Manny’s Specialty Cheese Shop is a genuine Traverse City food find.  Read on to learn about TC’s favorite cheesemonger, and how to make the best gratin potatoes (pictured above) that Manny can buy.  The following profile and recipe was first featured in the May 2014 issue of Traverse, Northern Michigan’s Magazine.

After careers in office furniture and then mortgages sent Manny Gualco looking for a more pleasurable way to earn a living, he landed a job in one of the foodie-renowned Nugget Markets near his home in Northern California. Not long after, a job in the cheese department opened, and Manny was not too proud to beg. He got the job and a cheesemonger was born. After mentoring four years under two of the market’s formaggio heads, he and his wife decided to move to Traverse City, her hometown, where he founded Manny’s Specialty Cheese Shop on Eighth Street. His customers don’t walk out without having tasted at least some of the 130 to 150 varieties that he carries. And sometimes they walk in with fabulous cheese recipes. Such as the one below, which Manny tweaked a bit before bestowing it on our very fortunate readers.

Morbier Gratin Potatoes


  • 6 tablespoons butter
  • 1/2-pound slab bacon, cut into 1-by-½-inch slices
  • 1 medium yellow onion, thinly sliced
  • 1 cup unoaked chardonnay
  • 3 large Idaho russets, peeled and thinly sliced
  • Kosher salt & freshly ground pepper
  • 1 pound Morbier cheese, rind removed and cut into 1/4-inch-thick slices


Preheat oven to 375. Grease an oval, or round 2½-quart casserole with 2 tablespoons of the butter. In a medium skillet, fry bacon pieces until slightly crisp. Remove from pan to paper towel. Add onion to pan and cook till slightly caramelized. Remove onion from pan and set aside. Add remaining butter and half the wine to pan, bring to low boil and reduce liquid by about half. Add potatoes, salt and pepper to taste, cover and simmer. After a few minutes, add balance of wine and turn potatoes. Cook until slightly tender, about 15 minutes. Add onions back to pan and mix thoroughly. Place half the potato mix into the casserole, add a layer of bacon and a layer of cheese. Repeat. Bake, uncovered for 30 to 35 minutes until brown and bubbly.

May 2014 coverMore Northern Michigan Food and Drink