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Intimidated by Cheese? Leave it to Pecorino in Grafton.

Simone Linson cutting cheese at Pecorino in Grafton, MA (Photo: Erb Photography)
Photo: Erb Photography

Simone Linsin’s brigade of cheese purists is unsuspecting. Some of them began training their palates at her country cheese shop, Pecorino, before they could talk.

“Those are our cheese kids,” she says, gesturing to a collage of smiling children holding up wedges of aged goat gouda and triple creme blue as big as their tiny heads. “The kids actually make buying decisions for their families. They sample things from the case, then their parents step aside and let them do the shopping.”

Linsin grew up in Heidelberg, Germany where her grandfather ran a butcher shop. When she and her husband moved from Germany to America two decades ago, she set out to recreate what she refers to as “the good old world.” The center of her universe is the cheese case, which consists of between 50 and 80 selections depending on the season.

Photo: Erb Photography

Linsin doesn’t sell so much as she consults. “Whether they have people coming over, they want to give a gift, they want a snack, or they want something for after dinner—we are prepared to help customers compose a cheese board,” she says, acknowledging that many people are anxious and embarrassed on their first go around with the cheese case.

“We help customers navigate through textural differences: soft, medium, hard. Different milks: goat, sheep, cow, buffalo. Raw milk cheeses, washed rinds, and all sorts of stinkers,” Linsin says with a lightness that at once renders her sharp and approachable. She stares at the case as if it lives and breathes like one of her beloved cheese kids.

Linsin frequently finds herself asking, “How can we elevate the cheese experience?” For a long time, she underestimated the importance of accompaniments. At present, Pecorino carries 35 cracker varieties in its pantry section, along with duck fat, cornichons, specialty spice blends, and heirloom salts.

She fiddles with the spout on a giant metal vat, explaining, “We have olive oil fresh from California here in the tank and we fill three different vessels. People can bring those back for a dollar off their refills.” The olive oil compliments a selection of fresh bread from Nashoba Brook Bakery in West Concord, with whom they have worked since Pecorino opened 10 years ago.

Back then, Linsin was still skeptical about opening a cheese shop in North Grafton. “To be very honest, I hated this building. It was run down and I didn’t want to be here. This was a shack.” Linsin points behind the counter to reveal the feature that changed her mind, saying, “I hated everything except this 800 degree wood fired oven, which was actually used by a pizza place in the old days.” There was still wood in the oven when she moved in. Her family helped clean the place out and scavenged for refurbish-able materials in the basement of the building.

When it comes to wine, Linsin is particular. “I taste everything before I buy. I don’t do commodity buying. I don’t do deals. Everything is very meaningful to me including how I source it.” Linsin focuses on European wines, but she has also taken to curating an impressive natural wine selection from California.

Linsin prefers to bring lesser known varietals to her shop. “Ten years ago, that was a no-no, because Chardonnay and Cabernet ruled the world in America. I was very fortunate to find a clientele in North Grafton that was eager to learn and raise the level of education around here,” she explains.

When Pecorino opened in 2010, people told Linsin she was crazy. Now, she hosts two tastings a month. “We draw a super-crowd!” she says. Just like Linsin’s original cheese kids, the shop has grown up. In 2019, Pecorino is a fearless touchpoint for food and culture in the community.

See for yourself at their next wine tasting on August 23 from 5-7 p.m.

Photo: Erb Photography
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#SundayFunday – Party Like it’s 2018

Bull Mansion's beverage program boasts wine, beer, and kombucha. (Photo by Scott Erb and Donna Dufault for Mass Foodies)

Between the lively cities and snug towns, Central Massachusetts provides the perfect backdrop for ringing in the New Year. But, the scenery of snow-swept mountains and small-town charm, are nothing compared to the magic happening in the kitchens of some of the most admired places in downtown Worcester.

New Year’s Eve is all about starting a new resolution and if you must start one in 2018, include celebrating #SundayFunday with us and we won’t disappoint. Say goodbye to the last Sunday of 2017 by eating your way into 2018. Here are a few great spots to start your foodie resolution:

New Year’s Eve with Niche

Ringing in 2018 with chef specials and prix fixe menus is easy with the Niche Hospitality Group. The hardest part is selecting from one of their nine locations. From the Chef Specials and Experience for Two at Bocado Wellesley – a New Year’s Eve night celebrating tapas, platos and dessert a la carte or as a packaged dining experience – to the Four Course Prix Fixe Dinner at the People’s Kitchen of the Citizen – a menu filled with artisan cheese, filet mignon and Belgian chocolate tasting – there is dish to satisfy any foodie.

Full Listing of New Year’s Eve with Niche events

Small Plates at Lock 50

Start the New Year with a menu that gives you options – a lot of options. Lock 50 celebrates adventurous eaters with its Chef’s Tastings, a 5 or 7 course designed by the chef, Tim Russo.  Accompanying the tastings with wine pairings, selected by their house Sommelier, will set the tone for an impressionable 2018. If a chef tasting is a bit too adventurous, order a la carte and taste some of Lock 50’s best dishes like the Potato Gnocchi, the Crispy Pork Rings and Cape Cod Oysters and the Lobster Polenta.

Full Menu Listing for Lock 50

New Year’s Eve with Bull Mansion

Kick off 2018 with live music, world cuisine, specialty cocktails, performance artists and a champagne toast. Dinner seating will be throughout the first and second floors from 6 pm to 9:30 pm with international food stations celebrating American, Italian, Indian, Chinese and Jamaican cuisine. But the party doesn’t end with your last bite. After dinner, the Bull Mansion Ballroom will launch their musical performances to provide a great atmosphere to celebrate an epic #SundayFunday. Live music and international food…what else do you need to ring in the new year?

Full Ticket Information for New Year’s Eve with Bull Mansion   

New Year’s Eve Dinner – deadhorse hill

Ring in 2018 at the bay state house! Celebrating the new year in a historic setting is the best of both worlds. Join Chef Jared Forman and his team for a throwback menu celebrating fancy things. With a 4-course meal, deadhorse hill is ready to serve you a memorable night.

Reservation Details for New Year’s Eve Dinner at deadhorse hill