Your small local cheese shops offer small-batch cheeses not found in some of the larger shops and retail chains. They always cut to order and wrap in cheese paper, guaranteeing freshness.
However, larger specialty cheese shops offer convenience, more choice and generally more competitive prices.
The Lady and I like to visit and support both.
Recently The Lady and her cheesy friends Natasha, Michele and Jimme had the pleasure to visit Quel Fromage in Bellingham, Washington. After visiting Gothberg Farms and the ever delightful Rhonda Gothberg, the quartet of cheese geeks decided to drive north along Samish Bay and swerved off the highway as soon as they spotted a new cheese shop to check out…
The Lady never passes up an opportunity to check out new cheese destinations and inhale all the delightful aromas associated with “milks leap into immortality”… sometimes it’s a bit embarrassing for The Man… but being a tolerant soul, he just ambles along with her and silently questions her sanity… but I digress… back to Bellingham…
Quel Fromage is located on a busy corner in the center of downtown Bellingham, a great location. The shop is small but has a marvelous selection of cheeses which includes US artisans as well as European “standards” such as Morbier and La Tur.
The staff immediately welcomed them and offered samples. After trying a few cheeses, The Lady bought a wedge of Australia’s famous blue, Roaring Forties (reviewed below) and Jimme bought a container of peppadews stuffed with Cypress Grove Chevre which he shared (Note to The Man: sharing is good… just saying…) and later munched them along I-5 on the ride back to Seattle.
The stuffed peppadews were a “cheerful” combination of sweet, spicy and savory. You can never go wrong with Cypress Grove Chevre…
A couple days ago, The Lady and Jennae, another cheese geek friend, decided to visit Foster and Dobbs in Northeast Portland. This specialty food shop is located on a quiet, tree-lined street with lots of parking, a rarity in Portland. In square footage it’s larger than Quel Fromage and offers more variety, particularly in the wine department.
This shop is strikingly clean both in a sanitation way and in a decor way; not sure how they accomplish it but it just looks and feels clean.
The cheese selection is respectable and the owner, Luan, is knowledgeable about the fare she sells. She had another monger behind the counter who freely admitted not knowing the answer to a question The Lady asked; but cheerfully called Luan over to help.
If we might make one suggestion, the samples are a bit sparse; almost too small to capture the flavors of the cheese. (This was The Lady’s second visit to Foster and Dobbs and she had the same reaction on that visit. After asking for a taste of a Fiscalini cheddar; the sample was so thin, she failed to be sold on the cheese.) Of course, samples aren’t meant to be lunch and in this shop, they aren’t… but a little more generous taste might sell more cheese…
At Foster and Dobbs, she bought a wedge of L’Amuse Signature Gouda.
The Gouda and the Roaring Forties became our cheese plate that evening and our salute to our local cheese shops. The Lady served the two cheeses on my Brooklyn Slate cheese board with dried figs, Georgia Pecans, Harvest Song Wild Strawberry Preserves and LaPanzanella minis.
L’Amuse Gouda is made from the milk of Holstein Friesians that live and graze in the Beemster Polder in Northern Holland. After the initial manufacturing of the cheese, certain wheels are selected and sent to Fromagerie L’Amuse where they are carefully matured under the watchful eyes of Betty Koster, owner and head monger. Unlike most goudas, which are matured in colder temperature, Betty cellars these in a more temperate climate which brings out the best and develops the flavor better. The deep amber color is appealing and there are lots of protein crystals (tyrosine) which delighted The Man.
I found this cheese to be nutty with a complex, caramel finish and just a hint of meatiness, maybe a little bacony (?). Also it had enough saltiness to balance well with the strawberry preserves and figs.
I give L’Amuse Signature Gouda 4 Paws out of 4 Paws (cause that’s all I’ve got).
Serving Suggestion: On a cheese plate with simple condiments and your guests will beg for more.
Wine pairing: Pair this with a Port and you’ll find yourself swooning like The Man.
After the Gouda, we finished the plate with the Roaring Forties blue. Made along the 40th parallel at King Island Dairy, this splendid blue cheese is named after the notorious winds that blow around this latitude. King Island is a part of the State of Tasmania which lies off the southwest tip of Australia.
Roaring Forties is a rindless blue that is aged in wax to deepen its fruity and sweet notes. This also allows it to remain quite creamy and spreadable. Like most blues, this cheese finishes salty but the sweetness of the preserves and the dried figs, were a perfect pairing.
It’s another 4 Paw winning cheese… what can I say??? The Lady chose two outstanding cheeses…
My thanks to Quel Fromage and Foster and Dobbs for their parts in protecting these cheeses in their shops until they found their way to The Manse.
Again, support your local shops whenever you can; they make cheese plates such as this one possible…