Chef Andrew Smith of Rockmill Tavern Thinks Beemster Is “Everything You Would Want In A Cheese”
Chef Andrew Smith grew up cooking with his mom. Food was something he loved, but Smith didn’t consider it as a possible career path until he found himself unhappy working a construction job. “Nothing brought me the satisfaction that cooking did,” Smith says. “I knew if I didn’t try it I would regret it.”
Smith enrolled in culinary school at Portland, Oregon’s Western Culinary Institute and never looked back. After a few years working in some of Portland’s finest kitchens, he moved to Columbus, Ohio. Smith landed the job of Executive Chef at Rossi Bar and Kitchen, and then at Salt & Pine.
These days, Smith helms the kitchen at Rockmill Tavern in Columbus, Ohio’s Brewery District. The Tavern is the sister restaurant to Rockmill Brewery, located on an 18th century horse farm in nearby Lancaster that specializes in Belgian-style ales. “The unique water source here provides minerality,” Smith explains. “We can make a beer in Ohio with the same water quality you would find in a beer in Belgium.”
Love for Beemster
About five years ago, Smith tasted his first bite of Beemster from a trusted vendor. A light bulb lit up. “It was everything you want in a cheese,” Smith remembers, “The flavor and texture were perfect. It was sweet, salty, butterscotchy, and a little funky, with great caramelization.
Since then, Smith has enjoyed experimenting with different varieties of Beemster cheeses and ways to showcase them. Beemster is an integral part of Rockmill’s cheese and charcuteire boards. “Beemster pairs really well with beer,” Smith says. “My favorite pairing with the cheese is Rockmill’s Tripel, our golden farmhouse ale.”
Smith has also found that Beemster “helps refine food,” as he puts it, bringing a complex elegance to a wide range of dishes. He loves grating or shaving a little over the top of a salad or an egg.
"It’s hard to stray from,” Smith says. “It’s always one of my favorite cheeses... and I’ve had a lot cheese. It’s everything I want on my palate.” Smith has a soft spot for Beemster X-O, which reminds him of the flavors he grew up with. “The crystals are my favorite,” he explains. “Maybe the butterscotch notes remind me of my grandma’s butterscotch candies.”
Some of the dishes where Smith featured Beemster include an eggless potato gnocchi, topped with shaved truffles, nutmeg, and Beemster freshly grated on top and a soft-cooked egg, presented in a tiny bowl with porcini mushroom cream sauce, rye croutons, and Beemster. An incredibly satisfying three or four bites that set the tone for the meal to come.
“All those different flavors make a delicious, unique experience,” Smith says. We couldn’t agree more.