I'm in Southern California this week, eating my way through some of LA's best tacos and Thai. Frankly, cheese just hasn't been on the brain. But yesterday, when a quick peek into Silverlake's cute-as-can-be cheese shop turned into an extended exploration of its offerings, I realized that indeed, I can only go so long without some quality cheese time. And considering the gourmet shop's slew of goods, it seems only right to give a prominent shout out for this great little shop.
With a roster of cheeses that teeters between 250 and 300 choices, it's no surprise that there's zero want for variety. Bases are covered in terms of style, milk type, and country of origin; cheeses from the Netherlands butt up against others from Switzerland, Italy, France, Spain, and the US.
Proprietor Chris Pollen has a penchant for American cheeses, though. And if it were up to him, he'd open an American cheese shop, with all American wine, too. It's no secret that American cheeses are expensive to ship, though, and he was quick to point out the irony of being able to source more reasonably priced European cheeses. So for now, he's committed to offering a range of worldly wheels, and makes it a serious focus to bring in new items as often as possible. He's got plenty of regulars, and they crave diversity as much as he does.
The store is small, but it's packed. Floor to ceiling shelving with dry goods line the perimeter of the store, and displays of olives, vinegars, confections, and condiments dot the rest of the grounds. Of particular note were some of the more unique things on offer to presumably serve with cheese: Guava paste, rose petal jelly, honeycomb, pickled plums, a habanero chili and ginger jam, and salt-preserved limes.
And then there were the other dry goods and gourmet items: Polenta, pastas of every variety, and grains, plus olive oil galore, Vosges chocolate, pistachio cream, rose water, yuzu syrup, bacon and green chili peanut brittle, Ricki Carroll cheesemaking kits, spice rubs, mostardas, caramels, and locally-made marshmallows.
Cheese takes the main focus, though, and a horseshoe-shaped full-service dairy case sits prominently in the center of the shop. With such selection, I wasn't surprised to see a handful that I'd never seen before: Onetik blue, a sheep milk blue from France, Great Hill Blue from Massachusetts, Pilota, a sheep and cow blend from the French Basque country, a fresh chevre from an Idaho dairy called Rollingstone, and Pantaleo, an Italian goat, which I found exceptionally interesting, considering the scarcity of Italian cheeses made with goat milk.
Proprietor's picks of the moment: Andeerer Traum, a raw Swiss cow milk cheese, going for $28 a pound, and Landaff, also a raw cow, from Jasper Hill Farm in Vermont, at the same price. Chris was actually the first person in the area to start bringing in Jasper Hill's Constant Bliss, so if that's any indication of his cheese taste, I'd trust his recommendations.
Grab some wedges, a bottle of wine — there are over a hundred on offer — and some of their charcuterie and olives, and call it a night. That is, of course, if you're over tacos.
Nora Singley is an avid lover of cheese, and used to be a cheesemonger and the Director of Education at Murray's Cheese Shop in New York City, where she continues to teach cheese classes for the public. She is currently an Assistant TV Chef and food stylist on The Martha Stewart Show.
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(Images: Flickr users kthread and calamity_hane licensed for use under Creative Commons, Nora Singley.)