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Drink Beer, Eat Cheese, Repeat: A Cheese Bar Is Popping Up at Local Breweries

Scraping the car windows this morning, warming up the engine, hoping the heater is going to work better than it did yesterday and kicking the ice dams off the rims, imagine: What if your livelihood depended on this jalopy, and now you've gotta go to work? In it. All day.

"Winter is a brutal time to run a food truck," says Charles Johnson, who along with his girlfriend Jessi "Peep" Pine run newcomer food truck Peep's Hotbox.

They hope to avoid some of that winter brutality by turning to Pine's expertise as a cheesemonger.

See also: Insight Brewing Opens and Winter Beer Season Begins

Pine is a bit of a stealthy powerhouse, a sleeper ninja who seems poised to take over the world. She's been with Haute Dish for five years, and prior to that she was executive chef of Fuji Ya. She's got an extensive cheese and wine background, having served as lead cheesemonger for Lunds and Byerly's, and also studying the fromage in London.

And if that isn't enough to get you to pay attention to her tout de suite, consider that she spent two years studying cuisine in Troncones, Mexico (a pristine beach village near Ixtapa on the Pacific) under the tutelage of the sorts of women who can roll 200 tortillas before the rest of the world has rubbed the morning sleep from their eyes.

The real specialty she culled from her time there was how to make huaraches; substantial, football-shaped, fragrant corn masa bases for salsas, beans, meats and finished with queso fresco, chiles and herbs.

But you'll have to wait for those. Just like you'll have to wait for their banh mi, cream cheese wontons made with fresh ginger and Thai chiles, morel mushroom hot dish, and soy-dyed eggs with Sriracha mayo and fried ramen noodles. As for her Gobi Manchurian, which Johnson calls the "next big thing," think General Tso's chicken meets broccoli.

For now, their focus is on cheese -- and beer. These two have a great respect for great beers, and our great local beer scene needs some great chow to pair with it. None better than great cheeses of the world.

They promise to carefully pair cheeses with the beer in question, and this is an especially fun enterprise when taking on a flight. "If it's a Saison, for instance, we're going to pair it with a funky, farmy, grassy cheddar, because Saison is a farmhouse beer." Did we mention they're making handmade crackers?

Find this indomitable duo at Insight Brewing every Saturday in February, except Saturday, February 7, when they'll be at Du Nord Craft Spirits.

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