Cheese Tasting 101 With Montclair’s Marie Fromage

Cheese Tasting

Montclair native Mary Connolly knows cheese. You might say she is the Big Cheese. You don’t go by Marie Fromage, unless you know your stuff. Connolly will be teaching a Cheese Tasting 101 class at My Social Heirloom in Montclair on April 23 to share her knowledge.

Mary ConnollyMary’s love for cheese began at The Cheese Shop of Upper Montclair when she worked as a cheese monger and sandwich maker. “I was one of the first employees when Dave Quinn took it over and it was still a full-on cheese shop. I had to study up on all of the cheeses we had to offer so that I could make recommendations to the customers. I found it fascinating and I was hooked,” Connoly tells Baristanet.

Connolly went on to earn a culinary degree from the French Culinary Institute (now known as the International Culinary Center) and a cheese boot camp training certificate from Murray’s Cheese in New York City.

Connoly says true artisanal cheese is “a labor of love from the makers and you can taste it in every bite” and at the class you’ll get a hands-on experience by trying samples of seven artisanal cheeses. By the end of the tasting class, you will know the difference between a bloomy rind, a natural rind and everything in between. You’ll learn how to put together a cheese board for a party, wine and beer pairing ideas, proper cheese storage and how to approach a cheese counter.


Brebirouss d'Argental, a sheep milk cheese from France.
Brebirouss d’Argental, a sheep milk cheese from France.

Also included in the class are:

  • Breads, nuts, dried fruit and other accompaniments
  • Dark Chocolate
  • Cheese reference sheets, chock full of info to help guide you after the class
  • Notebook + Pencil

And don’t forget to BYOB! Connolly says water, still or sparkling, goes great with everything (still water will be provided), but recommends beer, Prosecco, dry white wine or a low tannin red, such as Pinot Noir.

When asked what her favorite cheese was, Connolly replied, “The stinkier the better!” She also said she likes oozing bloomy rinds and washed rind cheeses the best, but says an aged gouda can also be sublime. So what makes for a great cheese plate? Connolly says to follow these tips and you’ll be the hostess with the mostest:

  • Three to five Cheeses will usually do the trick.
  •  Include a variety of textures and animal milk types.
  • Connolly uses a handy phrase to remember what to put on the plate: “Something bloomy, something blue, something Alpine, washed rind too” (“and I like to throw in a “wild card” cheese for some extra fun”).
  • In addition to bread & crackers offer some interesting accompaniments: do a sweet & salty contrast (try fresh fruit, jams, honey, caramel) or play off of the flavors present in the cheese: nuts, buttered popcorn, dried fruit, dried meats. The bottom line is to have fun with it!


The Cheese Tasting 101 is $35 per person. Reserve your spot here




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