The Cheese Lady expands her Del Ray digs


When I began to think of Emily Dickinson while eating the quiche, I considered throwing the word-count out the window and writing a very long love letter.

When I began to free-associate aft er tasting the house-made blue cheese dressing I considered turning my back on the paragraph altogether and writing Th irteen Ways of Looking at a Cheese Shop. It is only because I love the sonnet that I retreated from How do I love grilled cheese, let me count the ways . . .

Pressing my forearms into the cold, white marble of the long and beautiful bar at Cheesetique I tried to get a get a grip. I was eating gazpacho, not rowing in Eden, I looked up, took a deep breath, but then the ceiling fans caught my attention.

I love the ceiling fans, the oldfashioned kind with two caged fans on a long central arm that do a long, lazy double rotation that is both sublimely cool and sublimely cooling.

From the top down, everything at Cheesetique is designed for a stylish comfort, for good taste and a neighborly grace. The cheese here, off ered with a spunky depth of knowledge has always been lovely, but the Cheese and Wine Bar, tucked behind a curtain at the rear of the retail space has the feel of something lovingly unique, both approachable and rarefied.

The Artisan Quiche, for example, is gently extraordinary.

Made one night with emmenthaler, prosciutto and peppadew peppers, the interior of the quiche has a sublime texture, flan-like and rich without being overtly eggy, the light nuttiness underlying the emmenthaler and the sweetness of the peppers plays well with the familiar prosciutto.

As a whole the quiche has none of the heavy, brick-like denseness that one fears in a quiche; it is instead robust and gorgeous with a dark, browned top. Eating the Artisan Quiche is a little like tasting Edith Piaf- nothing fills one right up to the brim quite so well with an emotive fl avor built on intelligence.

The menu at Cheesetique is an exercise in familiar, life-af-fi rming standards. The handful of entrees- a quiche, a salad,

a panini, a grilled cheese, small plates, soups, cheese and charcuterie boards- put the art in art in artisan.

The grilled cheese sandwich is generous, toasted with fontina and taleggio and onion jam. Onion jam is a thing of beauty, sweet and sour, served here with melted flavors of the salty and nutty flavors of these cheeses (I am a fool for fontina, I love the soft greenness of it) it becomes satisfyingly transcendent, grown-up, reminiscent without being sentimental.

The dcor is also this way.

The days selection of cheese and charcuterie are listed on a chalkboard that hangs at the end of the bar. The huge mirror hanging behind the long marble bar reflects the caf tables, the touches of red that break the break the black and the white, my face in concentration as I taste, again the extraordinary house-made blue cheese dressing that I have used to douse a generous helping of mixed greens.

The place feels euro-derivative, maybe, but not the least bit pretentious. The Cheese and Wine Bar feels comfortable, neighborly, articulate.

The impression that I am left with each time I exit Cheesetiques new, expanded digs (you can fi nd the retail space and Cheese and Wine Bar just a few store fronts down Mount Vernon Avenue from the old location) is one of satisfaction.

Jill Erber, Cheesetiques Cheese Lady extraordinaire manages to get it right every time.

When it comes to waiters, keep the aprons long (so charming.) When it comes to beer, keep it Gordons (in a can, superstrong.)

When it comes to cheese, keep it stinky. Keep it simple. Keep it smart. Keep it perfect.