By Ramona Padovano
For over four years, Cheesetique has been offering cheese lovers a vast selection of artisinal and commercial cheeses to Del Ray and beyond. Soon after opening, word of mouth spread about the well chosen and cared for cheese selection, which resided in the small storefront shop. Owner Jill Erber, known as “The Cheese Lady,” quickly expanded her inventory to include meat, wine, beer, vinegars, oils, specialty salts and chocolates; but Erber wanted to offer more. She wanted greater space in order to open a café where cheese boards, charcuterie platters and Paninis could be expertly paired with wine and beer from an expanded selection.
Erber stayed close to home when opening the new and larger Cheesetique, which is only steps away from the old shop. The same shingle now hangs two stores away, at 2403 Mount Vernon Avenue.
The new store appears familiar to Cheesetique patrons. Large black and white tiles adorn the floor, walls awash in yellow are a backdrop to stainless steel shelves lined with gourmet products, and large refrigerated display cases boast meats, cheeses and cured olives among other foods.
As the eye travels towards the back of the shop, something different is readily apparent. A wall of wine houses a varied selection of moderately priced bottles, and functions as much as storage as it does art. A luscious red velvet curtain hangs just beyond the refrigerated beverage case and acts as a divider between the familiar shop, and the new café. Open Tuesday-Saturday from 5-9 without reservations, the café houses seven marble tables and a bar which sit beneath playful ceiling fans that slowly circle above. Vintage posters accent the wall behind tables, while a large mirror situated behind the bar makes the space appear larger.
A chalkboard beyond the bar declares the days’ offerings. Cheese plates can be made to order from a selection of 10 cheeses including Cotswald (a whole milk cheese with onions and chives), D’affinois (a soft cow’s milk cheese), and Pecorino gran Glona (a sheep’s milk cheese). To assist in your selection, a cheese cart can be wheeled to your table.
The charcuterie selection is tempting with Chicken Truffled Mouse, Jamon Serrano Ham and Wild Boar Saucisson. Bresaola, red peppers, horseradish, 2-year old cheddar and frise are combined and tucked inside 2 thick slices of bread and grilled to make a Panini. The menu is rounded out with a quiche selection that was Proscuitto, Peppadew and Ementhaler, when I visited.
Erber and her staff can offer suggestions on beverage pairing for the cheeses and other dishes. Don’t be surprised if a Pilsner is proffered instead of a Pino Grigio. “Cheese has a lot of fat, God bless it”, Erber said, “and fat coats the palate.” Not only does beer have acid to cut the fat, but also it has effervescence, which cleanses the palate.
To stay abreast of what is being offered at Cheesetique, including wine and cheese tasting classes, sign up for Erber’s newsletter on the Cheesetique website.
2403 Mount Vernon Avenue