Did you know that just four ingredients make up thousands of types of cheese in seven different categories? Self-proclaimed cheesemonger Lisa Griffin (and bonafide American Cheese Society Certified Professional) will readily geek out about all things cheese—from how it’s made, to how it tastes, where it comes from, and what food to pair it with. “The most important question is what you don’t like because that eliminates certain things right away. And it depends on what the occasion is,” she says. Whether you are going to a picnic, throwing a party, or having a romantic dinner at home, you can expect a personalized cheese experience at Monger’s Palate (192 Driggs Ave).
After culinary school and several years of working in fine dining, Lisa began to focus on her favorite food item (you guessed it, cheese) and honed her expertise at NYC’s famed Murray’s Cheese and then at Lucy’s Whey cafe. “Cheesemonger” harkens back to the days when you’d go to a central market where designated mongers of all kinds would sell goods. In that spirit, Lisa has curated an assortment of old world staples featuring international and domestic cheese makers.
To Lisa, creating the perfect cheese plate is an art. An homage to the painter’s palette, Monger’s Palate is a cozy space where Lisa has curated a variety of different textures and flavors within all seven categories: Fresh cheese, Bloomy Rind, Washed Rind, Natural Rind, Alpine, Uncooked Pressed, and Blue. Everything else is a careful selection of staples that complement cheese: meats, breads, honeys, nuts, pickles.
Everyone’s palate is different, so based on your preferences Lisa will give you a mouthwatering cheese tasting tour along with a glimpse into its origins and a bit of storytelling. “Wein Kase Lagrein” is a meaty cheese from the Italian Alps where a lot of German is spoken. It’s a cow’s milk cheese that is soaked in the local legrein wine with added herbs and garlic. “The end result is a cheese that almost tastes like salami. I love it as a wild card on a cheese plate because it’s really universal and pairs really well with everything that meat goes with,” Lisa says.
In the span of 15 minutes, we learn about an assortment of cheese pairings: Kunik, a locally-sourced bloomy rind cheese that takes the tanginess of goat’s milk and adds cow’s cream for a rich, buttery flavor goes well with blueberry lavender jam or tomato jam. Roomano, a cow’s milk similar to gouda that when paired with piedras, a chocolate covered almond, tastes like a Butterfinger. Brie Fernier, made in a dairy cooperative just outside of Paris, has a roasted broccoli flavor that when paired with caramelized walnuts, butterscotch, or caramel, can be served as an appetizer or a dessert.
When in doubt, serve your cheese with honey, Lisa recommends. “You’re never gonna go wrong with putting them together,” and to cover your bases, Monger’s Palate has a full shelf of an eclectic collection of honey. Her sandwiches are packaged pairings of some of her favorite combinations. The MP Classic is a rosemary ham sandwich, that with an Alpine-style cheese and caramelized onion jam, has a French onion soup feel.
At a time when we are reeling from the loss of so many beloved Greenpoint shops, Monger’s Palate is a welcome addition to the neighborhood. We’re looking forward to many more gloriously cheesy times with Lisa. Next stop for us is picnicking in McGolrick with a Monger’s Palate picnic basket!
Monger’s Palate is located at 192 Driggs Ave. Visit them for daily tastings, cheese stories, and culinary tidbits. Follow them on Instagram and Facebook to stay updated on upcoming events and classes.