WHEEL HOUSE CHEESE SHOP
CHEESEY GOODNESS COMES TO CULVER CITY
I suppose becoming a bona fide cheese lover is the next step in a foodie makeover. Sure, I’ve always thought of myself as a guy who likes (maybe even loves) cheese. Personally, I think the moniker “cheese head” doesn’t even have anything to do with pro football.
After all, I love grilled cheese and quesadillas and cheese burgers, and as I become a bigger wine aficionado, I really like the idea or pairing cheese and wines. But just eating cheese on its own? While I like a good charcuterie plate, I don’t normally seek one out.
So when I heard that Wheel House Cheese Shop had opened in Culver City, I was curious.
“Cheese is the most punk-rock part of the culinary world,” says Wheel House Cheese Shop owner Alex Josef. “It’s varied and fascinating like wine, but more eclectic and accessible.”
With an always-evolving assortment of cheeses, including more than 100 selections representing at least a dozen countries, plus 15 to 20 fine cured meats and charcuterie items, and more than 100 gourmet accompaniments ranging from jams and spreads to crackers and pickles, Wheel House aims to be the ultimate source for all things cheese.
Joseph teamed up with cheesemonger Steve Jones, the owner of Cheese Bar in Portland. Well respected in the cheese community, Jones has traveled all over the world visiting dairies, knows more about cheese than most people should and, in 2011, was named the world’s Best Cheesemonger at the annual Cheesemonger Invitational competition. Who knew there was such a thing?
Now, Wheel House offers rare cheeses you can’t find anywhere else in Southern California. “We are focusing on working with the most exclusive cheese-makers we can,” Jones says. “Oddball producers that bigger stores can’t work with are our specialty.”
During a recent visit, I was walked through a cheese tasting courtesy of proprietor Alex Josef. He picked the cheese, along with a few meats, and away we went to a pleasurable world of refinement and overindulgence.
We started with a firm Seascape artisan organic cow and goat cheese from Paso Robles, before moving onto the Lou Bren semi-soft sheep cheese from France, and a fine Fourme Aux Moelleux from Vermont. The richness of the cheese were complimented by the hearty and savory meats, including duck prosciutto, saucisson sec (a variety of thick, dry cured sausage), and Olympic Provisions sweetheart ham.
Considering I didn’t know what to expect, I was pleasantly surprised by the richness and flavor of this wonderful assortment. The last time I had a charcuterie plate, my friend note that we could have had a half gallon of ice cream instead (if you’re counting calories). I’m not sure which I would have enjoyed more. Of course my friend’s wife commented that she’d always choose cheese over ice cream. That’s a tough decision most days. But a cheese novice like me was impressed.
“I want this to be a non-pretentious, friendly environment,” head cheese Alex Josef says. “You don’t have to be afraid to come in and not know anything about cheese. I want to create a place that provides a wide assortment of super-high-quality cheese and meats where people can come and taste and learn and buy. I am hoping it will be a destination for people in the neighborhood to come in and hang out.”
To help foster a community atmosphere, the shop will host several events, including classes, tastings, book signings and much more. Wheel House will also supply cheese to a select group of local restaurants, but every customer will have access to the same world-class selection.
Currently applying for its liquor license, I can’t wait for the day when I can walk into Wheel House, pick out a place of cheese and meats, or order a sandwich, which the shop is now making, and a craft beer or bottle of fine wine to pair. Now that will be living right. But in the meantime, consider this your west side go-to place for cheese and meats.
The Wheel House Cheese Shop will be open from 11:00 am to 8:00 pm every Tuesday to Sunday. For more information, please contact the Wheel House Cheese Shop directly at 424.289.9167.