There’s more to cheese than meets the cracker, just ask Gabby Lasersmith, specialty cheese manager at Kowalski’s Market in Excelsior. “I love cheese because it is so nuanced,” she says. “There’s thousands of different kinds. They come from all over the world, the science behind it is fascinating and it is ultimately a sustainable agriculture.”
Lasersmith loves cheese so much that she decided to become a bit of an expert at it. After passing an extensive test through the American Cheese Society, the four-year Kowalski’s veteran is a certified cheese professional. She demonstrated her knowledge in a wide range of areas: cheese varieties and regions; milk types, animal breeds and how milk differs from breed to breed and season to season; production; cheese history; regulations and recipes upheld by the Protected Designation of Origin, a European entity that protects the heritage of cheeses and other products that originated in various European countries; sanitation and food handling; importation laws and practices; merchandising; principles of pairing and terroir and more.
Lasersmith’s desire to expand her knowledge hasn’t ended with her certification. “I would love to visit the Basque region, located [near the western end of the Pyrenees mountain range between Spain and France],” she says. “Not only is it absolutely gorgeous there, they produce some of the best sheep milk cheeses around. Basque region cheeses produce some of my favorite flavor profiles, which range from mild and sweet to piquant and tangy, but they all seem to share a quality of fruitiness and nuttiness.”
Elevated profiles aside, cheese inherently can be a guilty pleasure. Does Lasersmith have one? “Tillamook sharp cheddar—It’s my go-to sandwich cheese,” she says. “Sometimes, I just want a regular ol’ sandwich, nothing fancy.” —Renée Stewart-Hester
Kowalski’s Market, 440 Water St., Excelsior; 952.229.8300; kowalskis.com