"Can I tell them my title?"
Amanda Mirt, smiling sheepishly, called out to Linda Smalley, the general manager of the Grocer and the Gourmet at KingsPointe Village, 61st Street and Yale Avenue. Smalley came out of her office, giving her the go-ahead.
"My official title is cheese wench," Mirt said, then laughed.
We suggested "cheese goddess" and "cheese-inatrix," neither of which seemed to appeal to her.
Suffice to say, she's the cheese expert at the Grocer and the Gourmet, an upscale deli and food market tied to D'Novo Lean Gourmet and LXi restaurants.
She and Tyler Mirt, who's a sommelier and general manager for LXi, will lead "Cheese 101," a cheese class that will also include wine pairings 7-9 p.m. Wednesday in the private room at D'Novo.
This month's "Cheese 101" will cover basic cheese production methods, milk types, textures, styles, aging, and basic pairings with wine and beer, Amanda Mirt said. Typically, she will have the class taste 12 to 14 cheeses, and pair the cheeses with a sparkling wine, a white, a red, a beer and a port.
Mirt also leads an "alternate class" that changes monthly, she said. So far, she's done organic cheese and wine, and "Bubbles & Cheese." She recommends taking "Cheese 101" first.
The "101" is very informal, she said, with much of it being question-and-answer based. Plus, those attending can discuss one another's tasting notes and thoughts on the cheeses.
"It's just like a date night," said Smalley, adding that eateries in other cities have been doing these for a while. "We certainly have the tools to do it here."
And they most definitely have the cheeses — between 140 and 160 of them, Mirt said, occasionally handing us a little black plate with nibbles of cheese.
One or two were "stinky," to borrow Mirt's description. She handed us a piece of Petit Pont L'eveque, a soft French cow's milk cheese with a washed rind and pungent aroma. The taste, thankfully, was far removed from stinky. Fabulous, in fact. So was the one we tried that was rubbed on the outside with lavender and espresso.
The three-sectioned case is like an edible, colorful atlas of the cheese world, with many American cheeses — from California, Washington, Oregon, Virginia and Indiana — plus various countries, like England, Italy, Greece, Norway and Belgium.
No matter where on Earth you end up while standing at the counter, you won't get lost — even if Mirt has stepped away for a second. She placed tasting, pairing and cheese maker notes, as well as other information, on most of the cheese labels.
"I like for every little cheese to be its own sommelier," she said.
But we had her be ours for the afternoon, asking Mirt to recommend three of her favorite cheeses and beverages to go with them.
‘American Craft Beer & Cheese’
That’s the theme for this month’s alternate cheese class from the Grocer and the Gourmet 7-9 p.m. June 24 next door in the private room at D’Novo, KingsPointe Village.
Cheeses to be sampled include farmstead cheeses from California, Oregon, Indiana, Vermont, Colorado, Oklahoma — “and anywhere else I decide to throw in at the last minute,” said Amanda Mirt, the upscale deli’s cheese expert. “I’m pretty bad at keeping the cheese list small — too many choices.”
She’ll pair those cheeses with craft beers from all over the country. Among them will be local Marshall Brewing Co., a representative from which will be there to talk about their beer and how they started here in Tulsa.
“So few people know the history of American cheese,” Mirt said. “So many people think of the processed yellow mess normally known as ‘American cheese’ and don’t realize what beautiful offerings there are from some amazing family farms.”
Each class is $35 per person. Mirt tries to limit the class to 25 or 30, but she’s been known to stretch this. “I do really like the opportunity to answer as many questions as possible.”
Classes for July have been set, too — “Cheese 101” 7-9 p.m. July 15, and “Italian Cheese & Wine” 7-9 p.m. July 22. Call to reserve a spot.
SAY CHEESE: THREE OF MIRT'S FAVORITES
Deep and tangy, Crocodile Tear is a petit cone of dense, aged goat cheese. Imitating its European cousins found all over French markets, the wrinkled rind has been flicked with a russet douse of paprika. It’s made in Greenville, Ind., by Capriole using pasteurized goat’s milk and vegetarian Rennet.
Pair with: Sauvignon Blanc, sparkling wine.
Price: $9.12 for 3-ounce cone.
Produced in the tradition of French Alpine cheeses, Tarentaise is made from imported French cultures, which give the cheese a deep complexity. Tarentaise reflects the terrain of Thistle Hill Farm. In the smooth, subtle nuttiness of the cheese, you can detect the soil, climate and flora of North Pomfret, Vt. This cheese is made with raw organic cow’s milk
Pair with: Chardonnay, Chenin Blanc, Pinot Grigio.
Price: $24.80 per pound — “But we will cut to whatever size,” Mirt said.
This is a traditional Manchego- style cheese from La Mancha made with raw sheep’s milk. After a period of aging, the rosemary that is pressed into the rind of the cheese imparts a wonderful flavor into the cheese. The herbs also lend the wheels a rustic, natural appearance. It’s aged a total of 15 months.
Pair with: Rioja, or a good Spanish white such as Albarino.
Price: $14.96 per pound.
What: Cheese and wine-pairing class by the Grocer and the Gourmet’s “cheese wench”
When: 7-9 p.m. Wednesday
Where: Private room at D’Novo, KingsPointe Village, 61st Street and Yale Avenue
Cost is $35 per person. Call 794- 3032 to reserve your spot.