Wedge is taking the slicer and sheep’s milk and soft ripening on the road.
The cheese shop, a pioneer of Midtown Reno, closed in April 2017 after five years in business. Soon afterward, owner Laura Conrow left for a monthslong sabbatical in several cheese making regions of the U.S., Canada and Europe.
But with her recent return to town comes news that Wedge is returning, too — as a cheese truck. Conrow said she hoped to have the truck mobile by the time farmers market season begins.
“The truck had been on my mind even before I had the shop,” Conrow said. “I had seen them in Europe and thought they were great. I kept it in the back of my mind.
“It’s going to be a simplified version of the shop, but concentrating on things that are really special.
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The other afternoon, in the sunny breakfast nook of her Northwest Reno home, Conrow set a lunch featuring one of these special things: thick slices of high-end raclette (an Alpine cow’s milk cheese) crafted by a producer Conrow had visited in Switzerland during sabbatical (more on that in moment).
Conrow and her guests melted the soft, buttery, gently nutty cheese on tabletop electric grills, then scraped it onto kicky cornichons, colorful new potatoes, charcuterie and sliced mushrooms.
“Raclette means ‘to scrape,’ ” Conrow said. Traditionally, “shepherds would have a wheel of cheese next to the fire, and as it melted, they would scrape the melted part onto whatever was on the plate.”
Cheese and wine
Raclette could be among the rotating supply of 10 or so cheeses the truck (working name: Wedge Cheese Truck, but that could change) will offer at any given time.
Besides cheese (and meat) cut to order, there will be cheese and meat plates and accompaniments like vinegars, olives and crackers, Conrow said.
The plan is for the truck to park at area farmers markets, food truck gatherings, pop-ups, and local events and businesses. Conrow also is joining soon with West St. Wine Bar to present a raclette and wine dinner at the West Street Market space.
“We’ve been talking about doing something for the last two years,” said Rick Martinez, owner of the wine bar. “I thought raclette would be ideal,”
Conrow estimated the cheese truck would be about 20 feet long, large enough for two people to work in. The truck, still being designed, “is going to be kind of art car-ish. We’ll see how it goes. I can do something simpler at first and finish developing what I want later.”
During the first part of her six months away from Reno, Conrow visited cheese stores and cheese makers in Ontario, Canada, and in New York state and New England. In early September 2017, she left for Europe.
The curd queen spent a significant amount of time in Switzerland. In the village of Muotathal, Conrow stopped by the Wasserberg cheese dairy, named for the Wasserberg Alp that belongs to the Gwerder family, the owners of the dairy.
In the Swiss cantons known for Gruyère, the brined and aged cow’s milk cheese, Conrow visited dairy farms, cheese makers and affineurs, the professionals responsible for maturing cheeses.
“In all the links of the Gruyère chain, people took pride in what they did,” Conrow said. “It was pretty amazing to see how that works. They all depend on each other.”
Before leaving Switzerland for Italy, Conrow sampled the offerings of eight cheese trucks in the city of Lausanne.
Over in Italy, in the Tuscan city of Grosseto, some of the water buffalo cheeses “nearly brought me to tears,” Conrow said. A tour of a maker of Parmigiano-Reggiano ranked among the highlights of her visit to Modena, north of Tuscany in Emilia-Romagna.
Conrow attended a cheese festival in the town of Bra in Piedmont, where she grazed on logs of chèvre aged three to five years and on tiny cones filled with pistachios and a scoop of biting blue-veined Gorgonzola.
“I’m going to do these at food truck events,” Conrow said.
Elsewhere in Europe, Conrow called on cheese shops in Germany, Roquefort houses in the South of France (there are only five), and producers of creamy-savory Wrångebäck cow’s milk cheese in Sweden.
She also checked in with artisan cheese makers in the rainswept Faroe Islands midway between Norway and Iceland and with urban producers of cheddar cheese in London.
Now back in Reno, Conrow said she would draw on all these experiences as she created her cheese truck. Moving from mortar to mobile, she added, might be just what Wedge needed.
“Parking was always an issue for everybody down in Midtown, but now, everybody will be able to get to me. They’ll just come to where I’m parked.”