Another hot cheese deal? How does he do it?!
John Nava secures another fantastic deal with a local creamery and we’re passing the deals on to you!
Ever wondered how Sigona’s gets such great deals to pass along to you? It’s simple. It starts with relationships; relationships with our local vendors, farmers and you, our valued customers.
Understanding the customer is key to stocking our shelves with what you want and what you will like when you give something new a try.
“That’s the first thing I think about when I’m trying to make a new deal,” said John Nava, specialty foods buyer for Sigona’s. “I ask myself, ‘how will our customers receive this and how will they like it?’ With my more than 30 years of experience I’ve come to recognize what our customers like, with quality and taste in an obvious tie for first. Uniqueness is also a large factor.
Over the years, Nava’s expertise and determination have led to several items on which we’re proud to put our name. These include the Sigona’s marinaras, jams, spices and Fresh Press olive oils.
Our latest artful expression of a private label product decorates the shelves of our cheese department. We call it the Moo-na Lisa.
Moo-na Lisa is a cheese that’s been made exclusively for Sigona’s. It’s a five-month aged Gouda-Gruyere style cheese that is the result of the relationship Nava built with local vendor Reggie Jones from Central Coast Creamery.
Central Coast Creamery, founded in Paso Robles, Calif. in 2008, is a small producer of a goat Gouda and another cheese called SeaScape, a mixed milk (goat and cow) English cheddar style cheese. Reggie, the founder of the company, stopped by Sigona’s in Palo Alto earlier this year to pitch his cheeses to Nava, and thus, the relationship began.
“The cheeses were different, unique, exactly what our customers want so I brought it in,” said Nava. “The cheeses have been a big hit with our customers so I asked Reggie if he would mind experimenting with a cow’s milk cheese exclusively for Sigona’s.”
Nava and Reggie discussed different cheeses and customer likes and dislikes in order to start developing something for our store, noting that two of the big sellers are Gouda and Gruyere.
“From [Nava’s] direction, we combined culture selection, processing and ripening conditions of both cheese types to create an American original cheese exclusively for Sigonas,” said Reggie.
“Moo-na Lisa, which was aged five months before release, is made with mixed Holstein and Jersey milk from a dairy less than a mile from the creamery.”
Reggie did more than just deliver a cheese made of cow’s milk, as Nava requested. Central Coast Creamery did their research and made it more unique based on the Peninsula demographics to increase its appeal amongst Sigona’s customers.
“Vegetable rennet was chosen because of the market we are targeting,” said Reggie. “There is a large population of vegetarians in the California market and we wanted to appeal to that group as well.”
Reggie monitored the creation and aging process of the cheese, making sure the wheels were turned properly, wiped down and patted as needed – just as if he was making it for himself – and we couldn’t be more pleased with the outcome. Moo-na Lisa is a rich, creamy cheese with a Gouda flavor up front that has a nutty Gruyere finish.
We chose Moo-na Lisa as the name as the actual Mona Lisa is a classic piece of art and exactly what we think of our cheese. It’s a classic cheese that is so good it puts more than a smirk on your face. Since its aged about five months, it’s technically a young cheese. It has great flavor, but it’s more on the mild side. It’s a perfect table cheese and it also melts well, making it a good choice for paninis or grilled cheese sandwiches. See our recipe for a French-style Moo-na Lisa & Pear Panini here.
“To find someone with the same passion and the willingness to create makes me love my job that much more,” said Nava. This is a true example of what I mean when I say we understand the importance of building relationships with our vendors. We’ve already sold more than 20 wheels of Moo-na Lisa and it was released just a month ago! I told Reggie we have a hit on our hands so he’s been back in the creamery creating another 100 wheels that should be ready just in time for the holiday season.”
Just for fun, we also asked Reggie to age 25 wheels for a year. We expect this will only intensify the already spectacular flavors — look for these longer-aged wheels to be out in May or June 2011.
We’re proud of what we’ve created with all our vendors and those who create our private label products. We’re proud because we know our customers love them as much as we do and that’s because we’ve done our homework. We know what you’ll like!
“I believe that everything we put the Sigona’s logo on is one of the top five or the best product of its kind in the marketplace, bar none,” said Nava. “It makes me feel good when people enjoy something that was just a dream a year ago and has now come to fruition. I’ll gladly take the Pepsi challenge with any of the competition.”
NOTE from Central Coast Creamery: At Central Coast Creamery we are committed to using local milk from animals not treated with hormones. All of our products are made in small batches with an uncompromising attention to detail so that our cheeses consistently deliver an unparalleled tasting experience. Our mission is to make great cheese, to help with the movement to redefine the American palate, and to do this responsibly.