December 17, 2013

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Be Cheesy: Meet Justin Trosclair

To say that Justin Trosclair likes cheese is like saying the Cookie Monster appreciates a quality snikerdoodle from time to time – it’s a gross understatement.

Justin is milk’s-best-byproduct’s biggest fanboy. Besides constantly nibbling on the stuff, he has a solid history of producing and teaching classes about cheese, and works full time behind the counter in one of America’s best little cheese shops – Saint James Cheese Company, in New Orleans. The guy has won numerous accolades in cheese mongering competitions (yes, those do actually exist) and has been published in Culture Magazine, which is the cheesehead’s “Playboy,” complete with centerfolds of particularly gorgeous Goudas. So yes, Justin is a very credible source of cheese wisdom and experience, which he enthusiastically shares with anyone who is curious about what makes old milk become so damn tasty.

Fortunately for the population of New Orleans, Justin mans his position at the cheese counter eager to impart his knowledge upon other eager, albeit inexperienced, cheese lovers.  He’ll start by sampling: maybe a mild cheddar from the UK or a crowd pleasing alpine nugget of perfection. He’ll educate an entire crowd on what makes a good Gruyere great and why mold on Roqfort is something to be desired, not disposed of. Justin even guides the uninitiated to fancy goat milk cheeses, and teaches them about the mushroomy nuances that the aging process creates. Once I lost my own goat-cheese-virginity on some funky  French Selles Sur Cher, I never looked back.

He then allows customers to hone in on a genre that they’re particularly interested in, like hard grating cheese from Italy, for example. He patiently explains the specifics: why Pecorino Romano’s saltiness has distinct uses, and how it differs from its more popular Italian cousin, Parmigan Reggiano. Justin turns casual cheese shoppers into certified cheese snobs in no time, perhaps even making them realize (I can personally vouch for this) that they may have to ignore vacuum-sealed Kraft crap for the rest of their lives.

So why does this guy care so much about spreading cheesy gospel? Because he knows that in food-obsessed New Orleans, finding cheeses is just as life changing, to some, as finding Jesus is to others. People like Justin are true saints.

Are you hungry now? Do you want to see the light that glorious gourmet cheese radiates? Here are Justin’s picks for the average Joe to start off with when beginning their cheese-ucation:

  1. Point Reyes Toma: Cheesey in a good way. This cheese personifies that stereotypical cheese taste, and intensifies it.

  1. Cypress Grove Midnight Moon: A sweet gouda. A cheese monger’s go-to selection for people who can’t decide what they want; everybody will enjoy this.

  1. Cabot Clothbound Cheddar: A familiar favorite. This version keeps novices in their comfort zone with a cheese they already know and love, but allows them to experience what true quality can taste like.

And according to Justin, AVOID Bucheron, which has infiltrated the specialty cheese world. This stuff is really just mass-produced, factory made nonsense that uses its packaging and placement within the gourmet cheese section of stores to lure ignorant shoppers from far tastier options. This evil cheese goes against everything Justin preaches.

Just as we at DamnDog are dedicated to sharing our knowledge about what makes a bag truly badass, Justin is dedicated to turning the common cheese consumer into a sophisticated cheese connoisseur. So next time you’re in the New Orleans neighborhood, go get blessed by Saint Justin at Saint James Cheese Company.