If At First You Don’t Succeed…

salerby Andrew Chalk

Rich Rogers, owner of Scardello Artisan Cheese, is nothing if not persistent. At the American Cheese Show last year he tasted a cheese named Salers and had an aha moment. It was God’s cheese and he had to have it. He gave the vendor an order for a wheel, price unseen. Only later, while waiting for delivery from France, did he have symptoms of buyer’s remorse at not having firmed up the price. It turned out price would be the least of his ‘Salers Problems’.

His east coast importer called to confirm that his wheel was on its way and just entering customs. It never made it out. The FDA, always protecting us from ourselves, had seized the wheel because it contained cheese mites. Cheese mites are tiny organisms that both live on certain cheeses and contribute to flavor. They have existed virtually forever. Their crime? According to the FDA, some people are allergic to them.  

Harvard microbiologist Rachel Dutton says that people affected appear to have come into contact with very large numbers of the mites. Also, the FDA only requires labeling on other products known to exacerbate allergies (e.g. nuts) so why not apply the notification rule here?

Back to our story. Undeterred, Rich Rogers tried to import a wheel of Salers via his west coast distributor. That was also impounded. At this point most people would have given up (didn’t Einstein define insanity in terms of repeating the same thing and expecting a different outcome?). Not Rogers, he tried one more time and this third attempt was the charm.

Scardello now has an 85LB wheel of Salers. It is for sale right now at Scardello’s store at Oak Lawn and Lemmon and this is your chance to try one of the rarest cheeses in the world. Oh, and it may have some mites — the FDA allows a non-zero threshold before it confiscates.

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