How many of us get the chance, in a single lifetime, to pursue not one but two careers we love? Probably not many, but we should all take inspiration from Kandice Marchant. A former Cleveland Clinic doctor, Marchant has turned her passion for cheese into a delightful new business in Cleveland Heights’ Cedar-Lee district.
I’ve always been a freak for soft, creamy cheeses. Back when I co-owned a restaurant, we’d ask each other silly questions like “If you were cheese, which cheese would you be?” and my answer was always Brie.
So Marchant Manor is right up my alley, with delectable, sumptuous, bloomed-rind and soft cheeses, inspired by the European style but made locally with Guernsey cow and goat’s milk sourced from a Stark County Amish farm.
The folks who own Marchant Manor, who work there, who make the product, are even more obsessed with cheese than I am, and that’s saying something.
To complement the house-made cheeses, the shop also features a variety of options from other Ohio producers as well as specially curated offerings from around the United States.
Marchant Manor, which has taken up residence in a space that used to be an old bank, opened in February when the COVID-19 pandemic was still making it immensely difficult for small businesses to survive much less thrive. Marchant has worked creatively to make a name for itself in Cleveland Heights, offering virtual cheese tastings and a ricotta-making class, in addition to curating weekly grazing plates that feature their house-made products and other cheeses.
The shop is currently open Thursday through Sunday. Curbside pickup is available, along with complimentary Wednesday home delivery on Cleveland’s East Side.
Spring means it's time for goat cheese at Marchant Manor. Seasonal cheeses currently available include Elmstead Ash Goat & The Petersham Pollen Goat.
I decided to take advantage of the online ordering and delivery service to try out the Elmstead and Petersham before they’re gone. I ordered on a Tuesday afternoon and Wednesday morning received an email from Shane, letting me know he would be delivering my cheese later that day.
He wondered if there was a time when I wouldn’t be available, so he could avoid that window for my delivery. I told him I’d be home all day, and able to answer the door except between 3:30 and 4:30 when I would be doing a Zoom presentation for a potential client.
He rang the doorbell that afternoon (avoiding my unavailable window), handed me a brown paper bag containing my cheeses, and he was off. No chance to offer a tip, no delivery charge on my bill. I don’t know how long Marchant Manor will continue this complimentary service, but the option to order scrumptious, locally-made cheeses online and have them delivered to my doorstep feels like a true luxury.
The Marchant Manor website indicated the Elmstead Ash would be well-paired with Prosecco. Not having any on hand, we chilled a bottle of our house bubbly, Dibon Cava Brut Reserve (delicious and an absolute steal at $11.99 a bottle). While both cheeses were said to be lovely with berry preserves, we wanted to really focus on the flavors, so we opted instead for simple slices of baguette and skipped the jam for our first round.
The Elmstead Ash, named for the street in Birmingham, England where Marchant's husband was born, is made with goat's milk and cow cream but is also available in a strictly cow's milk variety. It is a triple cream cheese that’s dusted with a layer of vegetable ash. As the cheese ages, a white rind grows through the ash, giving the exterior a vegetal flavor to compliment the soft, creamy interior.
One thing that strikes me about all the Marchant Manor cheeses I've sampled, and this one is no exception, is the rich burst of flavor that seems to explode across my tongue. According to a recent post on Marchant's Facebook page, this can be directly linked to the Guernsey cows and the grass and yellow flowers they snack on. It makes sense, as the word "grassy" comes to mind, and I imagine myself in a meadow spreading out a blanket for a picnic lunch as my husband pours the Cava.
The Petersham Pollen features goat cheese curds layered with Ohio Bee Pollen. While not a sweet cheese, the pollen provides a hint of honey’s essence. I was particularly excited to try this cheese, and it did not disappoint. It was almost like the pollen's aroma teased my palate into thinking I was actually tasting honey, but without the sweetness. I'd never experienced anything like it before.
Marchant's website has a wealth of information about their background and approach to cheesemaking, but my favorite part is the tasting notes and pairing recommendations that come with the lovely color photos of each cheese they offer. Reading the descriptions is a sensory experience in and of itself.
For example, the High Heaven Applejack:
Ever walked through a farm pasture after the rain? A warm mist rising from the moisture dancing on the earth below. Sweet soil, damp leaves, with the inviting aroma growing stronger after each step. This is High Heaven.
And it's pairing notes:
Tear off a piece of a crusty baguette, serve alongside fig or apricot preserves, cornichons, and caper berries, to bring out the smooth woodsy paste. Pair with a big bold Red wine, such as Châteauneuf-du-Pape or Brunello. Also fantastic with a Porter or Stout beer.
Last year, for the wedding anniversary we celebrated in quarantine, my husband and I put together a cheese tasting with wine and beer pairings. Marchant Manor wasn't open yet, so I took to the internet for recommendations. We took our time and savored the flavors, noting how the right pairing (for example, Stilton with port or Havarti with an IPA) enhanced both the cheese and the corresponding beverage.
Now that we have access to our very own local cheesemakers and experts, I suspect such tastings will become a regular occurrence in our home, and a fun activity to share with friends when we entertain.
I learned at a recent Cleveland Heights City Council meeting that Marchant Manor has applied for the transfer of a liquor license from another business. It will be exciting to see what comes next for the shop now that COVID-19 restrictions are lifting in Ohio, but meanwhile, sample some of these phenomenal cheeses and let me know in the comments which ones you like the best!