Zagat: What makes stinky cheese so stinky?
It gets a bath in salt brine or booze every three days as it’s aging, and that encourages b. linens (yes, the same bacterium that causes foot odor, according to Wikipedia) and that turns the cheese sort of orangey and gooey, and gives it that really barn-yardy smell.
Zagat: When was the moment you were turned on to cheese?
That’s a hard one. I do remember when I was little, my mother took me to an Italian market in Framingham [That’s in Massachusetts; Risoli grew up in Ashland, a town next door.]. She came home with stinky cheese. She loved stinky cheese. In retrospect, I think that was probably Taleggio. It was so delicious. I didn’t become a cheese-ophile at that moment, but that’s the memory that’s always stuck with me.
Zagat: What’s the trick to remembering so many cheeses?
The trick is to immerse yourself in all aspects of the cheese. I try to put all my experience of the cheese into words somewhere in my head - the color of the rind, texture, whether it’s firm or squishy, what it smells like, [is it] “clean or grassy," and how the flavors progress over the next 30 seconds. I log it into my memory.
Zagat: Do you eat American cheese?
Melted on a burger, I guess. Sure.
L'Espalier is starting Salon Sessions, when Risoli and beverage director, Erich Schliebe, put together pairings of four cheeses and four beverages. "It's a real meal," says Risoli. Groups are limited to 15 guests (6 PM; last Thursday of every month; $55 per person; 617-262-3023).