In my quest for 52 cheeses in 2016, I either try to find some time during travels domestic or international, or I default to my neighborhood Whole Foods. That’s a very flexible concept, because as many Angelenos, my work neighborhood and my home neighborhood are quite a ways apart, and there are a number of stores that fit the bill. I like the Whole Foods in Woodland Hills a lot, because they carry a very wide variety of cheeses, many of them made with raw milk. From what I understand, each store can order from a very big list that WF central decides on, and it seems clear that some stores have a fierce resident cheese monger while others don’t. I am certainly not a fan of the one in the Rolling Hills Plaza – had more than one disappointment there.
Of course between getting my Cheese in Avignon or in Woodland Hills there is a third way: local travel. And a bit of travel it always is, in the City of Angels. We try to combine any weekend quest for cheese with other food destinations in the same area, heck, we even throw in a little local culture on occasion. Here are, in no particular order, the mongers we have visited thus far in the 52 Cheeses Year.
Cheesemongers of Sherman Oaks sits on a strip along Ventura Boulevard that has a lot of upscale, trendy shops and restaurants, and they fit right in. They do cheese, cured meats, they do sandwiches and they sell all the paraphernalia that go with these foods. It is a modern, airy looking place and the owners, Kia Burton (cheese girl) and Chaz Christianson (meat guy) clearly enjoy what they are doing. We met and chatted with Chaz and admired both the selection of spectacular meats and the lovingly laid out cheese counter.
DTLA Cheese in the Grand Central Market is a different place entirely. Because the market now is always busy, there is never a boring moment at the cheese counter, and I suspect that much of their income is from their mac and cheese (well-deserved income, I would say) and their sandwiches.
The folks there are friendly, and seem to enjoy working there. The owners are two sisters, Marnie and Lydia Clarke, and their other store is the Cheese Cave, which is possibly the most cluttered among the four places listed here, but I mean cluttered in a good way: who would not want a silver cow in the window, and who would not want to walk out of a place with sixteen items you didn’t know you needed?
In Culver City, in a neighborhood that is, well, soon-to-be-but-not-quite-yet gentrified, is the Wheel House, where they do tastings and classes and make sandwiches, sell $15 jars of jam that’s worth 16 dollars at least and where I have picked up some smelly chunks of Hooligan, one of my favorite cheeses in their assortment. They consider themselves as much of wine shop as a cheese monger.
All four of these are completely worth the visit and they are so much more than your local Whole Foods or Trader Joe’s. Be prepared to spend a little money; they all sell much more that what you really need (but they’re so attractive that you forget what you really need and go for what you really want), and good cheese is not cheap.