August 5th Grilled Cheese & Beer Night On Sale Now!

July 19th, 2016

This family-style event has been our most popular. Join us now and see what the excitement has been all about! The cost is $60 (plus tax) per person. We have now upgraded the event to have a tangy, zippy starter 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 $700.00 minimum for a private event. We are also now offering a premium event for $70.00 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.


Now Enrolling! Andrew’s Cheese 101 Course (August 24th)

July 19th, 2016

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!
This class takes place Wednesday, August 24th at 7:30pm. The cost for the class is $40.00 (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!


July 15th Grilled Cheese & Beer Night On Sale Now!

June 29th, 2016

This family-style event has been our most popular. Join us now and see what the excitement has been all about! The cost is $60 (plus tax) per person. We have now upgraded the event to have a tangy, zippy starter 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 $700.00 minimum for a private event. We are also now offering a premium event for $70.00 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.


Is Cowgirl Creamery the new Budweiser? Probably Not.

May 18th, 2016

Big news just broke in the tiny world of California cheese. Swiss giant Emmi has just purchased Cowgirl Creamery. This, just months after they acquired Redwood Hill Farms, and a few years after the cheese world’s shocking purchase of Mary Keehn’s beloved Cypress Grove Chevre, makers of Humboldt Fog.

It’s not just small dairy producers, either.  Specialty meat supplier Niman Ranch is now owned by Purdue of all companies, and Lagunitas Brewing is now owned by Heineken.

I have mixed feelings about all of this, which would lead to a much larger discussion about the pros and cons of artisan companies being taken over by huge conglomerates. I will focus on the Cowgirls, with whom I am much more familiar, and a little on Mary Keehn, who I also know in passing. Peggy and Sue Peggy and Sue | Cowgirl Creameryare very nice people who care deeply about what they do and have built up a very successful local business that has expanded steadily over the past 20 years. They and Mary are largely responsible for putting the face of California cheese in the American marketplace as a whole. Mary’s story is a great one in which as a single mother, she decided to raise goats to produce more easily digestible milk for her children. She then started producing homemade cheeses from the excess milk, and built a cheesy empire from these humble beginnings. Most of you may be familiar with my opinions on the products made by these two companies. I think Humboldt Fog is a very good cheese. Great? Nope. Very good? Sure. We sell it proudly here in the shop. I think it’s a beautiful look to add to any cheese board; I think the flavors are consistently good; I love Mary’s story and she is a warm, kind person. I also believe that her Humboldt Fog is arguably the most important cheese produced in this country. Humboldt Fog sent a message to the Europhiles that we can also make stunning cheeses in this country. Now, some of the world’s greatest cheeses are made here in the USA (Pleasant Ridge Reserve, Winnimere, Rush Creek Reserve) and I’m not so sure that our artisan cheese movement would be where it is now without her pioneering efforts. When her company was bought by Emmi in 2010, my reaction was “Good for her!” It must have been like winning the lottery for her and it couldn’t have happened to a nicer person. I certainly noticed a drop off in quality after the change of ownership, but in Emmi’s defense, this was rectified very quickly and the quality is right back to where it always was.

Peggy and Sue (the Cowgirls) were very concerned about a dip in quality but after speaking with Mary, their feelings were put at ease. She assured them that nothing about production has changed. As for Emmi, they certainly have experience and they seem to know what to interfere with and what not to. They also agreed to keep Peggy and Sue on as President and Vice President of Cowgirl operations. The transition should be a smooth one. Now that Peggy and Sue are nearing retirement age, (good for them too) they also deserve this. I am less concerned about the direction of Cowgirl Creamery’s products for another reason though. I am not known as one to pull punches with my opinions. You may be aware that I do not sell anything produced by Cowgirl Creamery at Andrew’s Cheese Shop. I have nothing against them;
in fact, I quite like them and I think they run an outstanding operation. I find their products to be fun, but uninteresting and lacking in depth of flavor and complexity. They look pretty and with most of them being enriched products (triple-cremes), they have nice curb appeal and are tasty in the way that decent butter is tasty.Christy Caye, Assistant Manager and Head of Cheese I think the Cowgirs are great and make an excellent product for their demographic, I’m just not in their demographic, and I look for something else to sell in this shop. They make very good, beautiful cheeses that appeal to huge numbers of people who like the idea of a local product that is a huge crowd pleaser. If I were them, I would probably do the same. So, I’m not too concerned about a dip in quality for them, they know what they’re doing, they have a formula that works, and I can’t possibly imagine Emmi being so irresponsible as to make any significant changes.

Remember, Emmi was founded as a cooperative movement of farmers in Switzerland that was able to grow their resources by pooling together. They’re not corporate monsters and they produce some excellent products. Like almost everything, we have to look at things on an individual basis. It’s not intellectually fair to make sweeping claims before giving these companies a chance to show what they can do. Maybe they will run these companies into the ground in an effort to cut corners and slowly but consistently lower the quality of their products. I see no reason to believe that this is the case. I’m very happy that these passionate women seem to have had a bit of a financial windfall at this stage in their lives; they deserve that. Everyone in the American cheese industry owes them a debt. I’m glad they have been able to cash in.


Feel the Curing Power!!!

May 4th, 2016

A nameless food purveyor salesman visited the shop a while back to sample me on some charcuterie. I noticed the label on one of the packages said “uncured salami.” Strange, I have been in the food industry for quite a long time and I’m pretty sure that the definition of salami has the word “cured” in there somewhere. The word “uncured” was not in quotes either, like in soy “burger,” so I just had to ask. “What the hell is uncured salami?” said I in my most demure New Yorkese. He looked at me with all the fear of a child who promised to walk the dog and forgot. “That means that they don’t add nitrates to it” he said, quickly realizing that one of us seemed to know what he was talking about and it wasn’t him. “Soooo….? That doesn’t answer my question. Is it cured or not?” said I. “No,” he insisted, if they don’t use nitrates, it’s not cured.”

uncured-salami

“Uncured” Salami? Really?

Now, I don’t have a reputation for letting things go and this went on for quite some time before I managed to convince this guy that the label is misleading and kind of stupid and if he’s trying to sell it, he might want to invest some time in figuring this out.

As soon as he left, I ran to the Google machine to figure this nonsense out for my own self. Could I have been mistaken? Is there a way to make salami without curing it? Nope. So wait a tic, uncured salami is cured?

What the hell? As far as I can tell, this is just as ridiculous as it sounds. It turns out that “uncured” salami is cured, just like they have been curing it for thousands of years. Encase it in enough acid or sugar and the outer surface area gets protected by a layer which protects the product from pathogens and the interior molecules break down like you cooked them with heat, thus “curing” the meat. This “uncured” nonsense is exactly that, nonsense. What they really mean is that the meat is absolutely, definitely, indubitably, 100% cured, but not with sodium nitrate or nitrite. That’s fine and the discussion whether or not those two ingredients are somehow healthier or unhealthier than more traditional curing agents like salt, sugar, celery powder, or vinegars, is a longer one and very open for a reasonable debate. The problem I have is the imbecilic labeling of “uncured” as if this product is in some measureable way superior. It would have been far less confusing and much more honest to call it “naturally cured” or “cured according to traditional practices” or anything else but “uncured.” My large suspicion is that this is yet another example of marketing antiscience. People don’t know what nitrates and nitrites are but they definitely sound like something made by people in glasses and white lab coats, which is scary.

For those of you who are more interested, it actually gets even more confusing because the reason that we starting curing meats with sodium nitrate and nitrites in the first place is because they are the active chemicals released by traditional curing agents. So, even uncured meats which are cured without the addition of nitrates and nitrites also have these chemicals. If there is a reason that you cannot or will not consume these chemicals, you can’t eat either style. To sum up, there ain’t no such thing as uncured salami and the only difference is that they don’t add any nitrate or nitrite to the “uncured” salami but they’re totes in there anyways. YEESH!

The next person that comes in and asks for uncured salami is getting chased out of here with a stick of salami.


May 12th Grilled Cheese & Beer Night

May 2nd, 2016

This family-style event has been our most popular. Join us now and see what the excitement has been all about! The cost is $60 (plus tax) per person. We have now upgraded the event to have a tangy, zippy starter 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 $700.00 minimum for a private event. We are also now offering a premium event for $70.00 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.


May 26th Grilled Cheese & Beer Night

May 2nd, 2016

This family-style event has been our most popular. Join us now and see what the excitement has been all about! The cost is $60 (plus tax) per person. We have now upgraded the event to have a tangy, zippy starter 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 $700.00 minimum for a private event. We are also now offering a premium event for $70.00 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.


Cheese-story

April 27th, 2016

I have a reputation for never answering the question “what is your favorite cheese?”. For a great many reasons, there is no answer to that question. I do however, have a favorite style of cheese. That style is what I generally call the hard, Alpine style. This is the flavor most of us will readily identify as “Swiss.” Technically, the Alps reach beyond the borders of Switzerland into France, Italy, Germany, Lichtenstein, and Austria. I like most cheeses from these regions and the selection we carry in the shop will make that obvious. If you must know, my favorite of the style is usually the great and massive (80-90 lb. wheels) Beaufort d’Été by the brilliant affineur, Joseph Paccard.

beaufort

Now I (cheese geek), just got a news alert to my inbox (yes, I subscribe to news services that alert me about cheese news), that a research team has just discovered signs of cheese-making in what is now the Swiss Alps dating back to the Iron Age (about 3,000 years ago.) Chemical Analysis of Pottery Demonstrates Prehistoric Origin for High-Altitude Alpine Dairying. Click that link if you are interested in the research paper.

The researchers seem to think that during this time period, dairy farmers got pushed further and further up the mountains because they were being pushed out by produce farmers as the population increased. I’m not so sure though. I think that’s certainly part of the explanation, but I also think that there are a couple of other factors at play. First of all, I’ve met a lot of cheese-makers. Cheese-making is pretty boring and most of them (not all), seem to be pretty solitary individuals. I think those high mountain pastures were a nice way to get away for them. More importantly, I think that even at that time, they realized that the cheeses produced from the higher pastures tended to be more sought after (better quality) and they could get more value in trade for these products. Maybe it’s the romantic in me, but I like to think that even our prehistoric ancestors knew quality when they tasted it.


Try a Little Quality on for Size

April 22nd, 2016

Gerard Mulot, Barthélémy Au Bell Viandier, La Dernière Goutte, Poissonnerie du Dôme, Poilâne. What do these things all have in common? They are all shops in around the sixth district of Paris, and they are all a pretty short walk from each other. Gerard Mulot is a dessert shop, Barthélemy is a cheese shop, Au Bell Viandier is a butcher, La Dernière Goutte is a wine shop, Poissonnerie du Dôme is a fresh seafood shop, and Poilâne is a bakery (bread only, the desserts and pastries are down the street at Gerard Mulot).

Au Bell Viandier

Au Bell Viandier

Gerard Mulot

Gerard Mulot

Fromagerie Barthélemy
Poissonnerie du DômePoilâne

So what? So, apart from these being extremely high quality shops, there is nothing unusual about them. In fact, pick any district in Paris or any other French city, or small town, or Spanish city, or Italian, or Belgian or German or Dutch,… and you will find very similar shops within minutes of each other. Also, take a look at the size of the refrigerators of the locals; you will be shocked to see how tiny they are. Everybody always wonders about the French Paradox – how do the Europeans stay so much slimmer than us while eating such famously rich food? I don’t know, it might have something to do with the facts that they usually shop for less volume at one time, while walking from store to store for several miles, stopping to poke around in other shops along the way.

Remember, we live in a country of fairly recent immigrants and when most our ancestors got here, there was nothing close to the infrastructure to support specialty shops, and frankly, most of them came here to start a new life without many resources. Most of us are descended from people that needed food for sustenance, quality came second. This characteristic has been passed down to most of us. My family is a prime example. My mother did have her lines in the sand though. She tried to stay away from canned vegetables for one thing. We Americans seem to value different things in our society. How many people have you seen that are scraping and clawing to get by, are in enormous debt, buy very low quality foods in bulk, but have the latest model of the iPhone in their pocket (along with the associated large monthly bill)? I think it’s because buying a $17/lb. piece of Prime meat doesn’t get you any status but that iPhone sure does. We crave status and will go into debt to prove that we can afford nice things.

I am under no delusion that we can recreate a Parisian district right here in ‘Merica, but we can certainly be a bit more discriminating on the things we put in our mouths. A few businesses have tried, and some are terrifically successful (Zabar’s, Zingerman’s, Di Bruno Brothers,…), but I would like more of us to just try more things. For example, go to the Santa Monica Farmer’s Market and sample a strawberry from Harry’s, then go pick up a basket of strawberries from the supermarket and see the difference. Night and Day doesn’t begin to cover it. You’ll never be able to eat a bad strawberry again. Harry’s cost at least twice as much, but they are eleven times better (I measured). When you eat them, you won’t be able to help but to savor every precious bite, wanting the experience to last forever. Just that little taste is all you need. Or taste the $12/lb. Swiss cheese at the supermarket, then come here and taste the magnificent Josef Paccard Beaufort d’Ete and you will see what I’m talking about. I promise, you will start eating your food more slowly and savoring it more, the difference between eating and savoring is a great one.

Trying to shop every day at several different specialty shops in a city like Los Angeles is not impossible, but it’s very close to that. We drive everywhere, we get big discounts for buying massive quantities, and we have enormous financial stresses and professional obligations that make it difficult to spend half the day shopping for dinner. It is also quite rare in this country to find several specialty shops within steps of each other.

In short, we’re not the Saint Germain arrondisement in Paris but we don’t need to be. They’re not better than us, just older and different. We’ll get there in our own way in our own time but I think we can certainly learn a thing or two from our European friends about valuing high quality things, whether they be food, drink, or conversation. Start one item at a time is my suggestion. Choose your favorite thing to eat or drink. I don’t care if it’s cheese, chocolate, wine, beer, or strawberries. Do yourself a huge favor and go somewhere where they have experts on whatever it is you like. Buy the best one that you can find that the expert thinks is a match for your taste without destroying your pocketbook, just one. Don’t eat it alone. Find someone to share it with. A relative, a spouse, a friend, a neighbor, that girl you just met on line who lied about her age (it’s okay, you lied about your weight), and enjoy the moment, and talk about it and why you liked it or didn’t. It’s possibly the beginning of a whole new thing for you. Life is too short, eat some good cheese J, preferably with some good friends.


Jacques Pépin Gets it!

April 15th, 2016
Jacques Pepin

Jacques Pepin

Several times per day, we get people who come into the shop, recipe in hand, asking for something like “five ounces of Gruyere, please.” That’s great, and we are thrilled to have the business and very happy to help. However, more often than not, whoever came up with the original recipe more than likely is not an expert on cheese. That is not their job. “Gruyere” is quite a big category (as is Cheddar, Manchego…), and they are almost never specific about which brand they used, how old it was, and what time of year it was made. Did they mean five ounces of weight or volume? Shredded or in one piece? Was that five ounces with the rind or without? All of these things make a difference in the final taste of your recipe; sometimes drastically so. We try to be helpful and ask what the recipe is so we have a better idea of what they actually might need and sometimes customers are extremely receptive to this, but sometimes not so much. “The recipe calls for five ounces of Gruyere and that’s just what I want.” Sigh, I just hack them off about 1/3 lb. of whatever will make them happy.
We have actual experts that work here that can be extremely helpful if you just give us a chance. The point of this to me is that recipes should be looked at as more of a general guideline for your dish, rather than an inerrant bible that can never be deviated from out of a fear of failure.
I recently listened to an eye-opening interview with world-renowned chef, Jacques Pépin. Jacques Pépin gets it.
He spoke at length about his famous recipe for poached pears in caramel sauce.

Poached Pears in Caramel Sauce

Pepin’s Poached Pears

“If the recipe had been followed to the letter, the finished dish would have been a disaster, but understanding the idea in the platonic sense behind the dish enables the cook to adjust and compensate for ingredients, temperature, humidity, et cetera.” It seems to me that you must first get the feel of what the finished product is supposed to taste, look, feel, and smell like, then experiment a little to tweak things until you achieve your goal. Who knows, it may come out better than the original!
I have been trying lately to make a very traditional Breton pastry called a Kouign Amann for the shop. It is quite difficult (for me). Attempt one was a total disaster and I turned the failed experiment into something more like scones. They were good scones, especially with butter, but a complete failure as Kouign Amanns go. My next attempt came out much better, but the dough was way too dense. They were delicious, but not nearly as airy as they should be.
I’m on my third attempt now, and I realized that I need more flour, I have to wait for the butter to soften more before I fold it, I need a better rolling pin, and I generally suck at laminating the dough. But I will get better because I’ve never done this before and I am not afraid to fail. I learn more each time I do.

Kouign Amann

My second attempt


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

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