Cheesemongers to Face Off in Annual Competition
LONG ISLAND CITY — Who's going to be the big cheese?
Dozens of cheese sellers from around the country will face off this weekend in Long Island City for the 5th Annual Cheesemonger Invitational, a competition that will test their skills and knowledge of all things dairy and include an all-you-can-eat cheese fest.
"We coined it the greatest party in the Milky Way," said Adam Moskowitz, a third-generation cheese importer who founded the event. "The lactose-intolerant need not come."
The event will take place Sunday at Larkin Cold Storage, an importing warehouse owned by Moskowitz's family at 47-55 27th St. It will feature 48 cheesemongers — the folks who cut, serve and sell you your pecorino romano — who have been invited to participate from shops around the country, as well as local favorites like Bedford Cheese Shop, Eataly, Zabar's and Murray's.
The cheesemongers will go through 11 rounds of competition, including a written exam that tests their cheese knowledge and a blind taste test in which they're asked to try and identify the milk type, pasteurization and country of origin of the cheese bites they sample.
A cutting test will ask them to chop two perfect quarter pound pieces of cheese, while another will challenge them to wrap it like an expert. Another portion of the contest puts them in a "mock sales environment," where they'll be asked to show off their selling skills.
At 5 p.m., the event will open to ticket-holders, with tickets that cost $75 online or $100 at the door.
Attendees will get to sample the contestants' "perfect bites," where each is assigned a cheese and asked to pair it with other ingredients. Expected combos include a comte served with spicy pickled asparagus and bacon tomato jam or a manchego with Armenian walnuts and homemade apple cider gastrique.
Guests will then get to watch the top 10 finalists battle it out while enjoying an all-you-can-eat cheese-filled menu that includes fondue, a pasta alfredo and melted cheese flatbreads.
The details of the final rounds are being kept under wraps for now.
"If you love cheese, coming to this event will blow your mind," Moskowitz said.
The winner of the competition, selected by a panel of judges, will be rewarded with a trip to Europe to visit cheese makers through the travel company Cheese Journeys.
But Moskowitz said the event has a bigger purpose.
"This event is to actually foster a strong community amongst cheesemongers, to foster the craft of cheesemongering," he said, saying the cheese experts are "the most amazing people."
"Their depth and breadth of knowledge of cheese and food is extraordinary," he said.
"It's their moment to shine. It's their spotlight. It's their opportunity to be rock stars."