“I Talk to Cheese”

You have to love a cheesemonger who talks to her cheese.‍ Marie Schmittroth, the head cheesemonger at Petaluma Market, does just that...
Marie Schmittroth, the head cheesemonger at Petaluma Market
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You have to love a cheesemonger who talks to her cheese.

Marie Schmittroth, the head cheesemonger at Petaluma Market, does just that. 

“I’ll pick up a wheel and say, “Look at you. You’re so handsome.’ I chat with them as I cut 'em.”

And cut them, she does. Though many cheeses come already cut and wrapped in cryovac or another food-grade wrapping, there’s nothing like a cheese cut directly from the wheel. That’s the way to make sure the cheese you eat tastes the way the cheesemaker intended.

Marie has a background so diverse, it’s astonishing. She started out as a buyer in produce, went to culinary school, became a pastry chef, then a caterer, ran a cafe, and finally, lucky for us, was asked to run a cheese department.

In that first job, she learned about cheese when mentored by the late French-born Collette Hatch, also known as Madame Fromage, a cheese expert and hero. “She taught me how to wrap cheese for its health, what rinds are supposed to look like, what to look for, how to assess quality, how to display cheese, and so much more.”

If you live anywhere in the north bay (north of San Francisco), you’d know that Petaluma Market is a destination to find local cheese. Whether it’s the difficult to find Andante Dairy goat cheese named after musical terms, the beloved and recently returned Teleme, or tiny, new cheesemakers like Mt Eitan Creamery, you can find it here. Better established, but still not widely found, are Valley Ford Cheese, Stepladder Creamery, Cowgirl Creamery or Nicasio Valley Cheese. You ask, and if it’s not there, Marie will know when it will be.

Marie, who has worked at Petaluma Market for 18 years, knows all the cheesemakers. Personally. A new or established artisan cheesemaker will come in with their new creations; a cheese in the midst of development. Marie will taste it, and willingly put that cheese on the shelf, later providing customer and personal feedback to the cheesemaker as they develop the cheese to its final form and flavor. 

“There’s such a learning curve to develop a new cheese.” However, not only do cheesemakers have a friend in Marie, if you, as a customer, are wandering the overflowing cheese department, Marie is sure to engage you. “I offer customers, who are not sure what they want, tastes of a few cheeses, and ask them to tell me what they like. From there I can suggest something for them to take home.”

Marie grew up in Detroit, but childhood memories of California drew her here. She’s glad she’s here. And we are too.  Stop by the Petaluma Market, meet master cheesemonger Marie, and get her suggestions on what to try next. Then come back, and try something else. 


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