By Natalie Manitius
At age 11 Katie Carter visited a creamery in the Savoie region of France, “back in the ’80s when brie was a big deal,” she says, and from there, became hooked on the ways of cheese. Before being named earlier this month as the new cheesemonger at The Curious Grape in Shirlington, Carter: dropped out of college to work at McLeod Creamery of Oak Grove Farm in Marshall and with just six months of cheese-making experience was recruited to work as the cheese buying manager for Arrowine Cheese in Arlington, while attending artisanal cheese classes in New York. She also helped open Cowgirl Creamery in D.C. and started her own cheese-making company.
Carter says she plans for “a more intelligent, thought-out cheese plate that will kind of mimic what’s coming out of the kitchen,” like pairing cheeses with a spring strawberry basil compote. She also wants to hold tastings to teach the science behind beer and cheese pairings, offer cut-to-order cheese for retail (instead of letting wedges sit in “plastic, [the] enemy of cheese,” says Cater) and debut housemade cheese for the kitchen’s use.
Here, Carter walks through new cheeses from The Curious Grape:
Absinthe-Soaked Cheese from Brooklyn
A cheese called the Miranda, initially made and aged in a Brooklyn apartment, will be part of the new cheese menu. Bringing in his Dutch background, Jos Vulto crafts a half-pound wheel using raw cow’s milk, washing it after production in absinthe. Carter describes it as “beautifully sweet, it’s amazing. Like you would think it would take on that liquor-ish quality, kind of really super strong, but it actually sweetens the cheese. It’s so lovely. The texture is this semi-soft, silky, really smooth texture.”
Carter worked under cheese-guru Willi Schmid in Lichtensteig, Switzerland for two weeks over the summer and will now bring his cheese to Shirlington. Schmid’s mountain cheeses come from cow, goat, sheep and water buffalo from nearby farms. Known for his refined palette, Schmid tastes all the milk varieties before starting the cheese-making, and can detect—by the taste alone—if the cows have moved pastures. The result is “amazingly complex, woodsy, super creamy” cheese, says Carter.
Local & Seasonal
Nearby Charlottesville, Esmont‘s Caromont Creamery will be a new addition to the cheese program. Soft-ripened cheese from
the dairy hub will be inherently seasonal, as Caromont raises its own goats, who do not produce milk in the wintertime. Caromont will also produce burrata for The Curious Grape, a cheese made year-round which is at its peak flavor in the summertime. / The Curious Grape, 2900 S. Quincy St., Arlington