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Side Dishes: Scientist starts local cheese of the month club

Masha Stern moved to Burlington from Siberia in the 1990s to attend UVM. She’s a scientist by day and a cheese fanatic, well, around the clock. “During my everyday job I travel a lot, and I’m a foodie,” she explains. During visits to big cities, Stern seeks out cheese-tasting classes. Several years ago, she noticed that Vermont’s artisan offerings were more often cited than actually served. Why? The small-batch, artisan wheels and wedges are hard to come by outside the state. “People know about Vermont cheese; they read about it: It’s bizarre they can’t get it,” she says.

Stern determined to change that. The result is a club called Vermont Cheesemongers. For $65, $185 or $350, out-of-staters can have the Green Mountains’ best cheeses shipped to them for one, three or six months, respectively. Stern currently has about 20 customers signed up for the service.

Locals can get cheese deliveries cheaper: $90 for three months or $150 for 6. Each month’s box contains three or four types of cheese, with a total weight of 1.25 to 1.5 pounds. “It covers the whole spectrum of the cheese plate,” Stern says, noting that her goal is never to repeat an offering. Each package comes with “a description of the cheese, general wine and beer suggestions for pairing, as well as the little stories about the farm.”

Because Stern buys directly from cheesemakers and cheese-aging facilities, the cheeses are guaranteed to be in peak condition, she says. “I realized that a lot of the cheeses you get on the shelves have gone from farm to truck to store. Sometimes they’ve been there for a couple of weeks, and are maybe two or three weeks older than they should have been,” she opines.

Local participants pick up their offerings on the last Thursday of each month at Burlington’s Dedalus Wine Shop, where they can snag complimentary wines at the same time. What’s in September’s box? Stern won’t tell. “It’s a surprise every time,” she says.

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Suzanne Podhaizer

Suzanne Podhaizer

Bio:
Former contributor Suzanne Podhaizer is an award-winning food writer (and the first Seven Days food editor) as well as a chef, farmer, and food-systems consultant. She has given talks at the Stone Barns Center for Agriculture's "Poultry School" and its flagship "Young Farmers' Conference." She can slaughter a... more

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