By D. Dion
Maura Coulter is a cheese wiz, and not the orange kind that comes in a can. If there were such a thing as a master cheese sommelier, she would hold that title. She is the ultimate connoisseur; she doesn’t just know what she likes, she knows what you like. After describing three of the most popular varieties of her artisanal cheeses, she hands me a thin slice of one, and I’m amazed. It lives up to her description: a hard cheese with a creamy taste, milky, with almost a little nuttiness. “It’s the third one, right?” I ask. She nods and smiles. It’s the Ossau-Iraty, an incredible French cheese made from sheep’s milk, and is easily the best cheese I’ve ever tasted.
Maura Coulter and her daughter, Hallie Coulter Conlin, opened the charcuterie and cheese shop “Over the Moon” in Telluride in July of 2012. They already have a dedicated tribe of customers, and seem to know everyone that comes through the door by name. They also know them by taste. As soon as someone walks in, the mother-daughter team reaches around in the deli cases to slice something special, one of their cured meats or unique cheeses, that they know will suit the person perfectly. “I like building the relationships with customers and learning their tastes. I get excited to share something new that I know they’ll like,” says Hallie.
Over the Moon is not just a shop, it’s an experience. Maura grew up in Boston, where there are lots of little neighborhood markets with special ethnic foods, and she and her daughter have created a similar vibe in the small, chic Telluride space. It’s sort of like being in the kitchen of one of your girlfriends. You and your friends sit at a large, cozy wooden table and Maura and Hallie bring out an array of cheeses, fine olives, and cured meats, and pour everyone a glass of wine. Not sure what you like? Sample the wild boar salami, the heirloom Berkshire prosciutto, or the shaved, air-dried beef. Try the burrata, a soft-centered mound of cream and mozzarella, or the “champagne of cheeses,” Nocciolo, made of goat, sheep and cow milk. Taste the fleshy, country olives or the small, salty, and oily nicoise variety. Just like your friend’s kitchen, it is the perfect place to duck in on a snowy afternoon and share some wine, appetizers, and conversation.
Of course, when you sit in the kitchen at your friend’s house, you are not going to be able to sample and choose from 50 or so types of cheese. Nor would you be able to shop for a gourmet dinner. At Over the Moon, you can find everything from gluten-free pasta in a rainbow array of phyto-colors to stone-ground heirloom grain grits, or refill your glass bottle from the steel dispensers of cold-pressed organic Tuscan olive oil.
If it is so unique that you can’t find it in a supermarket, and so desirable that you have to have it, then it’s probably at Over the Moon. Like the Roccia Viva olive oil, harvested from the wild olive trees that surround the Silverado vineyard in Napa Valley. As with many of the specialty items, it has a local connection or purveyor: a Telluride couple owns the vineyard and produces the oil. “We went to school with their daughters,” says Hallie. “Almost everything we carry has a story.” And like all good stories, they are best heard over a glass of wine and a delectable plate of things to nibble on.