Kimber Johnson layered thin slices of salami onto the rim of a tiny glass.
“It’s a meat flower,” she said, molding the pink, maroon-speckled protein into a sphere.
The edible decoration soon joined the Duluth woman’s spread featuring a blueberry-coated goat cheese log, cheese fudge, aged cheddar, crackers, pickles, cashews, oh, and cheese curds.
Welcome to Yes, Cheese — a charcuterie board and cheese box delivery business servicing the Twin Ports from the minds of Johnson and Calley Kohlhagen, of Saginaw.
The Wisconsin-born friends launched their cheese biz in July in the hopes of spreading their cheese-loving passion and to highlight area creameries along the way.
“Some of these people really have their entire family and livelihoods around making cheese, and that’s exciting to be able to celebrate,” said Johnson.
On tap this month: gouda from Marieke in Thorp, Wisconsin; aged and flavored cheddars from Yellowstone Cheese in Cadott, Wisconsin; and goat cheese.
The idea began during their road trips to see the Green Bay Packers play when the pair would make stops at creameries and cheese shops.
As the pandemic shifted events to small, home-based gatherings, they saw an opportunity to share their new-found discoveries.
Johnson focuses on the business side of things, Kohlhagen the marketing and website, and both have a hand in sampling and creating their cheese boards.
Kohlhagen sifted through the current stash: “Havarti, Muenster, gouda, dill pickle-flavored,” she said.
They base their picks on flavor and color, to keep appearances up on their spreads. They mix aged cheeses, which add a different texture and flavor, with soft varieties, and they cut the cheese in different shapes to add visual appeal.
“We try to pair the rest of the items around the cheese,” Kohlhagen said. That includes meats, nuts, crackers, fruit and chocolates.
They recently added bloody mary boxes to the mix, where they’ll prepare skewers with olives and pickles, ready to pop into drinks.
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Before starting Yes, Cheese, they were often the ones bringing cheese plates to family functions. “Part of the enjoyment of cheese is how you eat it and how you prepare it,” said Johnson.
In the kitchen, Kohlhagen added cashews with everything bagel seasoning to a spread, and
Johnson cut the rind off an aged cheddar. Whatever they don’t use goes to Kohlhagen’s chickens. “They eat anything,” she said.
There have been hiccups behind the scenes, finding a commercial kitchen and getting licensed.
“We didn’t know how to navigate it until we got in the weeds,” Kohlhagen said.
Johnson and Kohlhagen recently started making their boards in The Boreal House kitchen, and owner Katie Tintor was happy to extend a hand.
“We were gracious enough to have people help us,” said Tintor, who opened her business in February 2020. “Charcuterie boards are pretty popular right now.”
Of the business partners, Tintor said they’re both very hardworking and community-focused. Tintor also hired them to cater boards for her wedding party.
She opted for a savory spread. There was a nice mix of hard and soft cheeses, all high quality. “Everybody loved them,” Tintor said.
One of the easiest parts of their launch, though, was their name.
“Yes, please. Yes, Cheese. It took a long time to get there, but it was one of our first concept ideas,” Kohlhagen said.
Which cheese are you?
Friends and Yes, Cheese business partners Kimber Johnson and Calley Kohlhagen answer for each other.
Kimber Johnson: “Aged cheddar for you, only because we’re good friends and she’s a little salty.”
Calley Kohlhagen: “I’m a salty old lady, apparently.”
Kohlhagen: “Kimber, If I were to say you were a cheese, I’d go with goat.”
Johnson: "That’s what I was going to say: smooth and a little fruity.”
Kohlhagen: “You’re a little tart, but you’re smooth.”