The big cheese appears in Montclair


Ginny Prior/for Bay Area News Group Farmstead Cheeses and Wines’ chief cheese monger, Jeff Diamond, “cracks a parm” — slices open a giant Parmesan cheese wheel — for food and wine writers recently at his Montclair store.

MONTCLARION: May 20, 2019

As far as cheese goes, it was a beaut — 85 pounds of fresh Parmesan, a wheel so big it took a young clerk to flip it. Farmstead Cheeses and Wines’ chief cheese monger, Jeff Diamond, treated journalists to a show the other night. “Cracking a ‘parm’ is a very cool thing,” he quipped. “And I’m always excited when I can show folks how it’s done.”

Once a month (twice during the holidays) Jeff scores and cracks a wheel of Parmesan. It’s one of hundreds of artisan cheeses, oils, vinegars and boutique and bargain wines he sells at his shops in Montclair and Alameda.

What a gig! He and wife Carol Huntington have walked vineyards worldwide, sharing meals with winemakers, tasting from barrels and bottles and bringing home the best wines (and of course, cheeses) for customers.

Around town: Something big is happening in the Village. “We’re really seeing an amazing resurgence right now,” says Daniel Swafford, the Montclair Village Association’s director who cites the more than 35 new art installations as a possible catalyst. “Hopefully that’s one of the reasons we’ve seen some of these hot new chefs come to Montclair to see what the opportunities are.”

Last month’s dine-around for food writers included zesty Southern Thai from chef/owners Kimberly Gamble and Kasem “Pop” Saengsawang at Daughter’s Thai; lychee martinis and jalapeno basil gimlets (along with savory noodles and stir fry) at Lao Tae; tender rocky chicken and wild salmon at Crogan’s (which is actually two establishments in one with a wall separating the popular bar from the restaurant) and oyster shooters and exquisite appetizers like bone marrow at Perle.

Kakui Sushi was on the list too, and I’ll cover this Japanese restaurant in my next column. In fact, I’ll reveal lots of culinary secrets about these popular places in the coming weeks. It’s a tough assignment, but someone’s got to do it.

Upcoming events: Speaking of food and beverages, the Montclair Beer, Wine & Music Festival is on June 15 with 40 different wineries and breweries pouring alongside a pedal-powered music stage. Say that five times fast.

Happy trails: The city has loosened its purse strings and done a fine job of fixing and paving Shepherd Canyon Road. They also patched potholes on Thornhill Drive, especially the chassy-jarring portion approaching the on-ramp to northbound 13. It seems to be true what they say: Miracles do happen.

Animal tales: And finally, apologies to the University of Nevada, Reno, but Oakland has its own wolf pack these days. Four wolf cubs have been born to a newly introduced couple living along the Oakland Zoo’s California Trail. Zoo staff were keeping their fingers crossed that Siskiyou and Sequoia would mate. Now that they have, the health of the pack is secure, and we should see the pups emerge from their den by mid-June — just in time for the zoo’s signature “Walk in the Wild’ event. How’s that for timing?

Ginny Prior can be followed on Twitter, Instagram, Facebook and at Email her at



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