Meet the Cheesemaker Series Kicks Off at Antonelli's

Intimate setting offers hospitality, flavor, and information

John Antonelli and his staff welcomed students to class with the gracious enthusiasm and hospitality customers have come to expect and appreciate at his business. Antonelli’s Cheese Shop kicked off their Cheese 201: Meet the Cheesemaker series on Friday, Jan. 18, featuring David Eagle of Eagle Mountain Farmhouse Cheese Company.

Antonelli's Cheese House interior (Photo by Margaret Shugart)

There were slices of fresh bread, salted Marcona almonds, and Italian Castelvatrano olives on the tables already, and still and sparkling waters were offered all around. All of the classes are BYOB and several students brought various wines and beers with which to pair the night’s cheese selections. Cheese boards were left off the table during the introduction though, out of concern that some people may be tempted to eat all the cheese before beginning the class.

Cheese boards ready for class (Photo by Margaret Shugart)

David, who described himself as a “recovering lawyer”, began Eagle Mountain Farmhouse Cheese Company in Granbury, Texas, in 2010 and specializes in raw milk cheeses, touting the benefits of maintaining the original liveliness and integrity of good, quality milk. He retrieves the milk himself, straight from the Brown Swiss dairy cows at Sandy Creek Farms in Bridgeport, Texas, driving 60 miles in each way. In class, he had a photo of the cows from which his cheeses are made, naming them “Good cow,” then showed them in contrast to an industrial dairy farm with cattle crowded around corn feeders and standing hoof-deep in mud. The comparison was memorable.

Eagle Mountain Cheeses ready to sample (Photo by Margaret Shugart)

As are his cheeses. Students tried seven different types, beginning with the Birdville Reserve, a trappist style cheese that won first place in the American Cheese Society’s annual judging and competition in Montreal Canada in 2011. David explained the process for making and aging each cheese, and gave history lessons behind the names. Returning students said it was one of the best classes they had ever attended, and commented on what a treat it was to hear such intimate details about each cheese and the history behind the company.

Tasting notes (Photo by Margaret Shugart)

There were many surprises throughout the night, including pairings of salami from Olympic Finocchiona in Portland, red onion confit by The Girl and the Fig, a cranberry pecan preserve by the Tipsy Texan, and several others. And as a special treat, students were able to witness the beginning of the cheese making process: separating curds from whey. Some curds and whey were given to each participant and all were able to taste the start of a cheese, before any salt is added.

The beginning of the cheese-making process (Photo by Margaret Shugart)

At the end of the class, David revealed a special course offered by Eagle Mountain Farmhouse Cheese Company and Three Shepherds Cheese out of Vermont. On April 5-7 and April 12-14, they will be offering three-day hands-on beginning cheese making courses on site in Granbury, and an addition advanced cheese-making course on April 8-10th. The beginning course is $550 and the advanced is $595; both are limited to 10 students and fill on a first come, first serve basis. For more information or to register, call David Eagle directly: 817-579-0090.

David Eagle is the first of many visiting cheesemakers in the Cheese 201 class series: Pure Luck Dairy, Blue Heron Farm, and Brazos Valley Cheese will be in house at different times throughout the month of April. Tickets for the Cheese 201 classes go on sale at the end of February. For more information, visit their calendar of events. In addition to many of the delicious products offered in their classes, John and Kendall are now selling their hand-designed cheese-tasting books for $5.95, enabling their students and customers to keep careful note of all the subtle flavors and textures they experience tasting cheese in and out of class.

Antonelii's Cheese Shop

4220 Duval 531-9610

Tuesday - Saturday, 11am-7pm; Sundays, noon-5pm

A note to readers: Bold and uncensored, The Austin Chronicle has been Austin’s independent news source for over 40 years, expressing the community’s political and environmental concerns and supporting its active cultural scene. Now more than ever, we need your support to continue supplying Austin with independent, free press. If real news is important to you, please consider making a donation of $5, $10 or whatever you can afford, to help keep our journalism on stands.

Support the Chronicle  

One click gets you all the newsletters listed below

Breaking news, arts coverage, and daily events

Keep up with happenings around town

Kevin Curtin's bimonthly cannabis musings

Austin's queerest news and events

Eric Goodman's Austin FC column, other soccer news

Information is power. Support the free press, so we can support Austin.   Support the Chronicle