Q&A with Halliday

Fast Five: Maker & Monger's Anthony Femia

By J'aime Cardillo

12 Apr, 2024

In this series, we ask industry members to share the five drinks that shaped their lives.

Anthony Femia is a cheesemonger and the owner of Melbourne institution, Maker & Monger (AKA the chapel of cheese). Maker & Monger finds its home inside Prahran Market, in Victoria, and embraces both the cheesemaker and cheesemonger.

Maker & Monger specialises in farmhouse and artisan cheeses. Established in 2015, Maker & Monger started out as a humble French food cart inside the market that offered Swiss Raclette over kipflers and the iconic M&M all-American grilled cheese toasted sandwich. Only a few years (and cheeses) later, the need for expansion was evident. Fast forward to 2019, the new shop (still inside the market) featured a purpose-built maturation room, a seven-metre long climate-controlled cheese counter and a kitchen offering (not only those famous toasties) but a selection of seasonal cheese dishes that utilise some of the products found at Prahran Market.

Anthony Femia with the Maker & Monger all-American toastieAnthony Femia and Maker & Monger's famous all-American grilled cheese toasted sandwich.

Before Maker & Monger, Anthony was the operations manager of Spring Street Grocer. He designed and helped build the first underground cheese cellar in Australia. He has also undertaken the Churchill Fellowship, which allowed him to study affinage (the process of ageing cheese) and the microbiology of cheese. And in 2018 he was the first Australian cheesemonger to be chosen to visit Marcel Petite in the Jura mountains of France. 

The trip was to select Maker & Monger's own flavour profile of comté (that would become the flagship cheese). It was an opportunity of a lifetime, and one that had previously been reserved for the best cheesemongers of France, UK and USA. In July 2019 he returned to hand select the second flavour profile. Anthony now returns to France each year to taste through the maturation cellars in the Saint Antoine fort. 

"My time in the wine industry has been purely focused on the best pairings for cheeses, which may sound easy and fun, but the way that dairy fat interacts with the acid, bitterness and tannins of wine compared to proteins like seafood, poultry and beef, makes it quite the challenge. And when you pull off that perfect pairing, it should be celebrated as far and wide as when Indy found the Covenant in Raiders of the Lost Ark."

Anthony Femia at Maker & MongerMaker & Monger has operated out of Prahran Market since 2015.

Anthony Femia's Fast Five

2000 Massolino Vigna Rionda Barolo Riserva
Barolo, Italy
In 2017, while staying in the most picturesque town of the wine region of Piedmont, Monforte d'Alba for the biannual Slow Food Cheese Festival in Bra, I took a day trip to Massolino’s winery that was organised for me by the late, great Darryl Cowie – a famous sculptor and designer of Melbourne who played AFL in the 1980s, and before his passing, he worked with Kanye West on his Sunday Service project across America. It was during the visit that I was very very fortunate to taste the 2000 vintage of the Vigna Rionda, which is only made from a single plot in the best years. This 17-year-old Barolo made me fall even further in love with this wonderful part of Italy, with its hints of tobacco, fine silk tannins, rich, moreish notes and beautiful deep dark purple fruits. I hope to one day buy a property in Monforte d'Alba and conduct a cooking school that includes local tours of cheesemakers and wineries.

2008 Jean–François Ganevat Chardonnay 'La Cuvée du Pépé' Côtes du Jura
Jura, France
Where to begin with this extraordinary wine and moment in my career? It was March 2017, and it was snowing in the Jura Mountains of France as we made our way up the winding country road that led to the Fort Saint-Antoine maturation cellar of the famous affineur of Comté, Marcel Petite. I was on my way to pick the first-ever allocation of reservation comté for Australia. I had never experienced falling snow before and it was this magic moment of gazing out the car window that alleviated any fears of the way that Phillipe Goux, CEO of Marcel Petite, was crazily driving up the snow-covered dirt track (as if we were rally drivers and I was his navigator). 

Once we were deep in the heart of this mountain war fortress, we tasted across a vast kaleidoscope of comté flavours until we found the one I loved and was the truest representation of what comté is all about. We made our way to the tasting room (away from the smells of ammonia that accompany any proper maturation cave) and together with Claude, the master trieur of Marcel Petite who has been with the company for over 35 years as their head taster, we drank this bottle, my first ever Ganevat with a wedge of the comté we had chosen. The way they both danced on the tongue with the nutty notes, hints of vanilla, oxidised sherry qualities of the wine lifting the sweet lactic notes of the cheese – took my imagination to that scene in Scent of a Woman where Al Pacino’s blind character expertly danced the tango with Donna to the sounds of 'Por una Cabeza'.

2011 Crawford River Riesling Museum Release
Henty, Victoria
I was lucky enough to be a part of a fantastic initiative of Melbourne Food and Wine Festival (MFWF) in 2022 when they took a group of young people in the wine industry to the Grampians to visit the wineries of the beautiful region. The trip culminated in a degustation dinner at the Royal Mail Hotel with a vertical of riesling from Crawford River. Tasting Belinda’s wines while she sat there next to me explaining their harvest and farming methods, together with the unique microclimate that Crawford River has is an experience I’ll never forget. Well, what I can remember that is there was a lot of wine drunk that day (and night) and I was put into bed by 11pm while everyone kicked on with the winemakers. In all seriousness though, tasting an 11-year-old wine alongside its fresher vintage was a remarkable tasting experience. The vibrancy the wine had combined with the tertiary flavours and hints of petroleum it developed from being in the bottle were as exquisite as they were enlightening. Before that experience I only drank off-dry rieslings when going to Hutong or Supper Inn for late night dumplings or pippies in xo sauce. But that event, and those wines, changed my perception of riesling for good.

NV Crittenden Estate Macvin Blend #3
Mornington Peninsula, Victoria
Crittenden Estate's Savagnin has a place in my heart due to its beautiful pairing with our comté reservation. It takes me to 2017, when I was in the heart of the Fort Saint-Antoine of the Jura Alps tasting comté with a Ganevat Savagnin with the head affineur, Claude. But it is the Macvin that really has me singing the praises of this fantastic winery. The way this wine marries so well on the palate with our selection of blue mould cheeses is remarkable. I first had it at Gimlet, sitting at the bar with a slice of Riverine Blue from Berrys Creek – which is, in my opinion, the best blue cheese to ever be made in Australia – and a small block of honeycomb. The way these three textures and ingredients each lifted the best qualities of the other on the tastebuds caused me to laugh out loud during the middle of the service. I had half the packed restaurant stare at me (to the embarrassment of my date at that fateful lunch). I may have forgotten everything else I ate and drank that day, but I’ll never forget that moment. I brought out my inner child and had a drink of Macvin while my mouth was full with cheese and honeycomb.

2016 Syrahmi La La Shiraz
Heathcote, Victoria
I first heard of this epic syrah when Chayse Bertoncello of O.My said this Syrahmi was a must-have Victorian wine for our store. And boy, it did not disappoint. A bottle may have gone missing from our stocktake one Friday night when Gary from G.McBean Family Butcher gave me a piece of three-month dry aged vintage beef scotch fillet. The freshness and fine tannins of this wine together with its powerful structure and hints of black olives and rich dark berries is a taste I wont forget. It held its own against the huge umami and savoury notes of the eight-year-old beef and when I finished the last of the bottle (while rewatching The Sopranos season six during one of our many Melbourne lockdowns), I was a very happy and content boy, truly appreciative of this mighty fine wine that showcases the world-class syrah grape of Heathcote.

Instagram: @thecheesemonger @makerandmonger