An old phrase comes to mind when standing in front of the cheese section of Grand Cayman’s gourmet speciality food store, Bay Market: You can’t make everyone happy. You’re not cheese. Let’s face it, who doesn’t love cheese?
For Tanya Foster, head chef and chief cheese crusader at Bay Market, it’s been a mission to create an eclectic and varied cheese section. She’s also the cheese buyer and views every cheese on display as her “babies.”
“Cheese is living and breathing and needs constant attention,” she says, adding that she checks on the cheese case regularly to ensure freshness, that all cheese is wrapped properly and that there’s no spoilage.
Foster’s love affair for cheese began as a young girl when she used to watch her grandmother make her own cheese. Over the last decade or so she has striven to provide a fresh selection of quality cheeses from a variety of cheese makers at each of the Foster’s Food Fair-IGA’s located on island, including at Bay Market, where there’s more than 70 different varieties and styles of cheeses from all over the world, including France, Italy, Spain, the U.K. and the U.S.
Foster has taken cheese courses to further her knowledge, but she mainly just loves to eat and cook with cheese and she uses it often in her recipes when cooking at home.
Foster has learned to identify what Bay Market customers like, and top cheese sellers include Brie; Parmigiano-Reggiano (commonly known as Parmesan); Swiss Emmental; Gouda; Gruyere; and goat cheeses. Flavoured cheeses are also becoming increasingly popular as cheese producers get more and more inventive. Bay Market’s deli manager Stephanie Huff — also a trained chef — says many of these new cheese flavours are created from excessive milk left over from making standard cheeses.
“People who make cheese are creative people; they get ideas just like a chef or bartender would,” Huff says. Some top-selling flavoured cheeses at Bay Market include Drunken Goat, which is a Spain-produced semi-soft goat cheese bathed in red wine; Wensleydale Mango and Ginger, which is a mild, slightly-sweet flavoured cheddar from Yorkshire, England; and Barely Buzzed, an award-winning full-bodied cheddar-style cheese made in Utah that has a creamy, smooth texture and notes of butterscotch and caramel. Its edible rind is a mixture of hand-rubbed roasted coffee grounds and lavender buds.
As for why some cheeses are more expensive than others, it often comes down to the production time associated with making cheese.
“For example, Parmesan and aged cheddar are more expensive because the producer has to sometimes sit on ‘wheels’ for up to two years at a time,” says Huff.
With regard to cheese rinds (the outer layer of cheese), most are edible and enhance the overall flavour. It is a personal preference to eat the rind, but if you don’t eat it, Foster says you can still use it in stock for soups, sauces and stews just as you would throw a bouquet of herbs into the pot.
Some cheeses come with a wax surrounding it, which shouldn’t be eaten.
Foster says Bay Market customers are also drawn to multipurpose cheeses. Rembrandt Aged Gouda, for example, is popular because it’s balanced and versatile. Aged one year, the pasteurised cheese is made in the Netherlands and can be grated like a Parmesan, eaten with crackers or added to many dishes while cooking, she says, adding that if you’re a non-wine drinker, the good news is that it pairs nicely with dark beer.
Bay Market puts little information cards in the cheese case explaining the cheese’s region, type of milk used, taste and flavour, as well as pairing suggestions. Those who are really keen can view the extensive cheese book on display that provides even more in-depth knowledge and a huge glossary of terms.
One of the store’s key suppliers is Gourmet Food International, which holds seminars and one-on-one courses for staff. Some staff are also trained through online courses elsewhere. A Waitrose supplier in the U.K. supplies all the Waitrose cheeses, while another supplier flies cheeses directly in by freight from France and other European countries via straw crates that conveniently double as cheese displays. Foster says that most cheese deliveries take two weeks from the time of order to delivery.