Can I get away with calling Rachel Klebaur the cheese whiz?
Maybe not – she’s awfully serious about her cheeses. And that’s fine with me. Because this town needed a serious cheese monger.
Klebaur’s booth, Orrman’s Cheese Shop in the 7th Street Public Market uptown, is not much bigger than a cracker. But she’s packed it with her cheese knowledge.
She took a roundabout route here: Raised in Jupiter, Fla., she went to culinary school at the French Culinary Institute in New York. Frustrated by the lack of cheese education, she skipped the traditional restaurant internship and got a job at world-famous Murray’s Cheese, working in the back where they age the cheeses.
After moving around for a while, to Miami and back to New York where she managed a shop at Chelsea Market, Klebaur settled in Charlotte with her husband, Jose Espinosa, a chef who works for caterer Charles Semail.
Why Charlotte and not Asheville or Durham? Klebaur’s sister lives here, and her parents live in New Bern. With three kids – an 8-year-old and 5-year-old twins – she wanted to be close to family.
They named the shop Orrman’s after the maiden names of Klebaur’s grandmothers, Orr and Rheiman. And they picked the 7th Street Market because it was less risky and expensive than building a shop in a freestanding building.
“It seemed like a manageable place to start out in.”
Talking to Klebaur makes me happy for several reasons. One: I am a cheese nut. I love the stuff. I love that there are so many varieties, textures and experiences.
I also love that cheese is an affordable luxury. Buying a pricey bottle of wine or slapping down a credit card for an expensive steak is intimidating. With cheese, you can buy a small amount and get something really good that has the potential to set you back on your heels and make you aware of flavors you haven’t thought about.
Like Klebaur, I also love cheese makers. Real cheese, not plastic-wrapped cheap cheese, is a partnership between the land, the animals and the cheesemaker.
“Amazing folks, who pay attention to what they’re doing and pay attention to their animals,” she calls them.
While she carries cheeses from all over, Klebaur makes a point of carrying cheese from North Carolina, where we are awash in great cheese makers.
For more cheese-thinking and advice from Klebaur, including storing cheese, go to my blog, I’ll Bite, at obsbite.blogspot.com. You can find the shop online at www.facebook.com/orrmanscheese. It’s open 11 a.m.-7 p.m. weekdays and 8:30 a.m.-7 p.m. Saturdays.
In the meantime, how would Klebaur tell you to get started on exploring great cheese?
“What I recommend is tasting a small bit and tasting different cheeses, but not buying too much,” she says. “It might sit in the refrigerator for two weeks, and it won’t taste as good.”
Join the food conversation at Kathleen Purvis’ blog I’ll Bite, obsbite.blogspot.com, or follow her on Twitter, @kathleenpurvis.
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