Our Cheeselog

An Ode to The Cheese Stands Alone – and Matt Parker

Back in 2004, there were no cheese shops in our area. Sure, there were wine shops which also sold cheese, but no one who was fromage-focused. That needed to change, obviously. I knew cheese but I had no idea how to run a cheese business – I had never even worked in retail before. Having no immediate resources, I consulted the trusty internet and was surprised that all over the country, there were very few true cheese shops. Of course there were the superheroes, like Murray’s in New York, but that would be like asking Barbra Streisand for singing lessons. I had to find someone who did what I wanted to do… and who would help me learn.

Enter Matt Parker of The Cheese Stands Alone, which had opened in Chicago the year before. One email was all it took – Matt responded right away and not only offered to answer my questions, but invited me to shadow him in his shop. Imagine that! Back then, I didn’t realize what a big deal it was. Now that I own my own business and see how exhausting and engrossing it is, his openness was nothing short of extraordinary. Little did he know when he encouraged my questions that I would show up with multiple pages of them. The cheese cases I bought? Matt told me to go True. The slicer? Twelve inch blade, just like Matt said. The care we take with our cheeses? Matt showed me it could be done with passion and precision. Eight years later, there is nothing about which he steered me wrong.

So why this belated homage? I just found out that The Cheese Stands Alone closed back in 2008, right about the time when we were expanding and freaking out about adding a restaurant. A cheese restaurant. A cheese restaurant that might never have been if a kindly cheese pioneer like Matt Parker had ignored me… or said the cheese business was awful… or told me to take a hike.

Thank you, Matt Parker, on behalf of myself and the 80 wonderful cheese geeks who work in our two locations today. I hope you’re kicking ass somewhere great and keepin’ it real. And the next time you’re in DC, please come by – I owe you a drink (and a lot more).

Filed in: Blogging

Welcome to Ask the Cheese Lady

Is there something you’ve always wanted to know about cheese? Post it as a comment here! Cheese Lady Jill Erber will get you an answer in no-time.

Rush Creek Reserve is in da House! Raw Milk Rules!

Hold onto your hats, cheese lovers. We just received our shipment of Rush Creek Reserve from award-winning Uplands Cheese Company in Wisconsin. Modeled after the impossible-to-find-in-America Vacherin Mont d’Or, this is a RAW MILK, spruce-wrapped bundle of joy. Silky and rich, with the perfect amount of washed-rind attitude.

If you are into super-special cheeses, this is the one for you. It’s pricey, but remember this is a cheese for sharing… with those whom you really like.

Simple instructions to eat:

  1. Unwrap and let sit out for at least an hour. A few hours would be great. Do not remove the wood “belt” from the outside.
  2. Cut/peel off the top of the cheese.
  3. Scoop it right into your mouth. Use a cracker if you must.

Weighing in at a hefty 3/4 lb., Rush Creek Reserve is $34.99 per piece.

Filed in: Cheeses

Bottomless Steak Frites? Yes, please!

Last night, we dined with friends who recommended a joint in Cleveland Park Called Medium Rare. I had never heard of it and upon arrival, noted that the vibe in the place was more hip/casual than a typical steakhouse. That’s because it’s not a typical steakhouse…

Our friends told us we would love the menu because there weren’t many choices to fret over. If by “not many choices” they meant “only one choice” then they were right on the money. The menu consists of… wait for it… Steak Frites. Only Steak Frites. With a starter salad and lots of fresh-warm-crusty-tender-airy-blissful bread and butter. Ordering for the table consisted of a simple “medium rare all around, please” and we were off to the races.

The salad was yummy, but really, who’s here for salad? Bring on the frites! The main dish arrived – slices of tender, flavorful culotte steak and fantabulous crispy fries. The steak was slathered in “secret sauce” which roughly translates to “makes your tongue happy”. When I had inhaled the contents of my plate, I was already scheming to steal my husband’s fries when lo and behold… who should come by but a man with MORE Steak Frites!!! Could such a place exist? All you can eat Steak Frites?!?! I considered myself one of the luckiest people on earth as I poured more secret sauce and dug in. I couldn’t finish this portion, but if I had, you know what? They would have brought me EVEN MORE Steak Frites!

Oh – not that it could get much better than bottomless beef and fries, but dessert was excellent – an over-the-top hot fudge sundae with both sprinkles and jimmies. And a massive slab of multi-layered, multi-fudge, multi-yum cake. A fitting end to a decadent and yet delightfully simple dinner.

Our host, bartender, and server were really nice and laid-back. And of course, the steak was fantastic. And bottomless! What a great idea… Thanks, Medium Rare!

(And I’m sorry we were late… Cleveland Park is, like, REALLY far away. Thanks for being so cool about it.)

Filed in: Out & About

Blessed indeed…

In this morning's Food Section, you will notice an unconventional covergirl. Her name is Sister Barbara Smickel and she makes Gouda right here in Virginia. If you want to read something inspirational, take a moment to check out this story. I love seeing folks who are truly passionate about what they do – and am reminded how lucky it is that work exposes me to people like this so often. Case in point: when Sister Barbara describes the hand-test of her cheese curd: "It is very prayerful … Like a communion with the Lord and what is becoming cheese under my fingers."

Thank you, Washington Post, for sharing Sister Barbara's passion with us. What a great way to start the day!

Filed in: Cheeses

Live(ish) from the Fancy Food Show

Hello, food lovers! I tried to tweet photos live from the Fancy Food Show, but was thwarted at every turn by my arch-nemesis, Technology. So, you’ll have to settle for an update the day after. After a few years of attending, my trusty cohorts (Maud & Tommy) and I made it through the show in record time – practice makes perfect! We left fat, happy, and with a long list of new items soon to arrive at Cheesetique. Examples, you say? Read on to see just a few…

1. New salami, because nothing is better than new salami
This one hails from Creminelli and is flavored with Whiskey. Sadly, it won’t be available till later this year, but when it’s ready, you know we’ll be the first to have it. I was also reminded how super-delicious Creminelli’s Prosciutto Cotto (cooked ham) is. So much so that we’re already working on a new sandwich with this and Grafton’s new raw milk take on Leyden. Check out the photo – yes, that is a buffet of cured pork.

2. Who you callin’ a Jerky?
Ah… road trips. The reason beef jerky was invented (at least in my world). All it takes is a tall cup of coffee and a bag of jerky to make the miles fly by (and give you the greatest breath ever). Well, what’s old is new again with Field all-natural beef jerky. Super-tasty, super-chewy, and deliciously déclassé. This screams, “I’m gonna dry my beef and I don’t care who knows it, dog-gonnit!”

3. Me with a big Gruyere
No explanation required.

4. Funniest cheese label ever
We affectionately call this the “Dirty Old Man Cheese”. Who even cares what’s inside when the label looks like this? Older bearded gentleman. Pert young ladies hand-feeding him cheese. What’s not to smile about?

5. Chocolate with deliciously wacky ingredients
From one of our favorite producers, Vosges, comes a new line of “Wild Ophelia Road Trip Chocolate”. These ingenious creations feature the best chocolate filled with ingredients like BBQ Potato Chips, Peanut Butter & Banana, and even Beef Jerky.

Things we took away from this year’s show:
1. I officially declare 2012 the year of Jerky. It’s in chocolate. It’s in cheese. It’s free range and all-natural. Down with the Cupcake – long live Jerky!
2. Raw cheese is everywhere! I rank this right up there with the proliferation of free wi-fi and the invention of the deep-fried candy bar. It warms my heart. Thank you, brave cheese makers, for sticking to your guns and producing the best cheeses you can.
3. Entrepeneurship is alive and VERY well. There were pickle people (yeah Gordy’s!); there were chocolate people; there were milk straw people (don’t know what that is? you will soon!); there were cheese people (lots of ’em!); there were ham people; there were jam people. You name it, someone has thought of a way to eat it. It was inspiring to see them all at work (and play). Bravo, exhibitors, for bringing us your inventive and inspiring wares!

See you next year…

Filed in: Out & About

Calories, Shmalories

I once said that it makes no sense when restaurants display the calories of each item (people will eat what they want to eat, regardless). Well, while browsing in Au Bon Pain this morning, I naturally gravitated toward the muffin/croissant section. Then I saw it… 410 calories for a muffin!!! Needless to say, I left with a banana and an apple instead. So, I guess it works.

Cheese, anyone?

Filed in: Out & About

Cheesetique is a Washingtonian “Cheap Eats” Again!

We are so proud to report that Washingtonian Magazine has just named Cheesetique's Cheese & Wine Bar as one of its 100 "Cheap Eats" for the third year running! What this means is that you can enjoy an ample meal in the Cheese and Wine Bar and still have something left over to grab something in the shop wink

Thank you SO MUCH, Washingtonian Magazine!

Filed in: News, Restaurant

Cook’s Illustrated Brings Me Joy… and Reflection

I love Cook's Illustrated. Perhaps it's as simple as the fact that it caters to both sides of the personality: foodie and geek. One reads not only about flour, for instance, but which flour performs best in blind studies of various recipes. It's like Food & Wine crossed with Popular Science. Today, I had the privilege of reading Christopher Kimball's editorial, "Zero Degrees of Separation", in the July/August issue. This is a column that anyone who cares enough to read this  blog should read. In other words, if you are a cheese person, you are a "Zero Degrees of Separation" person.

While reading Mr. Kimball's thoughts, I was reminded of my own sense memories. The arrival of a new, pillowy soft-ripened cheese from Australia with a downey rind soft as a baby's bottom. The damp, fetid scent of a perfectly mature cave-aged Stilton. The distinctive smell of a cheese that is past its prime. Frankly, there is no other like it and the second it hits your nostrils, there's no mistaking. (Note to all you Cheesetique mongers: sniff early and often!)

Thank you, Mr. Kimball, for providing us with the perfect foodie/geek resource issue after issue. But thanks especially for reminding me to keep the degrees of separation as limited as possible.

Filed in: Uncategorized

Well, would you want to milk a moose?

We just stumbled upon a farm in Sweden that makes moose cheese… for $500 per pound! Considering moose are massive (or should I say "moosive") and really testy, I can't say I'm surprised. Apparently, it takes two death-defying hours to milk a moose and all you get is one gallon – and maybe a broken bone or two. The funniest thing about this farm is that they also point out the other attractions for visitors – fishing and golf. As if watching some poor fool try to milk an 1,100-pound moose isn't enough of a diversion. Those Swedes are just so cooky…

Filed in: Cheeses