We all have those getaway or destination spots that serve as an escape from reality. Places where time slows down and the batteries are recharged. Ever since I can remember Carmel, located on the Monterey Peninsula in California, has been one such place for me. The small town, affectionately known as Carmel by the Sea, has always presented a clean quiet charm tucked in the midst of a seaside forest of cypress and pine trees accompanied by the calming sounds of the ocean.
However, long before I knew what the term foodie was, it was Carmel’s restaurants and specialty shops that satisfied my senses and soul. Seductive smells emanated from the town’s bakeries and restaurants waffling through the air from dusk til dawn, mixing harmoniously with the ocean air. What the restaurants served and specialty shops offered combined to provide this unknowing foodie with everything his soul required.
And while time provides change and the unfortunate disappearance of particular restaurants and shops, there has been one gourmet shop in Carmel that continues to be a constant source of gluttonous satisfaction: The Cheese Shop.
Located on the bottom rung of Carmel Plaza, The Cheese Shop is one of the best, most engaging cheese/specialty stores I have ever encountered during my nomadic wanderings across America. From the moment one enters, the staff starts in with their wonderfully relentless efforts to have you sample as much cheese as needed to satisfy any particular craving(s) you might have. Three individually focused cutting blocks on the right side of the store serve as the staff’s “enticement” stations, where customer’s eyes are confronted with the vast and varied cheese selection.
Seemingly anything and everything is available for tasting and purchase. From Aged Cheddars, to stinky Bries and blissful goat cheeses, to old stand bys like Manchegos and Blues, The Cheese Shop has it all.
Ever helpful and knowledgeable, the staff is happy to be your guide through tastings of old and new favorites from around the globe. It’s easy for both novices and cheeseheads alike to spend hours exploring and talking cheese with the staff.
During my most recent trip to the store, while covering the 2012 AT&T Pebble Beach Pro Am, I had a hankering for a properly Aged Gouda and my palate was “forced” to sample a plethora of Goudas including three versions that I’d never encountered: one aged for nearly 4 years (nutty and delicious), another made with coconut milk (a coconut lovers delight), and finally a Gouda infused with honey (clean, creamy, slightly sweet, and oh so good).
Of course, any self respecting gourmet shop doesn’t offer only cheese to the needy foodie. Fresh breads, cured meats, olives, specialty crackers, spreads, and most importantly a solid wine selection is required and The Cheese Shop of Carmel delivers on all accounts.
The back half of the store is entirely dedicated to The Cheese Shop’s wine inventory, offering an eclectic selection of known and a few lesser known domestic and international wineries. And while the majority of the store’s offerings are that of higher end wines, the staff is always available to point customers in the direction of a few budget conscious gems.
On the whole it’s exactly what you want from a cheese and gourmet shop; interactive tastiness, accompanied by a selection of all the necessities to enhance the cheeses one’s purchased, along with compelling reasons to becoming a regular patron of the establishment.
In fact the only thing missing at The Cheese Shop is an indoor cheese/wine sampling bar at which perpetual gluttons like me can park ourselves at and work our way towards immobile happiness from everything the store has to offer.
But until that day comes, I’ll be happy with walking through their doors every time I’m in Carmel, supporting an establishment that continues to represent aspects of what for me makes Carmel a sensory satisfying, soul recharging town.
Many thanks to everyone at The Cheese Shop for their hospitality and if you can’t experience The Cheese Shop in person, check out their website by clicking here.
Here’s a brief photo gallery of the store:
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