The DJN chats with cheese expert and co-founder of Mongers’ Provisions.
Featured photo by Benjie Klein
1. How did decide to become a cheesemonger?
I really have to credit Zingerman’s with getting me into cheese. I had been working in food since I was a young boy. I got a job at Zingerman’s Deli and quickly had my epiphany cheese moment — I tasted a cheese called Gabietou and was like, “Where have people been hiding all these flavors? How did I not know cheese could be this amazing?”
2. Your business, Mongers’ Provisions, started out in Ferndale and now has a second outpost in Detroit. What encouraged you and business partner Will Werner to settle there?
We really love Ferndale and the community there! We decided on Detroit for our second location because we always wanted to be part of the excitement that is happening in food in the city. Will and I believe that Detroit is a world class city and deserves world class amenities such as a specialty shop.
3. What are three interesting tidbits about cheese?
1) The fact that I find funny and that gets re-shared with me all the time on social media is that cheese activates similar dopamine receptors as hard drugs. People really enjoy their cheese!
2) I have also found the new excitement over raw foods to be funny and interesting. In the last few years more and more customers ask me if I carry any raw cheeses (simply put: cheeses in which the milk has not been pasteurized). The increasing demand is exciting, I just wish people didn’t order it like they order their health food supplements. People will ask for 1/2 pound of raw milk cheese. I have over a dozen raw milk cheeses probably at any time ranging in flavors, textures, and milk types. As always I want to taste them with our guest and find the right raw milk cheese for that individual.
3) I find the crazy amount of government cheese storage that is going bad to be a very interesting story. Its a really unfortunate example of farm subsidies gone bad.
4. You not only sell cheese, but chocolate is a big one, too. What are some cheese and chocolate pairings you love?
The two pairings I enjoy the most are Bayley Hazen Blue Cheese with a high percentage dark chocolate (<= 75%) from somewhere with spicy or earthy chocolate such as Vietnam or Colombia. My far less specific pairing is any triple cream brie style cheese, such as Trillium, Mt. Tam, or Delice de Bourgogne with any high percentage milk chocolate such as Manoa’s 50% Milk Chocolate or Omonom’s Milk of Tanzania which is 65%. All of these chocolates are available at the store. We also always have at least one of those triple creams and Bayley Hazen at both shops.
5. What’s new and exciting at Mongers’ Provisions?
At our Detroit store we make grilled cheese sandwiches every day. We also sell beer, cider and wine that goes perfectly with all of our cheeses, meats, and chocolates!
6. Tell us about some upcoming events you’re hosting.
We are doing a cheese board pop-up on April 10 at Urbanrest Brewery and April 12 we’ll be at Temple Beth El (Cheese Tray and Raclette at the Oneg). April 17 you can find us at Mongers’ Provisions Detroit for “An (Easter) Island(s) Chocolate Adventure” tasting. April 24 we have another tasting at Mongers’ Provisions called “Taste Your Way Through Alpine Cheeses.” On May 1 we’re back at Urbanrest for a grilled cheese and cheese board pop-up. Wow, seems like it is going to be a busy month!
7. Aside from Mongers’, what Detroit restaurants or shops do you recommend?
I am a huge fan of Selden Standard, SheWolf, Gold Cash Gold, Flowers of Vietnam, Chartreuse Kitchen and Lovers Only. They are all worth a drive to the city to check out. If you are looking to do some shopping, check out Nest, City Bird, POST, and Urbanum. If you want a drink, stop by Sfumato Fragrances or 8 Degrees Plato.
Zach Berg grew up attending Hillel Day School and West Bloomfield High School. He graduated from Michigan State University’s Hospitality Business School. After a very formative time at Zingerman’s Delicatessen, Zach moved to California and attended the Culinary Institute of America in Napa Valley. He then ran Bi-Rite Market’s cheese department before he decided to move home and peruse opening up a business with his long time friend, Will Werner. www.mongersprovisions.com
Have a great person in mind for a “Schmoozing with…” feature? Send tips to email@example.com!