Jessica Affatato has a huge appetite for cheese. And thankfully, for her career’s sake, so do Long Islanders.
Affatato is the big cheese at Harbor Cheese and Provisions, which specializes in and showcases domestic and imported artisanal varieties. She sells her Brie, blue and basket cheeses — and many others — direct at farmers markets and pop-up events, and online.
“People are becoming more engaged with their food,” Affatato says. “They want to know where it comes from, how it’s made, its history, its connection to our culture and to their plate.”
As the cheesemonger-in-chief, Affatato hosts pop-ups that include lectures, tastings and, most recently, “makings.” Her business is one of only a handful on Long Island to host private classes in cheese making and platter design.
THE ART OF CHEESE
Babylon Cheese Cellar has offered instructional classes for the six years it has been open. In the past two years, these courses have grown in popularity, according to manager Tiffany Pomarico.
“Attendees love to pick our brains about how to best store cheese or pair it with different foods and beverages,” says Pomarico, the shop’s full-time “platter artist.”
Pomarico teaches a course on how to design cheese plates. A separate class is available on how to re-create its signature fondue recipes and pasta cheese sauces. The Babylon Cheese Cellar carries a wide selection of imported and domestic meats and cheeses, Italian oils and vinegars, crackers, jams, honey, tapenades, pastas and gourmet chocolate.
It seems, no matter how you slice — or spread it — on Long Island, there’s a hunger for cheese.
“My feeling is that cheese is where wine was 25 years ago back when most consumers’ engagement with it was red or white,” says Affatato, 34, of East Northport. “Now, the vocabulary of wine has permeated our culture to where consumers are more comfortable asking for a particular grape or flavor bouquet.”
Curd consumers “have an amorphous concept” of what they want from a cheese, she says, but they don’t always know how to explain what it is. It’s through instructional events like those popping up on Long Island that people are better able to understand the differences between nutty, creamy, funky and peppery cheeses.
WHAT YOU CAN EXPECT FROM CLASSES
Harbor Cheese and Provisions
WHEN | WHERE 6:45-8:45 p.m. April 16 at 99 Horse Hollow Rd., Locust Valley. Space is limited.
INFO 516-582-9923, harborcheese.com
COST $15 plus materials
A two-hour mozzarella- and ricotta-making class begins with a tasting of different “pasta filata” styles such as mozzarella, burrata (made from mozzarella and cream) and caciocavallo (a stretched-curd cheese made out of sheep’s or cow’s milk) to show how they are all related. In this beginners course, Affatato explains how the curds are made from milk. Each participant receives a bowl of curds to cover with hot water, which they then stretch to make balls of mozzarella. Customers take home their creations.
Babylon Cheese Cellar
WHEN | WHERE 51 Deer Park Ave., Babylon; classes scheduled by request.
Two-hour closed events include “Cheese Plate 101,” an introductory course that walks attendees through six types of cheeses and discusses the consistency, place of origin and how each is made and cared for in caves. “Platter Me Pretty” takes an artful approach to creating a cheese plate. Guests learn how to arrange cheeses to balance varieties by type, color and flavor, Pomarico says.
As part of this course, attendees learn how to create the shop’s signature rose-shaped edible cheese arrangements. “How to Fondue” breaks down the cheeses used to create Babylon Cheese Cellar’s fondue on the spot. Similarly, “Pasta Party” teaches attendees the origin of a handful of Italian cheeses and how to make a signature cheese sauce for pasta meals. After the sauce is made, the class is treated to a pasta party with homemade garlic bread.
WHERE 216B Main St., Port Jefferson
INFO 631-403-4944; cestcheesepj.com
COST $50 includes wine or beer
C’est Cheese hosts seasonal “Making the Perfect Cheese Plate” classes. A separate fondue making class is in the works for sometime in March.