, she was working the cheese counter at Burlington's Dedalus Wine Shop, Market & Wine Bar under the watchful eye of John O'Brien, her first cheese mentor.

"It was a very monumental moment for me," Harvey said of cracking her first wheel. "My parents came to watch, and I didn't cut myself. Everybody clapped!"

Now Harvey cracks all kinds of wheels at Salt & Bubbles Wine Bar and Market in Essex, where she's the cheese buyer and catering manager. She also stocks the market's retail fridge, pickles produce, and creates elaborate cheese and charcuterie boards with swoops and swirls befitting her Instagram handle: @boardinvermont.

Salt & Bubbles doesn't have a traditional cheese counter — yet. It's on Harvey's Christmas list. But she still finds ways to get people excited about cheese, especially products from small local producers. Over slices of pizza and margaritas at the Monkey House in Winooski, Harvey shared her hot cheese takes, core cheese memories and thoughts on charcuterie boards — no candy allowed.

SEVEN DAYS: What is your earliest cheese memory?

EMMA HARVEY: I grew up in Burlington, and we always had a block of Cabot [Private Stock Classic Vermont] black wax cheddar in the fridge. That was from Costco, too. I would microwave nachos late at night, and I wouldn't grate it because cleaning a grater would be too much work. So I would cut big slices using a knife that I could put in the dishwasher. My goal in life is to wash as few dishes as possible.

Emma Harvey 's cheese and charcuterie board - DARIA BISHOP
  • Daria Bishop
  • Emma Harvey 's cheese and charcuterie board

SD: Do you sell a lot of cheddar at Salt & Bubbles?

EH: We always have Shelburne Farms cheddar. In my opinion, it's Vermont's best cheese brand. We started with the three-year cheddar; currently we're working through a wheel of the clothbound cheddar, which is made in Shelburne and aged at the Cellars at Jasper Hill [Farm].

The trickiest thing for me has been figuring out how to have a cheese menu [for the wine bar] with four cheeses on it, while keeping something even the pickiest eater is happy with.

I brought in an ash-ripened goat cheese from the Loire Valley [of France] back in the fall — it's a spectacular cheese. People were really digging Sage Farm [Goat Dairy, in Stowe], so I thought they'd like it. They hated it. Hated it. It looks like a blue, and, because of the caves it's aging in, sometimes it will develop little fluorescent yellow spots — which is a natural, safe mold. Cheese is mold! But I had a number of people who looked at it on their cheese plate and were like, "I'm not eating that."

People want cheddar. And that's fine. I'm just trying to slowly expand the circles of what they like and break misconceptions about certain cheeses and milk types.

SD: What are some big cheese misconceptions?

EH: Charcuterie is cold, cured meats. Not candy. And charcuterie is not cheese.

Before I got into cheese about three and a half years ago, I was working [as a] garde-manger at Stone Corral Brewery in Richmond. We had a cheese board on the menu, and I sort of took over the design. I was heavily influenced by cheese board Instagram influencers, which now make me nauseous.

Influencers are making very pretty plates, but there's really no learning happening. Some of them do the same cheeses on every board, and they don't give credit to the producers who made them.

Von Trapp Farmstead makes a T-shirt that says "Defend Real Cheese." That's kind of my motto: Defend the real stuff; support real cheese; buy small. It's worth the price. You can still buy the Costco stuff, but the little guys need our help.

This interview was edited and condensed for clarity and length.

Emma Harvey will teach a Cheese 101 class on Monday, August 15, 6 p.m., at Salt & Bubbles Wine Bar and Market in Essex. $45.

The original print version of this article was headlined "Cheddar Safe Than Sorry"