In the Market: An Interview with Rachel Klebaur of Orrman’s Cheese Shop

May 18, 2018 11:34 am

Rachel Klebaur and her husband José own and operate Orrman’s Cheese Shop at 7th Street Public Market. In fact, they were among the inaugural group of vendors there. Now coming up on their sixth year, Orrman’s is an anchor in the very center of the market. And their cheese case is something to see.

Each cheese is presented with a handwritten flag describing the milk used, flavor notes and region. If you stop to admire their case, you will immediately be offered a free sample. Take it.

But my favorite part about shopping at Orrmans’s is that it’s approachable. And so is, for that matter, Rachel, their owner and head cheesemonger. I enjoyed one of their baguettes, this one with burrata, ham, and spicy corn jam, and then sat down with Rachel to discuss her path from the Chelsea Market in New York City to Charlotte’s own mission-based food hall.


What is the best part of your job?

Rachel: It’s really buying the cheese, and eating it. Tasting it. It’s the best part (laughing). We have a tiny case, so we have to figure out what fits in there: figuring out the puzzle pieces that will fit together, for the customer to choose a variety of different cheeses and not have the same sort of flavor, the same style, on their cheese plate. I also want to try things myself. Filling the holes so we don’t have too many blue cheeses, or washed rind cheeses—even distribution, different flavors.


Something you would like people to know about Orrman’s Cheese Shop?

If it relates to cheese, we do it. We make cheese platters, we do catering. We can do any sort of party. We have a wedding coming up where we are going to present a cheese table. I’m getting together a cheese wedding cake for another customer.


What was your path to the 7th Street Public Market?

7th Street Public Market was our first location. We’ve been here almost six years. My husband and I were living in New York City and it was just getting too expensive to continue to pay rent and work. My sister lives in Charlotte and told me that this market was opening up, and they were looking for a cheesemonger. Being in the business for so many years prior to that and being a manager at a small cheese retail shop in a market similar to this—I was interested. So, then we moved.


Can you describe the transition from being a cheese retail store into full food service with sandwiches, soups, desserts, etc.?

We were a cheese retail only for about 3-4 months. Then we added grilled cheese sandwiches. You could purchase cheese and sandwiches at the same counter. Then, it got to be too cumbersome. It was hard to help the customer. We decided to take over the bar. So, you can buy cheese or you can buy a sandwich at lunch on separate sides of the counter and do it with ease—not having to maneuver around anyone.

Now, we do Raclette night every Thursday. And we have the regularly scheduled wine and cheese classes with Assorted Table. We’ll do other events with vendors here in the market.


Do you have a favorite food to pair with your cheese from Zia Pia Imports + Italian Kitchen?

One of the chocolates with the gorgonzola dolce. They have those great Italian chocolates. Raw, with a grainy sort of texture to counterbalance any sharpness from the blue cheese.


What about with Point Reyes blue cheese?

Yeah, that one goes really nicely with chocolates because it’s not subtle. It’s got a lot of flavor— a lot of punch, some acidity, and the cherry notes really come out and pair really nicely with the blues.


Is there a most unexpected cheese and food pairing at 7th Street Public Market?

Viva Raw does a series of vegan dinners. We’ve participated in one of them so far. Hopefully we’ll do some more in the future. José, being the chef of that dinner, and not using any cheese, takes the ingredients from Viva Raw to incorporate into a four-course, plated dinner. We incorporated the turmeric milk into the dessert. We made a few vegetable dishes. But you know, the cheese shop doing a dinner that doesn’t include any cheese!


How would you compose a cheese plate for someone looking to get more into fine cheese?

We give them a taste of the Prairie Breeze Cheddar. It’s everyone’s favorite. Kids love it, adults love it. It’s a cow’s milk cheese. It’s the one that is easiest to eat. Start with that one.

And for someone looking to elevate their appreciation of cheese to a more advanced stage?

Then we may lead them to the more pungent cheeses— something that is more complex, the finish is longer. Some cheeses you may have to think about. The flavors build on one another. Some sheep’s milk cheese are what we call ‘quiet’ cheeses. Because it doesn’t speak right away.


I am preparing Cacio e Pepe, and writing about it. Typically, I would use a blend of Pecorino and Parmigiano. Is there a Pecorino you would recommend?

Hiding in my walk-in cooler, I always have some cheeses squirrelled away that aren’t in the cheese case. One of those right now is a Pecorino Cacio de Roma. It’s milder, it’s sweeter, not as salty as Pecorino Romano. It grates nicely. It’s going to melt into the recipe.

And what about an American cheese, similar to Parmigiano?

A great American alternative to Parmigiano is Cupola from Wisconsin. It’s aged one year, nutty flavor. And normally we have Dry Jack. It’s what the Italians used in World War II when they couldn’t import Parmigiano to the States. So, they came up with their own type of Parmesan. They just aged-out Monterrey Jack for a really long time, started calling it ‘Dry Jack’ and grated it on their pasta.


I will return to Orrman’s for a block of Dry Jack. I always did enjoy my cheese with notes of historical significance. For the next newsletter, we will keep it academic as I discuss the science of raw food with Scott Harris, owner of Viva Raw.—Ben Jarrell



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