Local Flavor: Say Cheese

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Most of the time, the terms “cheesy” or “wench” would not be complimentary, but to Tulsa chef Amanda Simcoe, they perfectly describe her passion.

A Tulsa native, Simcoe has always loved cheese. From the first time she experienced fried goat cheese back in the ‘80s, she was hooked. That insatiable passion for cheese and good food was nurtured further by traveling extensively throughout Europe with her parents when she was barely a preschooler. While most kids were eating boxed mac and cheese, Simcoe developed a more sophisticated palate by eating what her parents ate. Yet, it should be noted that this talented, self-taught chef loves a good mac and cheese, especially if it’s paired with a stout ale.

Although she studied business and Spanish in college, her heart’s desire was to pursue a culinary career.

In 2008, Simcoe became the manager of the cheese counter at Grocer and The Gourmet in Tulsa, where she was responsible for 160 varieties of cheese. To further help familiarize the staff with different cheeses, she began offering a “Cheese 101” class all about the differences between the cheeses as well as how to wrap, store, slice and serve them. The class was so popular that she began offering it to the public twice a month and also included a wine or beer pairing.

But how exactly did she become the “Cheese Wench?” Not liking the terms cheese monger or fromagère, she settled on the Cheese Wench.

“Just as a beer wench slings beer, I sling cheese,” she says. The title has stuck since 2009.

These days, Simcoe is busy cohosting and producing OKfoodie, preparing to emcee upcoming events like the Home and Garden Expo and Odyssey de Culinaire and making weekly appearances on Great Day Green Country.

When asked about her favorite varieties of cheese, she paused: “That’s a hard question. There are so many.” Instead of naming specific cheeses, she surmised to say that as long as she has a good, stinky cheese, a good bleu, cheddar and goat cheese, she is a happy Wench indeed.

Manchego Frito

Manchego
1 c. panko breadcrumbs
1/2 c. flour
1 egg
2 tbsp. milk
1/2 tsp. pimenton (smoked paprika)
Vegetable oil for frying
Crusty bread
Mixed Spanish olives
Quince paste, sliced

In a wide, shallow bowl, whisk together the egg, milk and pimenton. Slice the Manchego into wedges. Dredge in flour, dip in the egg mixture and coat with the panko. Heat the oil in a skillet. Fry the cheese wedges until golden brown on each side. Transfer to a paper lined plate. Serve with bread, quince paste and olives.

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