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Cheese Culture
An expert shares the dairy state's first love


December 2016



Certified Cheese Professional Sabina Magyar shows off a chunk of cheddar-blue from Larry’s Market. Location: Thief Wine Shop & Bar, Milwaukee Public Market.
Photography by JOE LAEDTKE

Last July, Sabina Magyar, pencil in hand, sat with her head down in a room with more than 150 people during the American Cheese Society (ACS) Conference & Competition in Des Moines, Iowa. Her years working in the cheese industry as beverage and cheese manager at Glorioso’s Italian Market, classes at the Wisconsin Center for Dairy Research in Madison, ACS webinars, weeks of carving out 10 hours for study, nights reading — all led to this three-hour-long, intense exam to become a Certified Cheese Professional. Magyar used every minute, and her preparation paid off: She became one of four CCPs in the state of Wisconsin certified this year and one of only nine total statewide.

“It’s the sixth year that they offered (the exam), and there’s nothing else like it out there,” Magyar says, adding that within the wine industry there are several options for certifications. “So it’s unique — they are the organization for cheese in America.”

The exam focuses on North American cheeses and also covers those in Europe and other parts of the world as well as cheesemaking, storage, distribution, marketing, ingredients and nutrition, and regulations and safety. Certification means Magyar can explain the nutritional benefits of cheeses and talk about how cheeses are made and how that affects the taste, she says.

“It really goes from the very beginning of that product and that person who makes it, how they make it and where they make it all the way to someone eating it and enjoying it, so you can offer information that is not one-dimensional,” she says. “At the end of the day, it’s about (sharing) a great cheese with someone.”

While many of the test takers were there at the request of their employers, and sponsored by them, Magyar committed her own time and money out of her passion for cheese — and a dream to open her own cheese shop one day.

That day is approaching fast: This winter, The Village Cheese Shop will open in the Village of Wauwatosa. Magyar, who only considered a location in the Village, enthuses, “you can get bakery, coffee, olive oil and vinegar, flowers, cheese and wine all in a one- or two-block radius,” mentioning the area’s Anodyne café that’s also set to debut in 2017.

Her shop will feature cut-to-order artisan, farmstead and specialty cheeses, a charcuterie program focusing on Midwestern producers, gourmet groceries, cheese boards and accessories, a selection of cider and beer, and 100 to 130 bottles of wine for $15 to $20 each. Magyar plans to include a sit-down cheese bar with a small menu of salads and sandwiches and offer cheese-tasting classes and catering.

What cheese is Magyar excited about now? “Uplands’ Pleasant Ridge Reserve won ACS Best of Show three times — no one else has,” she says. “Then they make Rush Creek Reserve, a cheese for the wintertime, where the cows are no longer in the pasture; they’re eating hay. It’s a young cheese, and as it ages, it gets softer and gooier. You put a spoon in there, and spoon it on a piece of bread. It gets hearty and meaty, and it’s fun for a party.”

Looking ahead, she adds, “The cheese community is such a great community, and we’re in Wisconsin, so we have so much available to us. There are so many wonderful cheeses in the Midwest and across the country. I’d like to promote cheese culture here.”

3 Cheeses to Wow Holiday Guests

For a party, Sabina Magyar recommends focusing on one large cheese with accompaniments for a dramatic effect. You can have one cheese station or two or three that each showcase one spectacular cheese. Her suggestions:

Rush Creek Reserve, Uplands Cheese Company, Wisconsin.

A soft, washed-rind cheese made from cow’s milk. Made only in the autumn and available from late November. (Place your order early.)

Serve: Saw around the edges, peel back the top, and spoon it over a piece of crusty bread. Good with dried apricots and hazelnuts.

Wine: A German Riesling Spätlese.

Beer: A malty Belgian with some hops.

Gorgonzola Piccante, Italy. From Northern Italy, a classic blue cheese made from cow’s milk and aged.

Serve: On a baguette slice with a drizzle of honey. Good with fresh slices of pear and candied walnuts.

Wine: Moscato d’Asti or Amarone.

Cider: A slightly sweet, effervescent apple cider.

Red Rock, Roelli Cheese Haus, Wisconsin. A cheddar-blue, this Wisconsin original cheese is a stunning display of intensely dark orange with veins of blue mold running throughout.

Serve: Simply cut a piece. Good with dried cranberries or chutney and wheat crackers.

Wine: A fruity zinfandel.

Beer: Brown ale.


This story ran in the December 2016 issue of: