Jackie Mau and Kurt Mullican want you to say, “cheese.”
Mau and Mullican will open Greys Fine Cheese & Entertaining in February. “You can come in and buy cheese cut to order,” Mau says. “You can buy a cheese board that we will have readily available for you. You can custom order one.”
But their main goal is “education,” Mau says. They want to teach people about cheese. In the meantime, Mau and Mullican will present dinners featuring food and drink paired with cheese.
“A lot of times people will approach a cheese counter at a supermarket and they really just don’t know how pair things,” Mau says.
And, she says, “We also host private events in people’s homes.”
The first dinner, “Cheese, Food, and Cocktails,” will be be held October 29th at the new SOBeast restaurant owned by Ed and Brittany Cabigao, in the old Interim restaurant on Sanderlin. That dinner already is sold out, but the next one is slated to be held in late November at the new Hen House Restaurant.
Their business is an offshoot of Mau’s Airbnb. She used to make cheeseboards for her guests. “Friends found out about the cheeseboards. They ordered holiday boards. Things were going great.”
After returning from a trip to Paris, Mau realized Memphis needed a custom cheese shop. She then found the perfect location in the Williamsburg Shopping Center on Mendenhall near Poplar.
It’s important for people to buy cheese now, Mau says. “Because of COVID, the artisan cheese business has been hit hard. They lost 40 to 52 percent in sales. Animals are still making milk, but people aren’t buying.”
In addition to co-owning the business, Mullican also is the “cheesemonger” for Greys. “It was a term coined in the United States in the early ‘80s,” he says. “They didn’t have a name for a sommelier for cheese.”
The name, Mullican says, “kind of jokingly took off. Now it’s a worldwide accepted term.”
He’s been fascinated with cheese for most of his life. “It’s one of the earliest forms of food preservation. It's an art. But it’s also survival. People used it to preserve food. So they could keep milk longer so they could live.”
For their first dinner, Mullican collaborated with SOB executive chef Anthony Fenech and mixologist Wesley Atteberry.
“The theme is ‘America can hold its own against any country in the world when it comes to cheese,’” Mullican says. “Meaning: Even with all of the pasteurized milk guidelines we live by here, we create and innovate as well as Italy, France, and Holland.”
To give an example of how they will be doing their cheese dinners, Mullican described the pairings at SOB The first dinner will feature five courses, all paired with cheese, food, and cocktails. Mullican will talk about the cheese for 15 minutes before each course. During his talk, guests will receive an ounce and a half of the cheese featured in that course. “So they can taste it immediately.”
They will begin with Kunik, a goat cheese with added cow cream from New York. “It’s cakey and goaty in the center with a really rich, tangy cream line, thanks to the Jersey cow cream that’s added to it.
“The dish is going to be coffee roasted heirloom carrots with a coconut milk mousseline, orange-infused honey, and candied walnuts.”
The cocktail will be the “Bamboo,” which is dry vermouth and “a coconut fat-washed fino sherry.”
The second dish will be “a special kind of pecorino. This one is going be an oro antico. It is an aged sheep milk cheese.”
The cheese is made in Tuscany. “They rub olive oil baths all over it during its aging process.”
The flavor is “olive oily, sheepy, nutty, tangy.”
The cheese will be grated over the top of a wild mushroom ravioli. This will be paired with a “Martinez” cocktail. “A pistachio-infused sweet vermouth, London dry gin, dry curaçao, and maraschino liqueur.”
The third course will feature “eposes,” which is “a French washed rind cheese that dates back to the 1500s. It’s a stinky cheese, but really, really velvety on the inside. Almost runny. With strong flavors of cultured butter, cooked milk, and just a mineral saltiness from the rind. We’re going to do a pickled grape preserve strawberry and a marmalade with that.”
The cocktail will be a “Fall Break” — “Apple brandy, Navy strength gin, slo gin, simple syrup, and lemon.”
“Pleasant Ridge Reserve” will be served in the fourth course. Mullican describes it as “an Alpine-style cheese that is the most awarded cheese in American history. Complex, but very fruity on the end and real nutty and buttery on the front.”
This will be paired with “a pear and pork belly brioche with melted Pleasant Ridge kind of blow torched on top of it.”
The cocktail will be a “French 125,” which he describes as “a bacon-infused brandy with lemon, demerara syrup and prosecco to get some bubbles in there.”
The star of the show will be the Rogue River Blue, which was voted the “Best Cheese in the World” at the World Cheese Championships in 2019 in Bergamo, Italy, Mullican says. “It won out of 3,800 different cheeses.”
Rogue River Blue is “wrapped in sirrah leaves soaked in pear brandy. It tastes like the Oregon River Valley. It’s sweet toward the rind where the pear brandy is kind of soaked in. And as you get to the middle it’s sweet, it’s piquant, crystalline. Just expect waves of flavor with this cheese.”
It will be served with “a dry-aged beef with pink peppercorns, and a bleu cheese crumbled on top.”
The cocktail will be a “a clarified New York Sour — bourbon, lemon, simple syrup, and a white port wine float.”
Probably an unfair question, but if he could choose one cheese as his favorite, what would Mullican pick? “If I had one of these to sit down with the rest of my life every day, I would probably go with like a Red Hawk by Cowgirl Creamery. It’s a washed rind cheese and it’s very mushroomy. And very kind of brine-y, almost. It tastes of boiled peanuts. It really does.”
So, where does the name “Greys” come from in Greys Fine Cheese & Entertaining? “It’s a play on words that was developed by Kurt,” Mau says. “It’s the idea of grazing around a cheese board. Just kind of enjoying and grazing on a cheese board.”