Siiri Sampson 2011
It's fall! Bring on the dinner parties, the wine, and of course the cheese(s)--all of them. Really, no dinner party is needed to stop at a specialty shop on the way home and pick up a heavenly wedge of some locally made, aged cow's-milk cheese. But you'll get way more satisfaction out of it when you share it with someone who will "mmmm" with you in tandem. In the spirit of sharing, we've rounded up the top five cheese shops in Seattle. Since experts abound in process, origin, technique, and flavor, these joints will have you taking home an entire wheel of triple creme, aged, marbled whatever faster than you milk a goat.
Siiri Sampson 2011
Although not a traditional cheese shop in the "come on down for a few ounces of Humboldt" sense, Cheese Connection is a hard-core cheese shop. Selling literally everything you could possibly need to (brace yourself) make cheese at home, this operation cuts the bull and gets right into home production. As they say, "You can make over 94 different types of cheese right in your home," so if you're looking for a cheese with that artisan flair, don't buy it premade--et the crew at Cheese Connection help you make it.
4.Quality Cheese (1508 Pike Place, at Post Alley)
Being a 25-year veteran of Pike Place means a lot of cheese wheels have crossed the counters at Quality Cheese. Staffed by cheese experts, this counter is tucked just far away enough to appeal to the locals who come to the market for the food--not the fish throwing. With offerings spanning both imports and local handmade cheeses, there's a little something stinky (or not) for everyone at your dinner table.
3.The Cheese Cellar (100 Fourth Ave, Ste 150 - between Denny Way & Broad St.)
Seattle Weekly's own Jonathan Kauffman put it best, "Dennis Nelson and Theresa Simpson's four-year-old Cheese Cellar is worth a Monorail ride. Nelson and Simpson's selection is half the size of most Whole Foods cheese sections, perhaps a quarter as big as DeLaurenti's stock, but every one of the chunks in the Cheese Cellar's cases is fantastic and beautifully tended. (One of their strengths is their British and Irish farmhouse cheeses.) What makes this the place to shop for your next dinner party is the service: There are no jostling customers to yell over, no harried-looking attendants, and Nelson's great at reading customers' palates. Taste a few slivers until you identify something you love, then ask, 'Now what do you have in goat?' and he'll reach for the exact one that makes your nostrils curl."
2.The Calf and Kid (1531 Melrose Ave., Ste C2)
The winner of SW Best Cheese Counter 2011, and more than just cheese, these experts pride themselves on the extensive knowledge base that is required at this level of cheesery. They also carry cheese-adjacent treats like specialty butters (even ones with added ingredients) and cheesecake. If you're on the hill, or on your way to a friend's house for a night in, stop in for a little lesson, a little nibble, and a lot of goodies. The Calf and Kid is gaining steam in the marketplace, so you'd be wise to get in now and become a "regular" before they explode.
1. Beecher's Handmade Cheese (1600 Pike Place, between Pine St, & Post Alley)
Without a doubt, Beecher's has become a Seattle icon. Bringing the art of cheesemaking into the public eye--literally--and getting people excited about all the variations on moldy goodness is just the tip of Kurt Dammeier's culinary iceberg. As the winner of SW 2010 Best Cheese Curd and the mothership for what is now simply known around these parts as "Flagship," Beecher's win top honors on our list for the best shop that sells its own creations right alongside those they admire.