It is time once again for me to lure people over to my apartment with a selection of good cheeses and other snacks to sucker them into packing all my crap up into various vehicles and moving it to another location with more space and (gasp!) central aircon. So, I had to go cheese shopping.
I’ve noticed an odd pattern to buying cheese nearby: some stores really want me to linger around, man. I really should remember to go to the specific cheese-selling store that fits the amount of time I have to spend browsing the cheeses, because it varies from a grab ‘n’ go situation to a miniature CHEESE PARTY!!!
This is by no means an exhaustive list. Perhaps there is another cheese store I’m missing. Please tell me of this overlooked cheese store, and I may go there when I’m out of cheese. But here goes, from shortest to longest:
Central Market, N. Lamar: The no-nonsense cheese buying experience. Everything is neatly laid out by country of origin and type of cheese. If I just want the fromager d’affinois with herbs again, I know exactly where it is and don’t even have to interact with anyone to get it. If I am grouchy and angry and just need the cheese, this is the place. It’s all very orderly and pleasing in a weirdly soothing sort of way, like a mini-megastore of cheese. I take deep comfort in the well-planned efficiency of this cheese-buying experience.
Sometimes there are samples, but not of everything. The little bin of smaller cuts is your best bet to try stuff you haven’t thought of before on the cheap since samples are sporadic.
Get in, get out, see if the Lambo dealer has any rad stuff in the window on the way back, and boom: I am home with cheese. Probably too much cheese. It all looks good. Cheese is good. Time spent cheese shopping: Short.
Whole Foods, Downtown Flagship: There’s cheese over here, and other cheese over there, and a vast aisle of things in between the two displays of cheese. Oh, are you looking for a cheese dip or spread? Sometimes it’s on the first aisle back there, randomly, or up with the prepared stuff, because reasons? So confusing.
You want me to buy other things than cheese, Amazon. I see that generous offer to sell me a walk-around beer. I’m on to your dirty tricks, but I’m still mad you took the relish out of the deviled egg recipe. Who does that?! New corporate overlords who don’t live in a place that does deviled eggs right, that’s who. Those used to be a near-dead-ringer for Grandma’s eggs and now they’re a pickle-free shell of their former greatness. So mad. Still mad. Yeah, I bought some anyway, but I’m mad. Let it be known that Stef is mad.
Wait, I was here for cheese? This is the problem lately with the Whole Foods downtown. Stuff moves around too often. It’s okay, and a really good cheese selection in its own right, roughly organized by style of cheese on both sides of the Vast Hold Of Cheese, Takeaway, Bakery, Dips And Uh, Stuff. Yet I find myself missing the searingly bright fluorescent lights and efficient order of the Central Market cheese-buying experience.
Counter staff is friendly and knowledgeable, and willing to cut off whatever size of cheese chunk you want. There’s also a box of small odds and ends for trying new cheese on the cheap before you decide that the giant wedge of lavender-flecked goat brie is really worth it. But dadgummit, where is the cheese I wanted to find? Do you no longer carry it, or is it hiding?
Why does it seem like selection is down when you are owned by the internet people now? Look, one bad experience with a super-raunchy raw milk cheese taught me to at least sniff and ask about unfamiliar cheeses before bringing them home, so I’m not gonna give up and order cheese through an app. That just ain’t right. You have to stock this in-person cheese aisle well and in an orderly fashion, guys. And put the dang relish back in the deviled eggs. Team relish for life. Time spent cheese shopping: Where the heck did they put the friggin’ pimiento cheese this time?
Antonelli’s, Duval: “Are you looking for any particular cheese, or just browsing? I can take you down the whole counter if you want. Want a sample? Here’s a sample. Try all the samples! Do you need a glass of wine? We have wine! That wine goes well with this cheese, over here. Want a sample? This cheese comes from an obscure sect of Bavarian monks who moved to the California coast, and you can really taste the salinity of the ocean air and the mosses favored by the goats on site come through in this cheese. Which cheese did you like the best? I can package those up, if you’d like.”
An extremely well-curated smaller selection of good cheeses in a dedicated cheese store, manned by friendly cheese people. I repeat: solely a cheese store. There are cheese-adjacent things like wine and charcuterie, but the focus is on cheese. They even keep track of prior cheese purchases, like some kind of fancy cheese registry. Egads.
This is a trap you should only fall for on or near payday. You have been warned. But it’s a cHeEsE pArTy TrAp!!! Have more cheese. Time spent cheese shopping: You went in for one long-craved chunk of Oma and $50+ later, you’ve spent your entire lunch break eating cheese samples, and small chunks of cheese on toothpicks have now become your lunch. Also, you now have enough cheese to last through the impending nuclear winter, so pray that C’thulhu doesn’t spring forth from the blast zone and eat you first. Now get back to work. You’re late.