It’s kind of ironic that on the same weekend that Seattle cheese icon Beecher’s Handmade Cheese celebrated the grand opening of its new New York shop, I visited the original location in Seattle’s Pike Place Market. In town for a long weekend with the family, I paid my first visit to Beecher’s Saturday afternoon with the pie-in-the-sky hope that all the crowds would be in New York instead of Seattle. Fat chance. The store was crazy-crowded with people watching the cheesemakers at work or standing in line for grilled cheese sandwiches and the world’s best macaroni and cheese. But I was able to maneuver my stroller into the line for the cut-to-order cheese counter at the back of the store, and boy, am I glad I did. (Thanks to baby N, whose patience was running thin but was a trooper anyway. The cracker samples helped immensely.)
Colleen and I have been Beecher’s fans for several years – C wrote up its Flagship Reserve Cheddar back in 2009 – but what really amazed me about the cheese counter was the number of non-Beecher’s cheese I found. Living in the Midwest, I see a wide range of Minnesota, Wisconsin and Iowa cheeses regularly, and my regular cheese shops do a great job of stocking favorites from New England and California. But there’s a long list of Pacific Northwest cheeses that I had never seen – or even heard of – before I stepped up to the Beecher’s cheese counter. Choosing just a few to bring home was difficult, of course, but I found some interesting varieties that I’ll introduce here over the next couple of weeks. But here’s a clue – what do you get when you combine Idaho and black truffles? Some kick-ass cheese, that’s what.
The long line of people breathing down my neck made my visit relatively abbreviated, but you can bet I’ll be back the next time I’m in Seattle. Thankfully, I have a good excuse to go, with my parents and much of my husband’s extended family living there. Hopefully, my next trip to the shop will be timed for a more leisurely weekday afternoon when I can have a bowl of mac and cheese and idle the hour away by the cheese counter. Washington, Oregon and Idaho cheesemakers, consider yourself warned. Beecher’s will need to restock after my next visit.