Sasha Davies came to a professional fork in the road; she chose cheese over radio documentaries and has served as a cheesemonger at Cyril's at Clay Pigeon Winery in Portland, Oregon for twelve years.

Sasha loves offering up recommendations to customers and dreaming up crowd-pleasing cheeseboards for parties.

We chatted cheese with Sasha about how she prefers to let the cheese stand on their own. Check out Sasha's crowd pleaser here. 

This post is part of our Holiday Cheers to Cheesemongers series, for more monger spotlights, click here. For more holiday recipe and pairings inspiration, thumb through our recipe collection here.

Name: Sasha Davies

Hometown: Portland, Oregon
Shop: Cyril's at Clay Pigeon Winery

How long have you been a cheese monger? 12 years

What brought you to the cheese counter? I wish I could remember how I got there but all I can recall is that I had a short list of contenders for my next professional pursuit: cheese and radio documentaries. I discovered that radio was highly competitive and not so I went with cheese. By the time I understood the economic landscape of the food world, I was already smitten. 

Let’s talk about cheese.

What’s the most common question you get asked behind the counter? How much milk does it take to make a piece/wheel of that cheese?

What should a novice cheese buyer look for in a cheese? Understand your customers and look for things that are one click away from something familiar to them. This is how you get people to gradually expand their cheese horizons. That said- you don't always need to look for new; it's also important to support cheesemakers who turn out consistent product, especially if their production and business practices are in line with your values.

What do you say to a customer who declares that they, “Don’t like goat cheese,” or are put off by an appearance or aroma of a cheese? Fair enough, ________ is not for everybody. I respond that way because I very much believe that it's fine for people to opt out...and sometimes I find that just giving people permission to opt out will soften their position and they'll give the thing a try. 

What advice do you have for novice cheese buyers who are building their first cheeseboard? Are there rules?No rules, only recommendations. The only way I think you can go a little wrong is if you select a few cheeses that are very similar to one another-- unless you're going for a comparative tasting of let's say cheddars. Otherwise I would say buy one super familiar cheese (cheddar, gruyere, gouda, brie, manchego)-- ideally a great example-- and then flank it with a couple cheeses that are less known and have different textures.

What's one thing about cheese, cheesemaking or the cheese world that would surprise or excite an average cheese buyer? I still think the most surprising thing about cheese and cheesemaking is how every cheesemaker starts with the same basic ingredients (sort of- there is quality and composition to consider with milk, starters, and salt of course) and nets out with the dazzling array of cheeses that we find on cheese counters around the world. And honestly, more than ever, I am totally amazed by the sheer volume of effort behind every piece of cheese I get to eat.
Describe your board and the inspiration behind it. Explain why your particular pairings work well. 
Running a cheese program in a restaurant, I've gotten a lot of experience in serving 3 and 5-cheese cheeseboards to tables. I've also really gotten familiar with how to put together a cheeseboard for a party- think retirement, wedding, work dinner, etc.

Crowd Pleaser cheese boards work well in all of these situations because to me, a crowd pleaser board is comprised of cheeses that are all one-click over from something very familiar to everyone. For people who are a little nervous about trying new things, these cheeses look safe enough to get them to give it a go. For the seasoned and adventurous eater, these cheeses delight them by being something more than they expected. I didn't focus on pairings they're not really my thing I like for the cheeses to stand on their own!