Friday, June 20, 2008

The Cheese Store of Silverlake

I'm skeptical of "gourmet food" markets. Especially in this day and age (and place) of California where most most large urban areas have some sort of full-service grocery store where you can find a dozen different kinds of marinated olives and where Trader Joe's has a selection of fine cheeses from all over the world that rivals even Wicked Entertainment's contract girls.

Most "gourmet food" markets are just slightly oversized delis selling expensive sandwiches, salty Spanish ham, and the shelf-stable imports that inevitably become coated with a delightful layer of dust as they sit so stably on the shelf.

My disdain makes me all the more pleased to say that the Cheese Store of Silverlake freakin' rocks. Where most stores like this fill their shelves with tuna packed in oil and a dozen different kinds of creepy Spanish cookies made with beef fat, CSSL has a selection of packaged goods the likes of which I've ne'er seen in all my years of poking through specialty food marts looking for salt-packed anchovies. Rice-a-Roni-esque packaged paellas from Spain (including octopus)? Check. Impossibly enormous and colorful dried pastas? Check. Locally made cookies and compotes? Indeed. Bottles of thick and sickeningly sweet coffee and strawberry flavored syrups from Rhode Island (the proprietor's home state)? Abso-freakin-lutely with a pickle on a stick!

When I browsed through the selection I got a sense that every product had a purpose and that whoever decided on the selection had a passion for every product sold, no matter how weird or obscure.

And of course the cheese, the selection of which towers throughout the well-chilled store. Cheese Store of Silverlake puts even the Cheese Board in Berkeley to shame with its selection. There's also the added bonus that the Cheese Store of Silver Lake is run by a former tour manager for Pat Benatar and Van Halen and staffed by a team of cute hipster girls and not by surly middle-aged Berkeley housewives looking to find "meaning" in their lives. The cheese selection is incredibly comprehensive but the Store has none of the California Cuisine and "I vacationed to Europe once" pretentiousness and self-importance that usually accompanies such establishments.

As an aside, while I was there a punk rock girl with short hair done up in a fauxhawk, tiny despite being close to eight months pregnant (with gorgeous milk-laden breasts), bought a couple cheeses and some fregola. It was without question the second the hottest thing I've ever seen.

CSSL also has a nice small selection of domestic and imported charcuterie, boquerones, olive oils (including "fill your own" from two large dispensers), dressings, locally-made candies and chocolates, and a small but global selection of hard-to-find small production wines (even some from Rhode Island).

I like parentheses.

The sandwich I had was excellent. Selection changes daily and most of the sandwiches are served hot, panini style, showcasing the well-selected cheese, pairing it simply with one or two meats and some sort of chutney, tapenade, or other semi-preserved vegetable.

I'll report on the octopus paella as soon as I bust open the box.

I know I'm probably very late to the game since the Cheese Store's been open for close to six years now, but it's new to me.

The Cheese Store of Silverlake
3926-28 West Sunset Blvd.
Los Angeles, Ca 90029

1 comment:

J. Song said...

Did you manage to stop next door for Intelligentsia Coffee? I don't know your thoughts on expensive specialty coffee, but if you are in favor you will no doubt favor Intelligentsia. They have the best lattes I've had tasted, and their Clover-brewed single origin coffees are stellar.

Joon S.