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Cheese aims to please in a variety of ways. In fact, it can play a major role as an appetizer, main course or dessert.

As husband-and-wife owners of the Cheese Lady in Farmington, Kendra and Joe Mantey get to share their passion for the fundamental food with others.

“We offer over 100 kinds of cheese,” says Kendra. “We’re all about sampling and learning about them before you purchase. It makes it so much more fun and interesting.”

Their employees are trained by the original Cheese Lady in Muskegon, Kathleen Riegler. Other locations include Grand Rapids, Kalamazoo, Traverse City and one coming to Rochester next year.

They also carry a number of items to go with your selection, from wine and Michigan craft beer to crackers and jam and olives and nuts.

One of the many benefits of cheese is the fact that it makes a lovely presentation. For a classic platform, the Cheese Lady sells cutting boards made by local artists.

For appetizers, an assortment is best. “We like to have a variety of cheese with different milk types on the plate,” says Kendra. “Some are really visually pleasing like Humboldt Fog cheese and Irish Porter Cheddar.”

These can be paired with fruit, nuts, olives and wine along with nonalcoholic beverages. “Cheese can be paired with just about anything,” says Joe. “It pairs very well with iced tea.”

For an attractive cheese tray, Kendra suggests cutting grapes into smaller clusters and adding colorful dried fruits. She likes the cheese to be the center of attention surrounded by other nibbles like olives and nuts.

Kendra says a good baguette, sliced thin, goes well with soft cheeses. For other varieties, try crostini.

She often prefers to go “crackerless,” especially with aged firm cheeses.

“You always want to serve your cheese at room temperature,” says Kendra who suggests leaving it out for at least 20 minutes beforehand.

“The longer a cheese is aged, the longer you can leave it out without any problem,” says Joe. Because brie and fresh goat cheese should not stay out too long, he suggests serving a little at a time.

Cheese becomes a main course with fondues and the raclette machine they loan to customers that has been a big hit.

As Joe explains, easy-to-melt cheeses like raclette and gruyere go on small trays beneath the top burner that can be used to grill potatoes and sausages. “People are amazed,” he says.

The Farmington location will celebrate its one-year anniversary Friday and Saturday with a two-day open house where gourmet grilled cheese sandwiches will be available for purchase during lunchtime Friday.

They can help you select items to make your own gift baskets with an artisan cheese theme or they can create them for you.

This holiday season you might consider the European tradition of serving cheese and fruit for dessert like the magnificent cheese tower they made to resemble a wedding cake for their daughter’s wedding. Now that’s sweet.

For information, call (248) 957-9581 for the Farmington location or go to thecheeselady.net.

Jeanine Matlow is a Metro Detroit interior decorator turned freelance writer specializing in stories about interior design. You can reach her at jeaninematlow@earthlink.net.

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