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The Lady and The Chef from her store went on a field trip last week and checked out the new food carts on Belmont. They walked around and chatted with a couple of the folks. From there, they headed up Belmont to the Mt. Tabor neighborhood to visit The Cheese Bar, the recently opened cheese shop by cheesemonger extraordinaire, Steve Jones, who refers to himself as “Just a Guy”. Calling himself “just a guy” is akin to Tiger Woods (back in the day) calling himself “Just a golfer”.

Steve’s creds include winning the first ever (with Rogue Creamery’s Tom Voorhees) Cheesemonger Merchandising Competition at the 2009 American Cheese Society Conference. This year he will be judging the more than 1400 cheeses submitted to the 2010 ACS Competition in hopes of being named “Best of Show”. Before the Cheese Bar, Steve ran Steve’s Cheese in the Alphabet neighborhood of NW Portland. Back in 2006, Tami Parr (Artisan Cheese of the Pacific Northwest and The Pacific Northwest Cheese Project) interviewed Steve for PortlandFoodandDrink.com. You can read the interview by clicking here.

David Lockwood, Managing Director, and Raef Hodgson, USA Export Manager for Great Britain Cheese Exporter, Neal’s Yard were sampling three terrific cheeses and you can read our reviews by clicking here.

After sampling the cheeses and chatting with the swells from Neal’s Yard, The Lady and The Chef checked out the menu and decided to stay and have lunch.

The Cheese Bar opened in a store front at 61st and Belmont. If memory serves me right, the address was previously a delicatessen making it perfect for Steve’s new digs. In addition to a superior selection of local, domestic and imported cheeses (which are cut to order only), the Cheese Bar also offers a smallish selection of charcuterie and items to compliment the cheeses and charcuterie and beer and wine.

The shop has the feel of a neighborhood hangout with a few tables and two “bar” areas; one across the front floor-to-ceiling glass window and a main one behind which all of the ordering and food preparation takes place. There are a couple of tables inside; a couple out front on the sidewalk and two on a patio at the rear of the shop. The place was pleasantly full at 3pm in the afternoon with folks enjoying wine by-the-glass and beer on-tap.

The food menu was a large blackboard hanging behind the bar area and was handwritten. The Lady and The Chef decided it is handwritten daily depending on what’s being served.

Saturday there were three sandwiches: #1, #2 and #3. There were two salads…yep #1 and #2. You could also order a cheese plate with baguette and extras such as fig spread, nuts, tapenade, etc.

The Chef ordered #1 Sandwich which was Hot Capicola with Fontina, Balsamic Mayo and Arugula on a Baguette. The Lady ordered #3 which was grilled whole grain bread with Ham, Mozzarella, Roasted Tomato and Salsa Verde.

As is to be expected, The Chef is a very picky eater and pronounced his sandwich “Wonderful, particularly the baguette.” The Lady was busy swooning over her own sandwich which she pronounced “Perfectomento”. The Chef had a draft beer and The Lady had “Cold” tea which Steve explained they served and not Iced Tea.

The Lady asked where they bought their bread and the waitress said it came from New Seasons which has its own bakery. I suspect The Lady may be visiting New Seasons soon and bringing home a couple of loaves and baguettes.

The entire tab was just under $20 and the conversation was priceless…

The Chef and The Lady give the sandwiches at The Cheese Bar 4 Paws out of 4 Paws…there she goes, borrowing my paws again…sheesh…

As for the Cheese Bar itself, The Lady says that 4 Paws is not enough… it’s quite a special place…

If you are in Southeast Portland, be sure and stop in for a glass of wine and a slice of cheese or a sandwich and a beer… you’ll also meet some of the friendly folks who live in the Mt. Tabor neighborhood. The Cheese Bar is closed on Mondays but otherwise is open daily from 11am to 11pm.