Pat McCarthy Owner, Cheesemonger

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It's interesting that you can prepare your cheese in Seattle the same way someone would in Italy, and it'll taste different because of something seemingly random like the number of sunny days each cow experienced. Why is this so?

The climate affects the grass, corn, and even flowers cows eat, which then affects the taste of the cheese. We have cheeses from European cows that've eaten lots of flowers, and it gives the cheese a flowery aroma and taste. Cave-ripened cheese, on the other hand, looks like the inside of a cave, and you get this earthy tone on the surface of the rind. That's the kind of rind you probably don't want to eat.

What do you think of the folks who prefer their cheese with a tall glass of palate-cleansing beer instead of wine?

I love that idea. The Belgian cheeses taste really good with beer. Some people think red wine and cheese don't go together, and there's some truth to that; one tends to overpower the other. Of course, it's completely different with white wine.

What's the strangest cheese you've ever seen?

Maggot cheese from Sardinia. They sell it on the side of the road, and it looks disgusting. But I think some of the more interesting cheeses are the ones in Northern Italy that are covered in ash and buried in the ground. They call them pecorino di fossa, or "cheese of the hole," and they taste like straw and wine.

Are you cool with being called a cheesemonger?

I'm cool with it. It's kind of a weird word, but I don't see a good alternative. It's better than just being called a "cheese-shop owner."