Rows of milky-white triple crèmes, mold-ripened fromage with rumpled rinds, logs of tangy young goat cheese, wedges of luxurious creaminess surrounded by bloomy crusts. These are a few of the splendors of a new wave of neighborhood cheese stores that opened recently across L.A.
There's DTLA Cheese at downtown's Grand Central Market, Milkfarm in Eagle Rock and Wheel House Cheese in Culver City, all of which have opened in the last several months.
The demand for the dedicated cheese shop stems partly from a keener interest in cheese that has been sparked by a burgeoning domestic cheese industry (even under stricter Food and Drug Administration regulations). And consumers also increasingly want to know where their food, including their cheese, is coming from.
"People are paying attention to cheese," said Lydia Clarke, an owner of DTLA Cheese, "and instead of buying it at the grocery store, they have the opportunity to interact with a cheesemonger to discover the whole story behind the cheese. The more cheese shops the better, especially for artisan cheese."
The latest generation of cheesemongers is bringing cheeses both classic and hard-to-find to neighborhoods that previously might have been gourmet-cheese sparse. Among them are Leah Park Fierro, a pastry chef and veteran of the Cheese Store of Silverlake, who opened Milkfarm on a bustling stretch of Eagle Rock's Colorado Boulevard, and Alex Josef, who opened Wheel House in Culver City and sports a tattoo of a cow on his arm.
"Cheese is just cool," Clarke said. "It's never boring. It's always 'Oh, my God, cheese!'"
Here are seven great L.A. cheese shops, including new and old favorites:
The charming black-and-white shop that Leah Park Fierro opened this spring carries a large selection of seasonal cheeses, along with charcuterie; paper-wrapped, string-tied sandwiches; and local food products. A recent selection of cheeses includes the English Stinking Bishop (rind washed in perry, a pear hard cider), fresh burrata, Four Fat Fowl triple crème from St. Stephens in New York, even squeaky Beehive Cheese Co. cheese curds.
2106 Colorado Blvd., Los Angeles, (323) 892-1068, www.milkfarmla.com
Wheel House Cheese
Culver City newcomer Wheel House was opened by Alex Jones along with Steve Jones of Cheese Bar in Portland, Ore. (winner of the 2011 Cheesemonger Invitational), offering about 100 cheeses that recently included favorites such as wedges of Salers and Spanish sheep's milk cheese Malvarosa, O'Banon's Capriole and Jasper Hill's Bayley Hazen, along with more rare goods from Blue Pholia Farm and Brazos Valley Cheese.
12954 W. Washington Blvd., Culver City, 424–289-9167, www.wheelhousecheese.com
Lydia and Marnie Clarke, sisters who also own the Cheese Cave in Claremont and whose grandfather founded Alta Dena Dairy, opened DTLA Cheese this winter, offering about 120 cheeses to downtowners, along with cheese plates and a cheese-centric menu from chef Reed Herrick. Now that we're heading into fall, look for Alpine cheeses that are peaking in flavor and young cheeses made from the milk of animals that fed on late summer pastures (hello, Munster).
317 S. Broadway, Los Angeles, (213) 290-3060, www.dtlacheese.com
Cheese Store of Beverly Hills
The aromas in here are olfactory heaven for cheese lovers. The tiny store always seems overflowing with cheese, overseen by cheesemonger Norbert Wabnig — cheeses of all types, milks, countries, textures and ages. The staff can guide you to the cheeses you're looking for, whether for a party of one or a crowd of cheese-heads. Wabnig also leads tasting events and classes.
419 N. Beverly Drive, Beverly Hills, (310) 278-2855, www.cheesestorebh.com
The Cheese Store of Silverlake
This cheese boutique, tucked into a corner of Sunset Junction next to Intelligentsia, is a Silver Lake haven, stocked with cheeses, wine and a small selection of pantry goods. The wrap-around cheese case is always laden with a comprehensive mix of imported and domestic cheeses. And cheesy sandwiches abound.
3926 Sunset Blvd., Los Angeles, (323) 644-7511, www.cheesestoresl.com
Andrew's Cheese Shop
Andrew Steiner was long known for his impeccable cheese cart service at fine dining restaurant Patina, and he loved the stinky stuff so much he eventually opened his own Santa Monica shop. The 5-year-old store is still going strong, with a great variety of domestic (especially farmstead Californian) cheeses. Always popular are its grilled cheese and beer nights.
728 Montana Ave., Santa Monica, (310) 393-3308, www.andrewscheese.com
Artisan Cheese Gallery
Artisan Cheese Gallery, a Valley favorite, focuses on small producers and individual sellers from all over the world to offer one-of-a-kind cheeses. In the current cheese rotation: five-year Gouda, Parmigiano-like Piave from the Veneto in Italy, Tumalo Farms' goat's milk Pondhopper, Pluvia from Washington (like a blue cheese but without the innoculated mold) and washed-rind Forsterkase, stinky and delicious.
12023 Ventura Blvd., Studio City, (818) 505-0207, www.artisancheesegallery.com