Stinky, smooshy, runny, crumbly, delicious cheese. If you want to treat your guests to something special, nothing's as simple and beautiful as an artisanal cheese plate. Our writers have shopped for cheese from San Francisco to Boston—here are some of their favorite places to pick up a wheel or a wedge.
P.S. Nora Singley's Cheesemonger column is one of our favorite places to look for advice on any variety of cheese. As an alum of the famous Murray's Cheese Shop in New York (also on our list of best cheesemongers), she knows what she's talking about. Check out her column for advice on what to buy and how to shop.
- Saxelby Cheesemongers (Manhattan): It operates out of a little stall in the Essex Street Market on the Lower East Side. Anne Saxelby, an alum of Murray's Cheese, is the sunshine-smiled proprietor. She sells almost entirely farmstead cheese, many from New York State, as well as crème fraîche and butter.
- Whole Foods Fromagerie (Manhattan/Various Locations): The Fromagerie is definitely catered toward the cheese connoisseur. We walked out of there having spent considerably more and enjoyed ourselves considerably more than we had planned.
- Stinky (Brooklyn): Stinky Bklyn has a very friendly atmosphere, stocking a variety of charcuterie, oils, sauces, and chocolates, as well as cheese. The staff seemed knowledgeable, eager to help and the quirky take on ratings, with each cheese given a "nose" factor to gauge its stinkiness, was entertaining.
- Formaggio Kitchen (Boston/Online): Ask a salesperson for help picking cheeses, and "Goat, cow, or sheep?" is only the beginning. You're just as likely to be asked, "Stinky like a sock or stinky like a barn?" with complete sincerity. These people are smart, and they're sure to find the exact cheese you never knew you needed.
- Cowgirl Creamery (Washington, DC): Our nation's capital needed cheese. California-based Cowgirl Creamery opened up a store in Washington, DC "just in time to save us from the empty void that was DC's cheese scene," according to Steve B. on Yelp.com.
- Fox & Obel (Chicago): Fox & Obel is a full-service gourmet grocery store with a well-stocked cheese shop in Chicago's Near North Side. Prices are higher here than in a grocery store, but for harder-to-find specialty items, the store is an excellent resource.
- Provenance Food and Wine (Chicago): It is a grocery and wine shop with a focus on eating and drinking well everyday. Affordable wines (most between $10 and $25), Red Hen bread, artisanal cheeses and nice chocolates are available - really, what more do you need?
- Cheese Plus (San Francisco): Their local product selection is particularly strong. The staff was helpful and seems to know how to treat the cheeses. We were very happy with the Petit Basque and the Chevre Raclette recommended to go along with our salumi. We were even offered tastes without having to ask. A nice touch.
- Market Hall Foods (Oakland/Online): While we look for most of our food locally, Market Hall Foods is great for those rare items that can elevate a dish or a meal into something unique and special. Their online selection of cheese ranges from Parmigiano Reggiano, straight from Emilia Romagna, to Ossau Iraty from the French Pyrenees.
- Artisan Cheese Gallery (Los Angeles): Founded by a former lawyer and her parents, the Artisan Cheese Gallery in Studio City is a cheerful and charming destination for anyone with a more than a passing interest in cheese.