MEET KURT GURDAL!
OUR NEW SPECIALTY FOODS DIRECTOR
Kurt scours the globe to provide Wally’s with the finest cheeses, charcuterie, truffles, caviar, and specialty foods! Read all about his delicious background, expertise, and springtime essential picks below!
Q: How long have you been in the cheese and gourmet food industry?
Kurt: Twenty-one years.
Q: Tell us what inspired you to work with specialty foods?
Kurt: I grew up around it. My family owns a family run gourmet food and cheese shop on the East Coast. I would go into the shop early in the morning and sit on a stool, feet barely dangling off the floor, watching everything the chef did at the time. Every night, when my parents were off, we always sat at the dinner table and had an amazing meal. With all the passion they had and all the creativity I saw at their shop, it was nearly impossible not to be inspired.
Q: Give us a little history about your trajectory in the food world
Kurt: My parents taught me a strong work ethic at a very young age and to create your own path and do something you have a passion for. But, I didn't want to be handed a job from my parents, so I sought my own path. My first job was when I was just about 14 at a small neighborhood pizza place called Emma's Pizza. I loved it. I washed dishes, grated mozzarella, made dough, stocked sodas, and I got free pizza every week as a bonus: pepperoni, onions, and hot peppers, well done. I worked at Emma's throughout high school and was ready to see what else was ahead of me as I started college in Southern California. I was an economics major and on my way on a whole different professional track, but that all changed when my parent's shop was featured in a popular publication and they needed help for the upcoming holiday season. Although I helped out as a young boy, bagging Halloween candy, this was my first day really working alongside my parents and the amazing food they had at the shop. I worked in the basement in the mail order department: I'd cut and wrap cheese, make gift baskets, and pack orders. I started every day at 5 a.m. with my Pops and left whenever he was done, usually around 8 or 9. Believe it or not, I fell in love with that. I loved the hustle. I saw that it wasn't only my parents who had this passion, but also the staff, and being around it was infectious - it was something I wanted to be a part of. After I graduated from college, I worked a bit with my degree, but couldn't stop thinking about the shop. Two weeks later, I was back in Boston ready to start my professional food career.
Q: What are some of your favorite cheeses?
Kurt: From a very young, Comté and any fresh goat cheese. Every weekend morning as a family, we would have toast with butter and goat cheese with our coffee. My favorite school lunch was a sandwich from the shop called a Slim Jim, which was salami on a ficelle with Comté - simple but delicious. Those are still some of my favorite cheeses, but I also love eating a smooth French Pyrenees Brebis.
Q: What other foods should we be excited about this season?
Kurt: Spring is an exciting time for cheese. As the weather becomes warmer, animals are getting off the winter hay diet and are able to get out to pasture, grazing on grass and whatever else is growing on the farm. This is also the time where goat and sheep milk dairies start having little lambs and kids, starting their lactation cycle. What does this mean to the cheesemonger? Go get fresh Chèvre, young sheep milk cheese. The warmer weather also changes the type of food I want to eat. In the colder months, I eat heartier cheese, fondues, tartiflettes, raclette. As it warms up, I eat lighter, like a good salade de chèvre chaud. I also love messing around with sheep's milk ricotta. Last week, I whipped some up with a pea puree and some lemon zest. Delicious.
Q: If you’re hosting a spring dinner party with a few cheese newbies what’s on your cheese board?
Kurt: Bleu du Bocage, Rouelle Cendrée, Slyboro, Brebis Pardou, Mt. Tam & Wilde Weide. Newbie Shmoobie. I get it, cheese can be intimidating. There are so many different types and on top of it, sometimes shops have a not so friendly hipster behind the counter that makes you feel inferior. Cheese is meant to be fun! It's amazing that we can develop so many different flavors and textures from one of its raw ingredients, milk. On this plate, we have a balance. There are some crowd pleasers, such as a triple creme and an aged crystallized gouda, but there is also a blue, a slightly potent washed rind, and an ashed cover goat cheese doughnut. They may look scary or different and go against your norm, but get out of your comfort zone and try some new things -
SPRING FOOD ESSENTIALS
Manoa Goat Milk Dark Chocolate
Wally's Price: $9.00
A Hawaiian based bean-to-bar chocolate maker that sources cacao from local farms as much as possible. A unique twist on a dark milk bar, it is dark, rich, and creamy - like a chocolate cheesecake.
Meredith Dairy Marinated Feta
Wally's Price: $13.00
A highly addicting combination of sheep and goat's milk marinated in a herbed oil. Perfect for eating on its own or brightening up any spring salad.
North Country Charcuterie Hoguera
Wally's Price: $17.00A great family-run charcutier we just started working with. Labeled as "spreadable chorizo," this cured meat is perfect for just about anything. We recently ran a pizza special that featured it with some cherry tomatoes and charred greens.
Pascal Beillevaire Chèvre
Wally's Price: $15.00
Some of the best French goat cheese to come to the U.S., handselected by esteemed Affineur Pascal Beillevaire. Bright, tangy and floral. We carry a few from them.
Marciano Estate Extra Virgin 500mL
Wally's Price: $50.00
Ripened under the Napa Valley sunshine on their organic St. Helena estate, these olives are harvested by hand and pressed the same day to capture a fresh and vibrant first press olive oil. The gold medal winning Marciano Estate olive oil is a unique blend of Leccino, Maurino, Nocellara and Pendolino varietals combined to create a perfectly balanced and aromatic oil, defined by hints of pepper and green fruit.
Calvisius Oscietra Imperial Gold Caviar
Wally's Price: 28g $210.00, 50g $375.00, 125g $935.00, 250g $1,850.00
A truly unique and rare caviar from the Russian Sturgeon. Only the best eggs are selected for this delicate, complex and slightly nutty caviar. A Wally's exclusive!
Frantoio Muraglia Olive Oil
Wally's Price: $50.00
One of Apulia's finest extra virgin olive oil. Each olive is picked by hand and cold pressed to produce a fruity, buttery and mildy peppery oil. Perfect for fish, grilled vegetables, and salads.
Jamnation Can You Fig It
Wally's Price: $14.00
Get past the gimmicky name, open the jar, and you'll see what we're excited about. A tiny operation that sources fruit from local farms with the utmost quality. Organic black mission figs cooked down and seasoned with fresh thyme - a perfect compliment to any fresh goat cheese.
H. Forman & Sons Smoked Salmon
Wally's Price: $20.00
A family run curing house that has offered smoking Scottish salmon since the early 1900's. This salmon is delicately smoked, using the London Cure process: no added sugar, just a little rock salt and smoke.