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Local

Curds & Whey Cheese in Geneva reels in fish

GENEVA – What’s in a name? In the case of Curds & Whey Cheese Company, not only are artisan cheeses available but also fish, breads and olives.

The enterprise originally was founded in St. Charles by Rob Murphy and his late wife, Deb. It shared spaces with other businesses over the years, but since last spring has its own home in the Geneva Ace Plaza at Route 38 and Sixth Street.

Murphy, a St. Charles resident, is a familiar face thanks to taking Curds & Whey on the road to farmers markets in the Tri-Cities and Sugar Grove. He also manages the summer and winter markets hosted by Baker Memorial United Methodist Church in St. Charles.

The business complements another profession. He has played French horn with the Rockford Symphony Orchestra for more than 30 years, maintains a private horn studio at his home and is involved with church music at Baker.

Turned self-described cheese and fishmonger, he became a purveyor of delectable edibles.

“I sell lots of beautiful artisan cheeses ranging from cheese curds and really great cheddar cheeses [to] French brie and Italian and Spanish cheeses,” said Murphy, whose wares come from Europe and across the U.S.

And while some of his finds are now turning up on grocery shelves, he said his prices are competitive, and his cheese wheels may be better aged compared to some distributors’ selections.

“I still receive many of my artisan American products directly from cheesemakers,” he said. “Oftentimes, we cut to order. You don’t have to buy a big huge wedge of something. We’d rather have customers buy smaller amounts that they’ll finish quickly, and come back. The products stay better, [and people] don’t get tired of eating them.”

The shop’s other specialty is fish.

“If somebody would come by today at 5 p.m., the fish will have arrived at noon, and oftentimes, that fish was just recently caught – like within the last 24 hours,” Murphy said. “Short of going to a dock and buying the fish off a boat, you’re hard-pressed to get something fresher. It’s never been frozen.”

The shop regularly offers rainbow trout from Idaho and salmon, but Murphy said if someone orders ahi tuna for sushi, he can have it within a day. He requests people preorder a day or two in advance.

His salmon comes from the Faroe Islands between Iceland and Scotland. Murphy said the salmon is farmed in fjords in very cold water with strong, replenishing currents, and the fish receive non-GMO feed.

“The Danes and Scottish have raised aquafarming to a gold standard,” he said. “The fish you’re getting from them is extremely high quality. [It was] in the water less than a day ago. The salmon is sushi grade; you can eat it raw.”

Calling the source of fish critical for another favorite, Murphy said his seafood broker only pulls whitefish out of Lake Superior, a cold and deep lake where they are wild caught. His store also offers 100 percent organic salmon from Ireland, as well as sturgeon, either caught wild or raised in the American West. Halibut are available in season, as well as prawn.

Another delicacy at Curds and Whey is smoked fish from one of Chicago’s last family-run, hardwood smoking fish houses. Murphy said he has a standing order for salmon and whitefish, and can request such items as smoked trout, prawn and shrimp.

The shop also carries some farm products, including eggs and local honey, plus salumi: cured sausage. Fresh-baked artisan breads come in Fridays and Saturdays.

“It gets baked around midnight and is delivered at my shop early in the morning,” he said.

He said he has “a really marvelous French stone-ground mustard,” and sells a couple types of cured olives to complement the cheese and fish.

“We have a lovely Colombian chocolate,” he said. “It’s a 65 percent bittersweet, [with] just enough sugar that it satisfies the sweet tooth, [but] won’t blow your blood sugar levels out of the water.”

He said farmers bring things such as squash, and last summer he provided all the fixings for a caprese salad, even preparing it on the spot if requested.

“When the weather gets good, a lot of people come to our shop who go for a walk around dinnertime, drop by the shop and pick up something, and go to SavWay [Fine Wines & Spirits] and pick up a bottle of wine, go home and enjoy their cheese and their wine,” he said.

By also working with The Wine Exchange in St. Charles and Chicago sommeliers, Murphy said he has garnered expertise in recommending wine and cheese pairings, and more recently craft beer.

The shop’s current hours are 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Tuesday; 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Thursday; 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Friday; 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. Saturday; and 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Sunday. This winter, Curds & Whey is at the Friday morning farmers market at Baker Church; the Saturday morning Geneva Green Market at the First Congregational Church; and once a month at the Sugar Grove Public Library, including Jan. 14.

To learn more about its offerings, visit curdsandwheycheesecompany.com or call 630-988-0705.

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