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At Concord Cheese Shop, buyer Brie Hurd samples, vouches

Brie Hurd (right), buyer at the Concord Cheese Shop, with cheesemaker Jamie Montgomery in Somerset, England.

Brie Hurd (right), buyer at the Concord Cheese Shop, with cheesemaker Jamie Montgomery in Somerset, England.

WHEEL OF FORTUNE: Lincoln native Brie Hurd, whose name seems fortuitous given her career as a cheese buyer, is passionate about providing customers at the Concord Cheese Shop with the best products.

The 26-year-old can personally vouch for the store’s wheel of aged Montgomery’s cheddar. She selected it at the British farm where it was made.

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In April, the Somerville resident was one of four cheese professionals on the inaugural trip to England coordinated by Cheese Journeys, a food-travel program focusing on European cheeses and their artisans. The weeklong journey included instruction in the science of cheesemaking, tours of production facilities and creameries, and visits to five cheesemakers in Somerset and Devon.

It was at Somerset’s Manor Farm, under the direction of third-generation cheesemaker Jamie Montgomery, where Hurd participated in a tasting with buyers from Neal’s Yard Dairy, a prominent retailer, distributor, and exporter of British cheeses. The group sampled and evaluated the subtle nuances of more than 20 wheels of Montgomery’s cheddar made in June 2013.

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“I distinctly felt like I was a part of something truly sacred,” Hurd recalled, “as though I was backstage before a Beatles concert, hanging out with the band while they warmed up.”

After Hurd explained her reasons for selecting the June 2 batch as her favorite, she was invited to sign the 50-pound wheel to reserve it for exclusive import to the Concord Cheese Shop. Since it arrived on July 3, she said, about a half of the wheel of cheese — which features a “balanced, buttery flavor with nice structure, a little bit of earthiness, and less piercing acidity than in many other cheddars” — has been sold or distributed as samples.

Hurd, who has worked at the Concord shop since age 19, said she shares the story of her “life-changing trip” with all who will listen.

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“It’s certainly my favorite cheddar of all time,” she said. “It’s nice to see people loving it as much as I do.”

DISTINGUISED SERVICE: West Newton resident John L. Mahoney (inset), director of undergraduate admission at Boston College, has earned the highest award from the New England Association for College Admission Counseling.

Presented at the association’s annual conference last month, the Harry R. Carroll Distinguished Service Award recognizes excellence in a college admission counseling professional.

Over the course of his 26-year career at Boston College, Mahoney has been lauded for his commitment to ethics, exemplary service, and camaraderie among his co-workers.

“To be recognized by my colleagues in the college admission profession is truly humbling for me,” he said.

BASTILLE FESTIVITIES: French in Acton enjoyed its first sold-out gathering in the language school’s six-year history of hosting a special celebration marking Bastille Day, France’s independence holiday, on July 14.

Forty revelers dined at Bondir Concord, with chef/owner Jason Bond preparing a meal featuring chilled zucchini soup, a salad of local chicories, and roasted chicken galantine, sweet-pea flan with roasted vegetables, or wild salmon. According to French tradition, the final course was a selection of local cheeses, poached rhubarb, or dark-chocolate Calvados mousse.

The evening’s music was provided by flutist Nina Prakash, a Boxborough resident and junior at Acton-Boxborough Regional High School, who performed works by French composers. Led by school director Cynthia Edelman of Acton, and teachers Ève Fischer of Stow and Virginie Faas of Acton, the group conversed in French and sang “La Marseillaise,” the country’s national anthem.

“I love this annual tradition for the opportunity to use our French for fun,” Edelman said. “This is why we study and learn: to revel in another culture.”

RIDING FOR A CURE: After Loie Williams of Newton was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer in March 2005, she knew the odds were against her survival. But when her then-13-year-old son, Chris, expressed fear she would die, she was determined to remain positive.

“I’m going to beat this,” she reassured her son. “I’m going to live through this.”

Two weeks later, Williams underwent surgery to remove her spleen and a large tumor from her pancreas. The following October, she rejoined her rowing team to compete in the Head of the Charles Regatta. Then she began training for the Pan-Massachusetts Challenge, an annual bike-a-thon that last year raised a record $39 million for patient care and research at the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute through the Jimmy Fund.

Next weekend, Williams will ride in her ninth Pan-Mass Challenge to pay forward the generosity of donors who funded the cancer research that helped save her life. The 60-year-old, who rides the 84-mile route from Wellesley to Bourne, will join 5,800 cyclists taking part in the fund-raiser, with some covering up to 190 miles. Her goal is to raise $20,000, bringing her total PMC contribution to more than $128,000.

Williams, who spoke at the PMC Heavy Hitters event in May recognizing top fund-raisers, attributes her survivorship to putting her recovery first with support from family and friends, practicing yoga and meditation, taking one day at a time, and inspiration from fellow PMC riders and supporters.

“You can certainly make a difference by yourself, but being part of a team is even more powerful,” said Williams, who rides with the names of more than 200 cancer patients, both survivors and those who lost their battle, on her helmet and jersey.

“We’ve raised millions of dollars together,” she added, “which does make a difference.”

For more information, visit www.pmc.org.

JUSTICE FOR ALL: Laura Van Zandt, executive director of REACH Beyond Domestic Violence, presented the Mary Young Voice for Justice Award to the Sudbury-Wayland-Lincoln Domestic Violence Roundtable at her Waltham-based organization’s recent annual meeting.

The all-volunteer round- table group was recognized for raising awareness about domestic violence in all its forms, promoting safe and healthy relationships, and collaborating with local domestic violence agencies.

The award was accepted by the nonprofit’s president, Ruth Backman, and vice president, Susan Pettit. In addition, the organization was honored with a congressional citation signed by US Representative Katherine Clark, a Melrose Democrat.

“REACH is a well-respected group,” Backman said, “and it’s an honor to be recognized by them.”

For more information, e-mail infodvrt@gmail.com or visit www.domesticviolenceroundtable.org.

People items may be submitted to Cindy Cantrell at cindy-cantrell20@gmail.com.
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