FDA restrictions keeping some great cheeses out of stores

September 5th, 2014

I was called on to give a quote for a recent story in the Food Section of the LA Times dealing with FDA restrictions and how it affects imported cheeses. Read it below:



Los Angeles cheese counters could soon be a lot less aromatic, with several popular cheeses falling victim to a more zealous U.S. Food and Drug Administration. Roquefort — France’s top-selling blue — is in the agency’s cross hairs along with raw-milk versions of Morbier, St. Nectaire and Tomme de Savoie.

In early August, these cheeses and many more landed on an FDA Import Alert because the agency found bacterial counts that exceeded its tolerance level. Cheeses on Import Alert can’t be sold in the U.S. until the producer documents corrective action and five samples test clean, a process that can take months.

Of course, French creameries haven’t changed their recipes for any of these classic cheeses. But their wheels are flunking now because the FDA has drastically cut allowances for a typically harmless bacterium by a factor of 10.

The limits for nontoxigenic E. coli were cut from 100 MPN (most probable number) per gram to 10 MPN. These are bacteria that live in every human gut; they are typically harmless and we coexist happily. But the FDA considers them a marker for sanitation: If a cheese shows even modest levels of nontoxigenic E. coli, the facility that produced it must be insufficiently clean.

Dennis D’Amico, an assistant professor at the University of Connecticut whose specialty is dairy microbiology, says this premise is flawed. But that’s little comfort to producers whose cheeses are denied entry, like the prominent French affineur (cheese ager) Pascal Beillevaire. Or to the retailers who rely on these cheeses.

“We carried eight or nine Beillevaire cheeses, and we can’t get any of them right now,” says Andrew Steiner of Andrew’s Cheese Shop in Santa Monica. “People like him are just going to give up. The American market is not the biggest part of their business. If a shipment gets destroyed, they’re likely to say, ‘We’re not trying that again.’”

American cheese makers have to meet the same standards and are understandably queasy. Some say it is all but impossible to make compliant raw-milk cheese consistently, and that the lowered tolerance for nontoxigenic E. coli will do nothing to improve public health. “There was no health risk in all the years we operated at 100 MPN,” says David Gremmels of Oregon’s Rogue Creamery, which produces several raw-milk blues. “We look at this as an arbitrary change.”

Cary Bryant, Rogue’s cheese maker, says he worries that the tightened standards may even impair public health. “People need some microbial diversity in their life,” says Bryant, a microbiologist by training. “This is going to create people with immune systems that can never handle anything.”

Gremmels and others say they felt blindsided by the revised FDA guidelines, learning about them only when European cheeses began being held. The agency hasn’t offered any scientific support for the altered E. coli allowance, prompting unease about its decision making.

Andy Hatch, owner of Wisconsin’s Uplands Cheese Co., announced in mid-August that he would not produce any Rush Creek Reserve this year, an acclaimed raw-milk cheese made with the farm’s rich autumn cow’s milk.

“I’m not worried about my ability to meet those standards,” says Hatch. “I’m worried about what new standards are going to show up unannounced. What if, a month from now, I have 14,000 pounds of Rush Creek in my aging room and they say ‘zero nontoxigenic bacteria?’”

The stepped-up testing creates headaches for companies like Gourmet Imports, a Los Angeles cheese importer and distributor.

“In the past year, we’ve had delays on things you never would have imagined would be held before,” reports general manager Alex Brown. Even Parmigiano-Reggiano, a well-aged, low-moisture cheese unlikely to have microbial issues, was recently held for testing.

“It’s the safest cheese on the planet,” Brown says.


How to Create the Perfect Late Summer Cheese Plate | Los Angeles Magazine

September 4th, 2014

I recently consulted with Los Angeles Magazine for a piece they were doing about how to create the perfect late summer cheese plate. Leah Park Fierro of Milk Farm and Tony Princiotta of the Cheese Store of Beverly Hills also contributed their expertise. Check it out by clicking the link below!

Experts from three of LA’s best cheese shops share their favorite end-of-summer cheeses

How to Create the Perfect Late Summer Cheese Plate | Los Angeles Magazine (September 4, 2014)

We each chose just one cheese that we felt embodied the summertime, and while I talk a little bit about it in the article, I’m going to give you all a little bit more of an in-depth description of this wonderful cheese.

Fleur Verte

Fleur Verte definitely feels like a summer cheese to me. Fleur Verte (“green flower”) is so named because the wheel of cheese resembles a giant green flower. The sides of the cheese are scalloped and it is completely covered in thyme, tarragon, and pink peppercorns.
Fleur Verte is unusual in that it is barely aged at all. Most imported goat cheeses are aged for at least a month, but this one only gets four days of aging. Goat’s milk has a tremendous amount of lactose (milk sugar) compared to cow’s milk. That is why fresh goat’s milk on the farm tastes so sweet and delicious. All of that lactose gets converted into lactic acid during the aging process which accounts for the high levels of acid in many goat cheeses. Because of the short aging of Fleur Verte, however, this cheese retains a lot of its natural sweetness.
This style of cheesemaking has much to do with the environment and local traditions of production. Fleur Verte is from Périgord, France. Many of you I am sure have heard of Périgord. If not, it’s a great place to visit, but a bit out of the way (I always feel like the French tourism board should pay me for these descriptions). Perhaps the most interesting features of the region are the caves of Lascaux. This is where the oldest cave paintings were discovered.

Dordogne River, Périgord

Digression finished – Périgord is just southwest of central France tucked between Bordeaux and the volcanoes of the Massif Central. The Dordogne River runs from Bordeaux straight through Périgord. The region is renowned around the world for its truffles, Foie Gras, and duck Confit (my favorite dish in the world). The traditional style for the goat’s cheeses of the region uses a slow fermentation. This gives the milk a fuller, smoother flavor as opposed to the famous goat cheeses from the north which are much more acidic.
The flavor of Fleur Verte is definitely herbal, but balanced with the sweetness and acidity of this beautiful cheese. It has a nice, clean, lemony finish and I just love this summer cheese with Bandol, the famous Rosé wine from Provence.


It’s Our 6th Anniversary!!!

August 15th, 2014

Everyone who comes into the shop that day and gives us a ‘Like’ or a ‘Follow’ on any (or all) of our social media accounts will walk away with this amazing reusable bag (while supplies last)!
acs reusable bag


5 Raw Cheeses You’ll Melt For | The Chalkboard

August 12th, 2014

I don’t know how this one slipped by me.  I talk to a lot of people and I say yes to almost every single interview request, and I’m usually good about staying in touch and getting a copy of the final product when it’s done, but as you can tell by this article’s “4.4.12″ date, I’m a little late on this one.

The good news is that this is an evergreen article — all 5 of the raw cheeses I recommend in this article are still just as good as they where when I recommended them!  Click on the link below to read the article!

 The Chalkboard | 5 Raw Cheeses You’ll Melt For: Andrew Steiner's Top Picks

The Chalkboard | 5 Raw Cheeses You’ll Melt For: Andrew Steiner’s Top Picks
(April 2012)


August 29th Grilled Cheese & Beer Night!

August 8th, 2014
Grilled Cheese & Beer

Grilled Cheese & Beer Night, August 29th!

Grilled Cheese & Beer Night | August 29th, 2014 | Andrew’s Cheese Shop

This family-style event has been our most popular. Join us now and see what the excitement has been all about! The cost is $47.50 (plus tax) per person. We have now slightly upgraded the event to have a salad, four courses of our famous grilled cheeses (paired with four specialty beers), and an awesome, new dessert course of an Imperial Stout Float with French Vanilla Ice cream! The event sells out quickly, so check our calendar for upcoming dates, or email us to get on the list for the next event.

If you are interested in booking this event privately, please let us know and we’ll be happy to find a date and go over the details with you. The per person cost is the same and there is a $600.00 minimum for a private event. We are also now offering a premium event for $67.50 per person which switches out one of the beers for sparkling wine and we use super-premium beers for the others.

*NOTE: Please let us know if anybody in your party has any dietary restrictions.

**Due to the incessant flakiness of a small percentage of Los Angelenos, ALL SALES ARE FINAL.


September 12th Grilled Cheese & Beer Night!

August 8th, 2014
Grilled Cheese & Beer

Grilled Cheese & Beer Night, September 12th!

Grilled Cheese & Beer Night | September 12th, 2014 | Andrew’s Cheese Shop

This family-style event has been our most popular. Join us now and see what the excitement has been all about! The cost is $47.50 (plus tax) per person. We have now slightly upgraded the event to have a salad, four courses of our famous grilled cheeses (paired with four specialty beers), and an awesome, new dessert course of an Imperial Stout Float with French Vanilla Ice cream! The event sells out quickly, so check our calendar for upcoming dates, or email us to get on the list for the next event.

If you are interested in booking this event privately, please let us know and we’ll be happy to find a date and go over the details with you. The per person cost is the same and there is a $600.00 minimum for a private event. We are also now offering a premium event for $67.50 per person which switches out one of the beers for sparkling wine and we use super-premium beers for the others.

*NOTE: Please let us know if anybody in your party has any dietary restrictions.

**Due to the incessant flakiness of a small percentage of Los Angelenos, ALL SALES ARE FINAL.


September 26th Grilled Cheese & Beer Night!

August 8th, 2014
Grilled Cheese & Beer

Grilled Cheese & Beer Night, September 26th!

Grilled Cheese & Beer Night | September 26th, 2014 | Andrew’s Cheese Shop

This family-style event has been our most popular. Join us now and see what the excitement has been all about! The cost is $47.50 (plus tax) per person. We have now slightly upgraded the event to have a salad, four courses of our famous grilled cheeses (paired with four specialty beers), and an awesome, new dessert course of an Imperial Stout Float with French Vanilla Ice cream! The event sells out quickly, so check our calendar for upcoming dates, or email us to get on the list for the next event.

If you are interested in booking this event privately, please let us know and we’ll be happy to find a date and go over the details with you. The per person cost is the same and there is a $600.00 minimum for a private event. We are also now offering a premium event for $67.50 per person which switches out one of the beers for sparkling wine and we use super-premium beers for the others.

*NOTE: Please let us know if anybody in your party has any dietary restrictions.

**Due to the incessant flakiness of a small percentage of Los Angelenos, ALL SALES ARE FINAL.


August 27th Cheese 101 on sale now!

July 18th, 2014

In our Cheese 101 course, Andrew teaches the history, origin and the basics about cheese. We also have many of the most famous cheeses available to sample! The cost for the class is $30.00 (plus tax). The class is about 1 & ½ hrs. long, and Andrew will have you laughing the whole way through! Super date idea, for you or your friends!

SEE YOU THERE!


Époisses de Bourgogne a Top Pick!

July 17th, 2014
Époisses de Bourgogne Cheese

Click on the pic to see the whole spread!

The Food & Wine section of the latest issue of Find Bliss Magazine features Master Chef Joachim Splichal and sommalier Silvestre Fernandes from Patina sharing their favorite cheese, chocolate and wine pairings, and wouldn’t you know it — they’re recommending a cheese that I carry in the shop!

Click on the image above to see the whole spread, or just come into the shop to get some of this amazing cheese!  Chef Splichal says of the cheese, “It’s a washed rind cheese that is aged for about six weeks, with an extremely soft texture that gives it a rich mouth-feel and an aroma that hints of spice.”


August 22nd Grilled Cheese & Beer Night!

July 15th, 2014
Grilled Cheese & Beer

Grilled Cheese & Beer Night, August 22nd!

Grilled Cheese & Beer Night | August 22nd, 2014 | Andrew’s Cheese Shop

This family-style event has been our most popular. Join us now and see what the excitement has been all about! The cost is $47.50 (plus tax) per person. We have now slightly upgraded the event to have a salad, four courses of our famous grilled cheeses (paired with four specialty beers), and an awesome, new dessert course of an Imperial Stout Float with French Vanilla Ice cream! The event sells out quickly, so check our calendar for upcoming dates, or email us to get on the list for the next event.

If you are interested in booking this event privately, please let us know and we’ll be happy to find a date and go over the details with you. The per person cost is the same and there is a $600.00 minimum for a private event. We are also now offering a premium event for $67.50 per person which switches out one of the beers for sparkling wine and we use super-premium beers for the others.

*NOTE: Please let us know if anybody in your party has any dietary restrictions.

**Due to the incessant flakiness of a small percentage of Los Angelenos, ALL SALES ARE FINAL.


Location and Hours

728 Montana Avenue
Santa Monica, CA 90403 (Google Map)

Monday - Friday
11:00 AM-7:00 PM
Saturday 10:00 AM - 7:00 PM
Sunday 11:00 AM - 6:00 PM

Phone: 310-393-3308

Gallery