5 Great Cheese Shops That Go Above and Beyond the Call of Dairy
According to the USDA, the average American eats about 30 pounds of cheese a year. The French have us beat -- closer to 45 pounds per person, per year -- but then again, they've got fromageries on every corner and often eat cheese after the meal, when Americans are grabbing an ice cream cone.
Erin Lyall Say Cheese!
Cheesemongering is a growing industry in Los Angeles. We now have close to 40 shops selling the best of what cows, goats and sheep have to offer (that doesn't even count the upcoming vegan cheese shop from Tal Ronnen). Far beyond cheddar and Brie, you can sample unique curds from Tasmania, nibble on funky goat milk blues or find that perfectly oozy Reblochon for your picnic.
Unlike France, though, you don't need to wander from fromagerie to boulangerie to patisserie to get a full meal. Here's our list of the five best places to go for some cheese, and stay for some really fantastic food. Add a glass of wine and you've got the ideal European lunch ... if only you could take a nap after.
5. Andrew's Cheese Shop
Erin Lyall Andrew's Salmon Sandwich
At first glance, Andrew's appears to be a cheese shop, nothing more. But then you notice the handwritten menu on the back wall, and you order a $9 sandwich that sounds relatively straightforward. And then you unwrap it.
Excellent bread, the perfect ratio of meat, cheese, toppings and crumb; these guys'll have you coming back for more. The Italian (mortadella, ham, salami, pepperoncini and cheddar) is a perennial favorite, but the house-cured salmon, scattered with capers and smeared with crème fraiche, is a real stunner. It's practically an entire filet of sushi-grade fish hitting every salty, creamy note you could want. Of course, the cheese selection is top-notch (with the prices to match), but the employees are excellent guides for the uninitiated, and there are shelves of wine, crackers, chocolate and beer to pair with your purchase. 728 Montana Ave., Santa Monica; (310) 393-3308.
4. The Oaks Gourmet
Erin Lyall BLT at the Oaks Gourmet
Tucked in upper Hollywood next to the UCB Theatre, the Oaks Gourmet is a great one-stop shop for a picnic. It has a small but satisfying cheese case full of Drunken Goat, sheeps' milk Etorki and hunks of chipotle cheddar. On the shelves around the store you'll find an interesting selection of wine, chips, dip and sweets, all handpicked by the owners and general manager; perfect for that hostess gift you forgot to pick up.
Build your cheese plate, grab your wine, then swing by a counter on either end of the store and order a few sandwiches to go. The banh mi is full of shredded porky goodness and tangy pickles, but for true decadence try the BLT, which is layered with fat strips of perfectly cooked bacon, avocado and Camembert in place of mayonnaise. Cheesy bonus: Stop by on Wednesdays for Grilled Cheese Night, when they dip into their cheese cart to chef up a handful of modern spins on the old childhood favorite. 1915 N. Bronson Ave., Hollywood; (323) 871-8894.
728 Montana Avenue, Santa Monica, CA