Cheese is more than something you put on sandwiches or mix into pasta. Cheese is a food to be savored, particularly with a wine or a beer that complements it. Europeans know this, but Americans are only now catching on to the importance of cheese. Here are some of the best places in the county to get artisan cheese instead of that plastic-wrapped stuff.
156 Avenida Del Mar
San Clemente, CA 92672
The Cellar recognizes that nothing goes better with cheese than wine. It’s no coincidence then that the cheese shop at The Cellar is in front of the wine bar and offers a selection of about 50 international (mostly European) and domestic cheeses. When you talk to the cheese expert (one is always on hand), that person will help determine how much you need, and your cheese will be cut to order from the wheel. This ensures you don’t end up with too much of a good thing, and that you enjoy the full offerings here. The cheese expert will also help you find the perfect wine to go with your cheese.
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3326 E. Coast Highway
Corona Del Mar, CA 92625
If you visit Vin Goat, you might just think you’ve died and gone to cheese heaven. This shop offers a selection of more than 200 artisan and farmstead cheeses (the majority of the cheeses are artisan) from Europe and the United States. To help you find the right cheese, expect to answer questions like “What is the theme?” and “What kind of wine are you serving with it?” Sure, it might take a while to pare down the candidates to a reasonable number, but the staff members here really have to know their stuff. Be patient and know that you’ll walk out of there with the right cheese for your occasion.
1200 S. Coast Highway
Laguna Beach, CA 92651
The Pantry adjoins Sapphire in Laguna Beach and this is the place to go if you love cheese. You’ll find more than 100 kinds of cheese here, from not only cows, sheep and goats, but also water buffalo. What that means is that you’ll be able to find something regardless of the texture or the sharpness you’re looking for, or what food or beverage you’re looking to pair with it. It takes a certain confidence in the knowledge of your product to stock such a wide variety, so feel free to ask questions to make sure you get the cheese you want.
6507 Quail Hill Parkway
Irvine, CA 92603
Lucca Cafe keeps about 30 kinds of cheeses on hand, but covers a lot of ground in those 30 cheeses. You will find international (mostly from Europe) and domestic cheeses ranging from soft to semi-soft to hard — all cut to order. You will also find a number of mixed milk cheeses and bleus, including one made with buffalo milk. The staff members here will work with you on taste preferences and budget to get you the right cheese in the right amount.
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Gary Schwind is a freelance writer covering all things Orange County. His work can be found on Examiner.com.