Monday 4 November 2013

Stories From Behind the Beach: It Ain't Easy Being Cheesy

"You were never the same way twice, I'm falling in love..."
                                                           -Blue Rodeo

  I was wrong.

  I know, Constant Reader, as you will no doubt remind me, I am often wrong.  The frequency of incidents of my demonstrated wrongness is depressing and occasionally alarming.

 Yet, I continue to point it out, Constant Reader, because if I don't, I know you sure as hell will.

  I have the emails to prove it.

  This time, though,  I was wrong about something important.

  I was wrong about food.

  More precisely, I was wrong about cheese.

   Until quite recently, I hated most cheese.   Couldn't stand the smell, the texture, the taste, any of it, all of it, whatever.
   Cheddar?  No thanks.
   Colby?  I'll pass.
  Muenster?  Yeahno.
  Limburger?  See above.
  Et Cetera, on down the list.

   I didn't start eating cheese on pizza until well into my 20s, when I discovered that the mozzarella-esque cheese on most pizzas is essentially flavourless topping glue.

   So, with my aversion to most curd-n-whey related foodstuffs well and firmly established, I saw little reason to wander into...


    ...Until the owners invited me to stop by and check the place out.

     Yale and Jenny Lowery  love Port Dover.  Originally From Guelph, Jenny moved to North Carolina, where she graduated from high school and went on to college, graduated from Appalachian State with a marketing degree, met and married Yale, then bounced around North Carolina and Tennessee before moving north to Canada.  Mostly in that order.

     While living and working in Brantford, the Lowerys made a trip to Port Dover one summer day a couple of years ago, and that was it.

    They'd found home.  They knew they wanted to spend the rest of their lives living in Port Dover.  The couple found a house, settled in, and lived the life of normal sane people, commuting to work at corporate jobs in Brantford every day.  Life was good.

    Then, one day, in September, 2013, Jenny decided she needed some cheese.

    And everything changed.

    Jenny is an admitted "cheese nerd."  Combine her love of cheese with her love of her new hometown, and she's not  driving to the grocery store to pick up a package of Kraft Singles.


   She's keeping it real local, and real tasty.

    She stopped into her favourite (and only) local cheese shop in downtown Port Dover.  While making her purchase, she started talking to the owner. She learned that he had decided that the cheese business wasn't for him, he was selling the business and starting over...
... in Australia.

    A few conversations and negotiations later, Jenny and Yale dove headlong into the world of the retail entrepreneur.

     If  you're a local, I know what you might be thinking:

    They bought a specialty business, in downtown Port the END of tourist season?

    Hey, we don't always get to pick the timing of our opportunities.  But, we can determine what happens after.

     Jenny and Yale aren't complete greenhorns.  Jenny has a solid marketing background, Yale has a solid sales background, and both aren't afraid to work long and hard to achieve their goals...

... and it is paying off.

    In their first six weeks of business, with little advertising or fanfare, they are ahead of their sales projections.

    Walking into the store, it is easy to see some of the reasons why:

    It's a small space that doesn't feel cramped.  It is clean, uncluttered, organized, but inviting.

   The case in front of the owners is the "Canadian" case:  All local cheeses, all the time.  Norfolk's own Jensen Cheese is represented, along with Gunn's Hill from Woodstock and Bright Cheese from, as the name suggests,  Bright, Ontario.
     The case to the right is filled with cheeses from around the world: Stilton, gouda, swiss, brie, camembert, mozzarella, romano...

   you name it, they've likely got it. And if you name it and they haven't got it, they'll get it.

      They don't just sell cheese- The Dover Cheese Shop also sells cheese accessories, like cutting boards and brie bakers (at $8, a seriously good deal.  Need a quick gift this holiday season?  Stop in, pick up a brie baker and a wheel of brie, and Wha-bamm! You are a hero with discerning taste, my friend... and change from a $20.)....

 ... And a selection of snack foods from nearby farms and suppliers, like The Cider Keg and Barrie's Asparagus .

   Kettle chips, teas, salsas and dip mixes, all of  it available right here on the....

   "Okay," Interrupting Constant Reader interrupts, "We get it- the place is clean, has lots of selection, yadda yadda, big deal-  any big supermarket is like that.  Why should I shop here?"

   Because a supermarket has never made me enjoy cheese.

    With an overview of the store and it's origins out of the way, Yale started pulling out cheeses for me to sample. I held up my hand  and dropped the bomb:

     "I don't like cheese."

    Jenny didn't miss a beat.

    "No problem.  Everyone's palate is different, Yale's favourites are different from mine.  Everyone has different tastes. Try this and let me know what you think."

    Okay- I'm here, they're nice folks, I'll try it just to be polite.
      I popped the proffered sample of Bright's four year old cheddar in my mouth
     Not bad.
     Not bad at all.
     Much better than I expected any food that was four years old to taste.

      Next  I sampled a really nice Wisconsin produced gouda/swiss blend with a little touch of Merlot added- nice smooth, mild, a great sandwich cheese, I thought.  Then Jenny introduced me to "dessert cheeses."

      Mango and Ginger Stilton- Off the chain!  What a great  flavour combination.

 See, here's the deal:  Yale and Jenny have an enthusiasm for cheese which is infectious.  They are cheese evangelists.  From the moment you walk  in the door, you start to understand and share their passion.  If you are standing in line to buy a pound of cheddar, the Lowerys are going to ply you with samples of any  number of cheeses, and every cheese has a story.
    You aren't leaving with just the cheddar, and you have enjoyed the experience, and you will discover cheeses you never even knew existed.  Like this one...

   okay, you might want to pour yourself a drink and sit down...



    Chocolate Cheddar.

    It.  Is.  Amazing.

    Yeah, I'm digging this cheese thing now.

    Need a cheese tray?  No problem, The Dover Cheese Shop can build you a custom cheese tray, and short notice orders are no problem.  They will even put it on your tray- THAT is a brilliant idea.  I am not one to worry overmuch about aesthetics, but when SWMBO puts out the Tiffany silverware and the Wedgewood plates, nothing spoils the "Ain't we fancy" mood than a big ol' plastic tray of cheese in the middle of the table.

   Next spring, The Dover Cheese Shop is going to do something really, really clever:

     They are planning to offer "Boat Baskets."  Call ahead and they will prepare a picnic basket for you to pickup and take with you to the boat. It is a brilliant concept for provisioning daytrips, especially with guests you want to impress.

   Do yourself a favour- stop into The Dover Cheese Shop.  They're open Wednesday through Sunday  at 318A Main Street, just down from Stoney's Hardware.  Check 'em out on facebook too.