Carlos Yescas on the myths about Mexican cheese

I first I met Carlos Yescas last year, during a beer and Mexican cheese tasting at a deli in Polanco. He led the cheese portion and he was excellent: he talked about lesser-known Mexican cheeses with a passion of a guy who'd made them himself. The event was organized through his company Lactography, which supplies artisan Mexican cheeses to restaurants in Mexico City. Yescas runs the company with his sister, Georgina Yescas A. Trujano. Lactography hosts three tastings this weekend: one tonight with Mexican microbrews at Culinaria Mexicana, and one Saturday and Sunday with mezcal at Salón Obregón, part of the Corredor Cultural Roma-Condesa. When he's not teaching classes about Mexican cheese or working with Lactography, Yescas is finishing a doctorate in politics in New York. I met up with him there a few months ago and he graciously answered a few questions over coffee. Here's more on him. Q: What does Lactography do? A: We monger cheese knowledge. That means that we are trying to educate producers, retailers, and consumers about artisan cheese. Our goal is to ensure that people have access to better cheese, produced with quality milk and with the care and craftsmanship of great makers. For that, we train retailers to take better care of cheese, but also we go back to producers, especially in Mexico, to help them produce better quality cheese. However, the most important part of our mission is to expose the consumer to better products, explain the provenance of cheese and the care that its makers put into it. We strive to help producers maintain their livelihoods, while bringing better products to the market. 2. When we met in New York, I asked you what were the most common myths about Mexican cheese. You replied, "In Mexico or the U.S.?", and I didn't realize until that moment that of course both countries carry their own distinct stereotypes. Can you share with me some of the most common misconceptions about Mexican cheese in the United States?

    Queso de Bola de Ocosingo, one of the cheeses Lactography sells. This one is made by Laltic in Chiapas, by cheesemaker Charito Lopez Bassoul.

    Myth #1 Mexican cheese is low-quality. There have been some incidents in the US where Mexican style cheeses have been recalled due to listeria or other pathogens. Those cheeses, in a large part, were not cheeses made in Mexico, or even by Mexican people, they were just made in the style of fresh cheeses from my country. This has created a public health concern that all cheeses from Mexico are a risk. The problem is that this concern has become a blanket argument to not try good artisanal (and clean) Mexican cheese. Myth #2 Mexican cheese is only good for cooking. Cheese in Mexico is a very common snack. Most times people will get it in a "botana," along some nuts, or even fruit. For example, it is normal to get some quesillo (otherwise known as queso de hebra de Oaxaca) with a shot of mezcal. Also it is common for people in the center of the country to get fresh cheese, with avocados, nopales and habas as little side dishes to complement a meal. Myth #3: All Mexican cheese is made from cow's milk. Mexican goat cheese has been around for about 30 years now, it is mostly produced in Guanajuato, Queretaro, and some in Michoacan. The same goes for sheep, which is now produced in Queretaro and Hidalgo. Most of the cheeses of these milks are made into Spanish style cheeses, but little by little new formats appear.

    Queso de cincho, an aged cheese made by Quesos Coita in Chiapas, cheesemakers José Trejo and Rúben Leon Rodriguez.

    Myth #4: Not all cheeses are young. I consider queso fresco, panela, double cream, quesillo, queso de aro, and queso de sal as fresh cheeses. These are the most common, but there are also aged cheeses like Cotija, Queso de Cincho, and Menonita. The minimum amount of time these cheeses are aged is 3 months, with some like the Cotija that can be aged up to 36 months. Q: Last, where can people find Lactography cheeses in Mexico City? A: All our cheeses are in Dumas Gourmet in Polanco (Alejandro Dumas No. 125), you can also buy them directly from my sister. She can be contacted at: 04455-3677-9868 or at preguntas@lactography.com -- we do a lot of direct sales. We will have an online store by the end of July and people can also enjoy some of the cheeses at restaurants in Mexico City, including, Eno on Petrarca, Sud 777, Dulce Patria, Salon Obregon, and we are adding two more restaurants in the coming months, but can't still share that info.

    Reserve your spot at the Culinaria Mexicana tasting tonight here, or check out the menu for the Lactography cheese tasting at Salón Obregón this weekend. To reserve a spot at the latter, email preguntas@lactography.com.
7 Responses to “Carlos Yescas on the myths about Mexican cheese”
  1. Sara May 24, 2012
  2. Lesley May 24, 2012
  3. Don Cuevas May 25, 2012
    • Lesley May 29, 2012
  4. Virgie's Place May 27, 2012
  5. louise June 1, 2012

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *