Witham and Surdyk say the secret of their success with the staff was stocking the break room with cheese literature, encouraging employees to taste things they haven't tried, and hiring from the eager nearby population of University of Minnesota students. "I used to think I didn't like blue cheese before I got here," affirms Amy Ketterling, a U of M theater major who's been working at Surdyk's for about a year. "But now I can eat Roquefort with the best of them."

But eating Roquefort has a bad rap these days. Doesn't it? Svelte dancer Susan Scalf, an Antioch grad who's worked at Surdyk's cheese shop for six years to supplement her income as a dancer with the Minnesota Dance Alliance, Concrete Farm, and several other local troupes, scoffs at the very notion. "Cheese is protein, calcium, and people need some fat in their diet to survive anyway," she says. "I'd rather eat an eighth of a pound of Montbriac than a half-pound of nonfat mozzarella, because I love it. I love it! The combination of the mustiness, the gaminess--with a piece of good bread you feel full all day. So what if you eat a couple of grams of fat?" (Susan's favorite, Montbriac, a tangy, soft, ripened cheese with a hint of blue injected into it through its ash-rubbed gray rind, costs $14.99 per pound.)

I agree with Susan. What's a couple of grams of fat when it's wed to so much pleasure? The average American eats 30 pounds of cheese a year. That could work out to 240 portions of joy in eighth-of-a-pound slices. Parceled out daily, that would be eight solid months in which one could indulge in a private, quiet oasis of bliss for half an hour--or just the quantity of extramarital abandon to keep the happily married happily married.

Surdyk's offers a series of wine education classes in which pairings with cheese will be featured. Each class, which starts at 6:30 p.m. and runs for about two hours, costs $25. Call 379-3232 for reservations or further information.

TABLEHOPPING

Musical Toques

Are the moves of this town's French chefs making you dizzy? Here's a quick roundup: Inventive Patrick Atanalian has left the New French Café for the Vintage in St. Paul, where he's revamped the menu to include dishes like halibut in a ginger-grenadine emulsion with catnip cornichon pineapple salsa. At the New French Café, Thom Lowe, after a long stretch as chef at the now-defunct New French Bistrot, is back at the prestigious Café location.

Also, onetime Bistrot chef Alexander Dixon has opened his own place, the Zander Café (525 Selby Ave., St. Paul), featuring dishes like grilled chicken with a green-olive tapenade and taleggio cheese. Perhaps most remarkably, café un deux trois has recently welcomed Vincent Francoual (a native of southwestern France) a chef with a dazzling background: Since 1993 he has worked in New York, first as chef de partie at Lespinasse, and then as sous chef at Le Bernardin. un deux trois says Francoual will be reworking the bistro menu this fall, and seafood lovers can expect wonders. To get a sense of Francoual's direction, consider that he celebrated Bastille Day a few weeks ago with an appetizer of moules à la Mouclade--steamed mussels in a light lemon curry broth.

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