The cake, Great American Cheese Collection Credit: Mike Sula

Cheese-wheel wedding cakes have been a thing for at least a few years, but for me they’ve always existed in some photo-filtered Pinterest fairyland. So I was adrenalized when my friends Tim and Pat asked me to help put one together for their nuptials. It couldn’t have been easier. The first person I thought of was cheese whiz Giles Schnierle of the Great American Cheese Collection, the 13-year-old wholesale distributor that focuses on small American producers. Schnierle, armed with just a broad outline of the couple’s tastes, budget, and number of guests, invited Pat and me to his current HQ, a rented warehouse on the second floor of the Plant, where his massive 3,000-square-foot cooler houses around 300 different cheeses from more than 60 producers. There are 30 cheddars alone, ranging from one to ten years old

Schnierle and his warehouse manager, Rosalie Callardo, had a handful of samples waiting for us at the proper temperature, along with full wheels so we could get a sense of scale. After some thumbing up and down, we’d settled on six wheels in a range of profiles. The first, bisected to meet the budget, was a proprietary 12-month-old Gouda produced exclusively for the Collection. Cowda has a creamy orange flesh riddled with explosively tasty tyrosine crystals and an intense, sustained caramel finish. Next was a younger, fatter white Gouda, aged 60 days, produced by Eichten’s Cheese in Center City, Minnesota. This one was semisoft, off-white, and meaty, with a creamy texture offset by wedding-appropriate grains of crunchy roasted wild rice. Next came a series of goat cheeses, each more pungent than the next. Cayuga Blue was a meaty blue based on Roquefort, aged a minimum of two months by the Lively Run Goat Dairy in Interlaken, New York. On top of that came Certoux from Molalla, Oregon, semisoft, salty, and acidic. Then two small soft cheeses reserved for the wedding table: Sandy Creek from Climax, North Carolina, which has a bloomy rind with a streak of ash down the middle; and the showstopper, Black Pearl from Tieton Farm & Creamery in Washington State, a one- to two-week-old sheep and goat milk crottin rolled in ash that sent shivers down the back of your legs. 

The cheese was picked up the day before the wedding, delivered to the venue, and refrigerated overnight. Three hours before serving, the big wheels came out, and one and a half hours later the small ones were stacked on top. Throw on some flair, and it was ready to drop jaws. Of course, Schnierle has hundreds of cheeses at his disposal, and you can go any way you want with it. Put your cheese cake together today: 773-519-5055.

Cheese cake: $600
Memories: priceless

Congratulations, boys.
Congratulations, boys.Credit: Mike Sula

Wait till I tell you about the meat hut.