Scardello's Ali Morgan Teaches Us How To Make The Perfect Cheese Plate.

Ali Morgan is obsessed with cheese. And as the wholesale manager for Scardello Artisan Cheese on Oak Lawn Avenue, she sees a lot of the dairy product on a daily basis.

She doesn't mind. Hell, she even goes so far as to refer to herself as a “cheesemonger.”

Point is, the girl loves to talk about cheese. And since we do as well, we figured it was time to have a sit-down with Morgan and to have her help us figure out the proper way to make the perfect cheese plate.

How long have you worked at Scardello now?
A little over two years.

Do you have a degree in cheese? Is that possible?
[Laughs.] No, I have my bachelors in fashion design from UNT. After four years of being totally immersed in the fashion world, I realized it wasn't for me. Hindsight, right?

How did you get started at Scardello?
I moved into the neighborhood next to Scardello. I had never been inside of a shop solely dedicated to cheese. Hot damn!

I started hanging out in there all the time, and once they realized they couldn't just get me to go away, I approached Rich Rogers, owner of Scardello, for a job. I told him that I either would do their dishes and he could just pay me in cheese. I mean, in the end, it's really all about cheese, right?

The rest is history. I was promoted to wholesale manager a little over a year ago, and I love it. I get to work with chefs and restaurants and truly creative individuals, providing them all with amazing cheese. I love collaborating and I love making people smile — especially if it's with cheese.

What is your favorite cheese?
This one is easy. It's the question I get asked the most. And, yes, it is a stinky cheese. It's called Scharfe Maxx.

You may see it around town on cheese plates or incorporated into various dishes — because I freaking love this cheese. It's a raw cow's milk cheese from Switzerland that has a beautiful orange rind. This is due to the fact that they wash it with a brine solution that promotes the growth of a bacteria that gives it that sweet, sweet funk. They age it for a minimum of six months to give it a rich, meaty flavor followed with a mouth-coating texture. It is great for snacking on — or melting on anything you can find! We pretty much have it all the time, so do yourself a favor and come try it!

What would your “perfect bite” be?
My perfect bite is, all together, a piece of dark chocolate, a rich nutty cheese such as Gruyere and, heck, throw some bacon on top. Everything tastes better with bacon, right? Oh, and how could we forget the beer to chase it down with — a Belgian Quad of sorts, like Three Philosphers.

Oh, that mention of bacon leads me into the cheese that I collaborated on with a local Texas goat cheese maker, On Pure Ground. We are now carrying it at Scardello, and it's called Ali's Bacon Bliss. Freshly made every week on Wednesday, this creamy goat cheese has applewood smoked bacon and fresh organic fennel dispersed throughout. Hey, I may be crazy, but bacon and cheese? Sign me up!

Which restaurants in Dallas serve Scardello?
All Trulucks locations (Addison, Uptown, Southalake), The Common Table, The Cedars Social, CampO, Salum, Ritz Carlton, Fearings, Nosh (Uptown and Plano), Private Social, Local and The Mason Bar. Hopefully I haven't left any out. There are some restaurants that use us for special occasions, too. Forgive me if I left anyone out!

How much saran wrap do you go through in a week?
Honestly, I have no idea. I hate that crap, though. It sticks to everything you don't want it to and doesn't stick to everything that you do. Stupid saran wrap suffocating our cheese! Cheese is a living thing that needs to breathe like everything else. We have to keep our cheese wrapped in it, though, because if we wrapped them in cheese paper, no one would buy a cheese they couldn't see.

We get asked all the time why we don't recommend to wrap your cheese in plastic, yet all of ours is wrapped in it. We take every cheese out almost daily, which lets it breathe, and then we re-wrap it, which keeps it alive and fresh. Being a cheesemonger, it's your duty to not only sell cheese, but to take care of it. It's harder than you think, and believe me, I have a lot to learn on that front. I'm just a baby cheesemonger.

What is the dumbest cheese joke you have heard from a customer?
It has to be the “cut the cheese” jokes. They are never-ending and, I have to admit, I still chuckle when I hear them.

Along with all of their magnificent cheese, Scardello also offers a variety of weekly classes ranging from their most popular, Cheese 101, to another favorite, The Beer vs. Wine Smackdown, and all sorts of seasonal and regional classes. You can see all of the classes listed on their website, in addition to being able to sign up and pay for them online. For $35, you get about an hour and a half of education, with up to four wines and 10 to 17 cheeses.

It's a laid back atmosphere and, in my experience, you usually walk away with a couple more friends than you walked in with.

Fortunately for us, though, Morgan was willing to give Central Track readers some tips on how to make the perfect cheese plate, free of charge.

Pointers For The Perfect Cheese Plate:
– Use cheeses with different textures: Try a soft cheese, like Eden, a brie style wrapped in fig; use a hard cheese, like Brebis Despelette, a sheeps milk cheese rubbed in chili pepper powder; or go for a “wild card” cheese, something stinky and different, like Bleu DiBufala.
– If you are a pro, you can choose cheeses from different milk types (goat, cow and sheep) and from different regions (Italy, France, America, etc.).
– Choose a few accompaniments, such as dried fruit, nuts, honey, anything pickled, crackers or bread
– Compliment the cheese with what you are drinking. Red wine pairs well with fruit and nuts. White wine pairs well with fresh fruit. Beer pairs well with savory foods like olives, pickles and nuts.
– Know your audience. Are they picky eaters or risk takers? This will help you in choosing the cheeses.
– Eat your cheese from mild to more pungent. Starting with a stinky cheese, like blue cheese, will destroy your palate and inhibit you from getting the real flavor of the milder cheeses.

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