A Night With DC’s Cheesemonster

Last week, I was invited to attend generalist’s highly anticipated debut event Cheese 101 – an evening of wine, cheese, education, and conversation with DC’s own local cheesemonger Alice Bergen Phillips.

generalist has a simple mission: to bring subject matter experts together with curious people who want to learn more about a topic they’re interested in. On the books so far is South African Wines (April 25), First Time Homebuyers – The Basics (May 6) and Whiskey 101 (May 30). The groups are kept small, to encourage intimate conversation and a relaxed atmosphere.

I arrived at the charming pop-up space District Space in Brookland just before the event and was greeted with glass of bubbly and an applause-worthy table setting that Alice had prepared for us.

The tasting went clock-wise, so the placement of each delicious wedge was quite deliberate.

(clockwise from top) Chevre, Mt. Alice, Ossau Iraty Estive, Clothbound Cheddar, Colston Bassett Stilton

“Yes, being a cheesemonger is a thing,” Alice began. “Think of it like, a cheesemonger is to cheese what a sommelier is to wine.” Needless to say, she knows a lot about it.

Over the next two hours, Alice took us on a vivid tour of Spain, England, Vermont, and the south of France. We were introduced to dairy cow pastures where the flowers and herbs affect the taste of the cow’s milk, and led through ‘aging’ caves where cheeses are coated in lard and wrapped in cheesecloth before they age. We learned that “to cheddar” is actually a verb, and that there is only one dairy left in the world that produces Stilton blue cheese by hand. We also learned that you can actually go to school for cheesemaking at the University of Wisconsin; I’m going to write a strongly-worded letter to my high school guidance counselor for not making me aware of this.

Unlike a seminar or information session that can feel stiff and impersonal, the generalist event felt like a family dinner. Our wine glasses were dutifully refilled throughout the evening as we munched on artisanal crackers and quizzed Alice about her ideal grilled cheese, charcuterie pairings, and what she’s watching on Netflix.


A massive cheers to generalist, Alice Bergen Phillips, and District Space for making Cheese 101 possible!

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