I’m going to miss a great party (if you’re in NYC, you really should go; it’s the premiere cheese event of the year in these parts), and I’m really going to miss seeing a bunch of people I won’t likely see this year (unless I’m lucky enough to get to Raleigh, and I’m not holding my breath.
Some of my disappointment is personal. I’ve spent most of my professional life as an outsider. I’ve been a free floating electron traipsing along the periphery of various atomic circles (sportswriting, music journalism, specialty food, film criticism, even book reviewing, and wine education). Taking a full time job with Gastronomie 491 this winter was a way of entering a nucleus that I admired. Winning—okay, well, competing—in CMI was going to be my way of planting a flag and telling the world that I belonged in the nucleus of the cheese world.
And some of the disappointment is professional. Gastronomie 491 is on the Upper West Side, an area that was a food epicenter back when everybody read Craig Claiborne’s columns in the Times with baited breath. The food world had decentralized to many different neighborhoods and blogs, and by reputation the UWS has been left behind. NOT TRUE!! Within a few blocks of Gastronomie are Momofuku Milk Bar, Joe, Jacob’s Biscuits and Pickles, Joe, West Side Wines (think what if Uva Wines and Spirits on Vinyl Wine opened at 83rd and Columbus), Slightly Oliver, and yeah, us (and Birdbath is on the way). I wanted to represent for a clientele that has asked when we’re getting more beer like Evil Twin Ron and the Beast Ryan, and call to see when the Brie Jouvence will arrive. The image of the UWS cheese might be a bunch of precut pieces of St. Andre and discussions about whether Vermont Cheddar is better than New York State Cheddar, but the reality is different, very different. I wanted to represent that new reality.
So why aren’t I? Well, we have a small staff at Gastronomie, and with one person away, another two occupied by other work and the last one in her first full week, it wouldn’t be responsible to leave the newbie alone on a Saturday. If I did, she could probably rise to the occasion, but it isn’t good management to force that upon her. Sometimes doing the work of a being a Cheesemonger, especially mentoring, comes before celebrating that work. This is one of those times.
I’m a Chicago sports fan, so I’m well acquainted with disappointment and with the term “wait til next year,” and both apply here.