The Man and I live in “The Couve”, the laid back side of Portland across the river in Washington State. When we moved here in 2007 there were no specialty cheese shops. We had to venture into Portland, fighting the traffic, the parking and the hard-to-navigate narrow streets to find “real” cheese… well… things have changed in The Couve… and for local cheese lovers that’s a good.
This week, as part of my Christmas meal prepping, I decided to check out some of the cheese counters in the area. Granted I had been to all of them several times, but as all cheese geeks know, you can never check-out and drool over cheese too much.
These are my local recommendations when looking for something tasty and perhaps different for your holiday celebrations. The cheeses mentioned below will be reviewed in the next few days.
Chuck’s Produce: Two locations on Mill Plain and in Salmon Creek. One thing about Chuck’s, hands down it has the best produce at the best prices in Vancouver. Chuck’s prides itself on local and regional foods at “honest” prices… and they are. The cheese counters are a combination of in-house
cut and wrap mixed with manufacturer pre-packs. The Mill Plain location has a larger selection. I bought several cheeses at both locations including a Salt Creek Island goat chevre decorated with a gorgeous flower on top. These chevre come with many toppings including truffles (at least a quarter-inch topping of truffles), peppers, garlic, edible flowers and leaves. I also purchased a Tomme from France flavored with Elderberry Liqueur, along with a jar of The Gracious Gourmet‘s Cranberry, Raspberry, Blood Orange Spread and Wild Hibiscus Flowers in Syrup (to float in champagne). The Mongers are friendly and knowledgeable.
Whole Foods Market: One location in Vancouver at the corner of 164th and Mill Plain. I chatted with Jonathan, the Specialty Team Leader, who proudly pointed out the in-house creations by Monger Kate and her crew. One in-house offering is a cheese platter with four substantial wedges of specialty cheese and jam including a WFM wooden board for $14.99. This is quite a deal. Kate also makes a truffled brie, taking a small-format brie, slicing it horizontal and spreading it with a filling of black truffles and creme fraiche. As I admired her work, Jonathan gave me a piece to take home. What a nice surprise. The cheese case was filled with great cheeses, many of them specially priced for the holidays making your cheese platters even more affordable. They exclusively feature Jarlsberg Reserve (for $11.99 a pound).
New Seasons Market: In East Vancouver on 164th Street. New Seasons has one of the best selections, throughout the store, of local product, including cheese. Both Mongers, Lily and Chris, were on duty getting ready for the push toward Christmas. They took a few minutes to speak with me and give me the tour. Lily and Chris had wrapped some wedges in cheese paper, the industry standard for best cheese protection. I bought small wedges of Montgomery Cheddar (almost ashamed to admit I have never tasted it… don’t know why not…) and Cloud Cap from local Cascadia Creamery. If you’re looking for in-house Blue Cheese Balls, well you can find them here. The cheese counter also includes an impressive charcuterie selection and lots of jams, jellies and jams. I purchased a jar of Dalmatia Red Pepper Spread.
Costco: No cheese tour of Vancouver would be complete, if you have a membership card, without a stop at Costco. Bonnie was busy sampling (and selling) Maple Leaf‘s Wisconsin Cheddar with cranberries which is only available this time of year. If you’re having a big gathering, Costco might fit your needs. The prices are small and the pieces are big. The selection, in each family, is confined to two or three choices, but everyone is of Award-Winning quality. Cropwell-Bishop Stilton for $12.99 a pound; it doesn’t get any better than that. They also sell a Kirkland Signature Vermont Clothbound Cheddar (also for $12.99 a pound) that makes me think of Cabot’s Clothbound, but what do I know?
There are other respectable cheese counters in the area, but if you stop in any of the above, you’ll get great service, good prices and quality cheeses that will impress your friends and family.