5 questions for...Laura Downey, co-owner of the Fairfield Cheese Company
FAIRFIELD — With the holiday entertaining season now kicking into high gear, wondering what to serve family and friends can leave some in a tizzy.
But Laura Downey, a co-owner of the Fairfield Cheese Company, is here to help hosts and hostesses move past the pre-made cheese platter. Downey is a certified cheese professional. She and her business partner Chris Palumbo also own the Greenwich Cheese Company in Cos Cob, and they recently begun a new subscription box service, Cheesemonger Box.
Fairfield Cheese Company opened its doors in 2009, and in 2011 and 2012 was named Best Cheese Selection in Connecticut by Connecticut Magazine. The company also garnered a mention in Food & Wine Magazine Online as a top-five place to buy cheese in the United States.
Tucked in one of the Post Road shopping center that also houses Harry’s Wines and Liquors and Tutto Pasta, where fresh artisanal pasta and sauce is sold, the shop was bustling just two days before Thanksgiving.
Q: What kind of cheese would you suggest for someone who is normally pretty standard in their cheese choice but wants to branch out?
Fairfield Cheese Company
2090 Post Road
Monday-Thursday: 10 a.m.-7 p.m.
Friday-Saturday: 10 a.m.-8 p.m.
A: Coming to a cheese shop and working with a cheesemonger is a great way to branch out from the basics. Cheesemongers are trained to help you find a cheese that suits your palate.
Love Jarlsberg? A good cheesemonger will suggest and offer you a taste of something like Comte, a French mountain cheese with a similar flavor. If brie is a favorite, a cheese in that same style will probably suit your tastes. We might suggest Mt. Alice, a brie-style made in Vermont.
Q: What is the best way to serve cheese? Cold or room temperature? With crackers?
A: All cheese should be served at room temperature. At room temperature, you will experience the full flavor and the correct texture.
Bread or crackers? Well, that is up to you.
Q: What different cheese would you suggest for someone who wants to up their game with their side dishes this year, like macaroni and cheese or scalloped potatoes?
A: In dishes where cheese is the main ingredient, quality matters. The better the cheese, the tastier the dish.
I love Gruyere to cook with. You could also use Fontina Val d’Aosta, from Italy. It has a lot of flavor and is an excellent melter.
Q: What are some of the more popular cheeses these days?
A: I think artisan cheese, in general, has become very popular. There is a renewed interest in real food that is rooted in good farming and humane animal practices. Artisan cheese makers are small and make cheese while respecting the land, the animals and the people who work for them. It is a different model to industrial food production. There is a lot of interest in American artisan cheese.
Q: What is your favorite cheese, and why?
A: I don’t know one cheesemonger that can answer that question. It depends on so many things. Sometimes you feel like something soft and creamy, sometimes something hard and crumbly. Lots of artisan cheese is seasonal, so it can even depend on the time of year. Mostly it is more about the people I’m sharing it with.