We might justly be accused of having our favorite people in Dallas that regardless of what sort of spirits we might be in, they always manage to make us smile. Ali Morgan from Scardello is just such a person. We caught up with Ali for a late night beer and she was pleased to grant a short interview.
We wanted to chat with Ali not only about cheese, but another obsession of hers — beer. When she discusses either topic her face lights up with excitement, and offers a bit of a giggle. We also wanted to chat with her about her ink obsession on the heels of her latest tat session which we sat in on.
Please meet Ali Morgan:
craveDFW: How did you become a cheese monger?
Ali Morgan: I originally went to school for fashion design and got my degree just like my daddy wanted me to. The day they handed me my diploma I said that was the last day I wanted to do anything with fashion. So I dibble-dabbled as a legal secretary then I worked for an animal hospital for five years all the while living next to Scardello. I would go in every day and buy cheese, attend the classes; anything I could do to sample the cheese.
After a while the started to recognize me and knew my name. One day I approached Rich [Rogers] the owner of Scardello and said, look, I don’t have much money, could I just wash dishes for cheese. He eventually hired me as relief for the weekends and one day I quit my law office job and started full time. Never looked back.
craveDFW: So you started out washing dishes? How does one become so knowledgeable about cheese?
Morgan: I started off just selling cheese behind the counter, not knowing much but I could always tell people what I liked. That is really our goal, to make sure they go home with a happy product. I honestly learned everything on the job. You come in and you work and you learn.
The cool thing about our artisan made cheeses is the fact they are made by hand. You won’t get this vacuum packed taste every time, there are little nuances that make the cheese unique, and being able to share that is exciting.
craveDFW: Do you ever meet these cheese makers?
Morgan: Dallas doesn’t have a huge cheese scene like some cities, but it is getting bigger all the time. We do have some cheese makers stop in to see Rich and to see the store. We have people like Pat from Beehive Cheese Company who makes Barely Buzzed, one of our most popular cheeses. He came in and cut cheese for people, and talked to everyone.
CraveDFW: You go on these cheese junkets once in a while to learn more, what’s that all about?
Morgan: Rich is super supportive. We recently went up to Montreal for the American Cheese Society Conference. I was able to meet one of our cheese heroes, Max McCalman [a Maître Fromager], he has written three books on cheese. He has taken me under his wing and helped me learn more about cheese. Whenever I can make it work I will fly out and assist him at the Institut du Fromage, located in Atlanta, Georgia. I help him with whatever he might need, and learn from the master.
craveDFW: We recently tasted a cheese that you made yourself, tell us how that came about.
Morgan: I love giving credit where it’s due and On Pure Ground are these bad-ass cheese makers, husband and wife Paul and Cheryl from Bonham, Texas. They have about 45 goats and they know them all by name. They make this fresh goat Chevre and deliver a batch to Scardello every Thursday that was made the day before.
They invited me to come out and bring whatever ingredient I wanted and make my own cheese. So I grabbed some applewood smoked bacon and also went to see Tom Spicer. Tom grabbed a bunch of fresh herbs from his garden and sent me on my way.
I came home with a fresh bacon and fennel Chevre. I brought my cheese, which is called Ali‘s Bacon Bliss, to the shop and that day chef DAT happened in and tried the cheese. He bought the whole lot for one of his underground dinners. Now both chef Nicole Van Camp and DAT both use the cheese at their underground dinners. It will soon be available at Scardello to everyone.
CraveDFW: You also have this insane passion for beer.
Morgan: I have always loved beer. It’s like cheese, they are both fermented foods. I have always had wine with my cheese, but now I think beer is actually the better pair. More recently I enjoyed a pairing of Vermont Butter and Cheese goat, which is dense and cheesecake-like along with a stout. No one liked the pairing, but I loved it.
CraveDFW: What is your guilty pleasure?
Morgan: I love to take an Oh* Brownie that we carry at Scardello and smear it with goat cheese and serve it with a dark beer. Goat cheese and chocolate just go so well together.
CraveDFW: OK, what is up with the tats?
Morgan: I need to give a shout out to Jorge Perez at Death or Glory. I walked into his shop with a recommendation from a friend and said I had an idea. Within 45 minutes he had this custom drawing of these beautiful flowers. It is no small feat, and the work has been on-going and taken about 24 hours to complete. I am just a go big or go home kinda girl.
Ali Morgan sells cheese at Scardello in Dallas through out the week and all day Sunday. She is also responsible for the wholesale business to restaurants in the Dallas area including Local, Stephan Pyles, Fearing’s and Common Table. Stop in Scardello and ask for samples of her favorite cheese of the day. Ali will be offering her cheese and beer picks starting this week on craveDFW.