It was a dairy lover’s dream at The Village Cheese Shop in Mattituck Saturday, when the store’s wine bar and café hosted a PawPaw pop-up dinner.
“Valentine’s Day was the perfect opportunity to have everyone sit down and eat a bunch of cheese,” said PawPaw creator and chef Taylor Knapp.
Saturday’s event marked the first time Knapp hosted dinner at the Love Lane shop; he said he and owner Michael Affatato began discussing the idea about a year ago. Knapp, who also owns Peconic Escargot, typically holds pop-up dinners at Bruce & Son in Greenport, which is being renovated.
The Village Cheese Shop, which offers fondue, cheese platters and a large selection of wine, has a large kitchen that made it an ideal location to host PawPaw. Two dinners, each with seating for 16, sold out.
“What better way to enjoy love than on Love Lane?” Affatato said.
Nine dishes were served, each incorporating a different cheese. As meals were served, Knapp explained the ingredients and inspiration for each course to guests, while Affato provided information about the cheese the dishes were paired with.
“It’s educational and enjoyable at the same time,” Affatato said.
Knapp called the dinner a fun experience and said it was different than usual because he incorporated the shop’s products into the meal. For weeks leading up to the event, he said, he stopped by the store, trying to determine which cheeses would pair best with each course.
It wasn’t as simple as picking out the cheeses he liked and basing a menu around it or vice versa, he said. Everything had to come together.
“It was a good challenge,” said Knapp, who managed to pair a cheese with a cod dish.
A unique menu item, which he said was the most fun to make, was blue cheese ice cream served with milk, honey and a brown butter tart.
“It’s so innovative and forward thinking,” said diner Kim Powers of Brooklyn, who has attended three PawPaw events. The most recent, she said, was “cheesy in the best way possible.”
Steve Schwab and Helen Finnigan of Southold have also attended a handful of Knapp’s dinners.
“I like the surprise,” Schwab said. “You don’t know what food you’re going to get, but it’s always wonderful.”
Finnigan, who enjoys stopping by the cheese shop in general, said mixing the store’s atmosphere with a PawPaw dinner was a fun experience.
PawPaw has evolved since its first dinner in 2015. Knapp has made adjustments, such as reducing the number of courses and going from communal to separate tables. Each event is different, however, and he said there will be more communal dinners in the future.
Knapp has already scheduled two sold-out dinners in March at Bruce & Son and is working on securing more dates. He said he loves having the freedom to create.
“Just trying new things and allowing the North Fork to try new things,” he said.