” … Some of the most amusing and captivating writing in the city is being produced in the service of cheese,” writes Jeff Gordinier in The New York Times (1/24/13). “Sales are provoked by an intelligent sign,” says Steve Jenkins, the cheesemonger and signwriter at Fairway Market in New York City. “The sign tells them what to do. Their desires are defined by that sign.” Steve’s premise actually is the opposite of the cliche that the customer is always right. “The customer has no idea what he or she wants,” says Steve. “The customer is dying to be told what they want.” This is especially true with cheese, given that the average customer has no context from within which to make a decision.
For example, Steve’s description of Florette Goat Brie: “You will find yourself on the floorette upon serving this soft, dreamy, oozy, stark-white wonderment.” On the other hand, he doesn’t hold back when the cheese is nothing special, as in his dig at an aged mimolette: “It was Charles de Gaulle’s favorite cheese, which figures. He was an army man, and God knows army men are not too particular about what they put in their mouths. Even aged a year, mimolette is not exactly startling.”
Other cheesemongers, like Martin Johnson of Gastronomie 491, favor cultural references, such as: “… This firm Sardinian sheep has the cool unaffected strut of Mick in his prime, Lou in middle age or Polly Jean today.” (Any hipster would get the PJ reference.) What counts, says cheesemonger Stephanie Bealert of Bedford Cheese Shop, is that the little signs help people relax and have a conversation. “People will say to me, ‘I want to taste the one that has that silly description’.” Never one to disappoint, Stephanie described Madaio Mastorazio as the “Lindsay Lohan of the cheese world” and suggested pairing it with “nicotine, Red Bull and an alcohol monitor.”