FAIRFIELD, Conn. — To hear co-owner Laura Downey tell the story, you would think the Fairfield Cheese Company was charmed from the start.
It was the height of the recession when she and business partner Chris Palumbo decided to open the specialty cheese shop in a modest Post Road storefront.
“Some people thought we were a little insane,” she told a packed audience at a recent Fairfield Public Library talk.
But the shop opened its doors during the height of “foodie revolution,” which champions all things local and artisanal, and at a time when Americans were turning a fresh eye toward “good” fat and other health benefits often found in high-quality cheese.
“There’s a real movement toward going back to real food,” the Fairfield resident said. “It’s all sort of worked out in favor of Fairfield Cheese Company.”
Downey figures food couldn’t get a lot more ‘real’ than cheese, a product that — like bread, wine and beer — has been around for centuries.
“If people have been eating it for 7,000 years, that’s a pretty good track record for health and nourishment,” she said.
Downey told the crowd that one of her favorite things to do at Fairfield Cheese Company is to host Cheese School, sessions that regularly sell out given all the cheddar lovers in the region.
In classes, students learn about the seven types of cheese and how each are made and served while sampling a piece of each type. Downey staged a mini-course at the library, much to the delight of those gathered.
A certified cheese professional, Downey ran through all the categories — from fresh goat cheese to bloomy brie to blue Gorgonzola — and answered dozens of questions along the way. She said her goal with the school and the shop is to demystify cheese and offer a friendly, accommodating setting for cheese lovers to understand what quality, well-made cheeses are.
“We’re the last stop in a cheese’s journey to the consumer,” she said, noting she has limited selling space. “We curate the case. I’ve decided what I think is good and I hope everybody else likes it, too.”
For information on Fairfield Cheese Company and its Cheese School sessions, visit fairfieldcheese.com.
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