cheese shop

Chizu - Cheese in Japanese

Chizu is a pocket sized establishment in central Portland, OR. We had read about it before arriving in the city and we were eager to visit. Essentially it is a bar/eatery that serves cheese, wine and beer all encompassed by a Japanese theme. It's Japanese in the sense that everything in the place is minimalist and it is covered with miniature origami birds. Additionally, Portland receives a lot of visitors from Japan who often pick it as a second city to visit after checking out San Fransisco. The brainchild behind Chizu is the man who also owns The Cheese Bar; a cheese shop in west Portland that has over 200 cheeses. I guess he saw a good business opportunity based on the clientele and therefore Chizu was born.

Having now been to Chizu I can confidently declare that it indeed is pretty fun. It's the sort of idea that would work in Portland because the city is so hip it hurts. Hipsters like ideas, specialty food, local product and beer and Chizu has the lot. If Chizu was opened in downbeat country town it would fail worse than a failure who has failed to notice that he had in fact failed. You take a seat at the tiny bar in front of a wide selection of cheeses behind a glass case and pick up a menu that lists all of them on it. It's not restaurant, it's not take out its simply gourmet with a casual feel. You can either choose your own cheese plate and accompanying beverage or you can ask one of the very friendly and knowledgable staff to assist you in making a taste sensation.


Our cheesemonger (who turned out to be a relative of Benjamin Franklin!) was excellent. I picked the cheese and she provided the customer experience whilst preparing our cheese board with a selection of dried fruit, salted nuts and crostini. Attention to detail goes into the layout of the boards and just enough cheese is given so that you get a few good bites but not so much that it's overwhelming. Considering the potentially high brow connotations that one may have with the eatery the prices were very reasonable - we had four cheeses washed down with two ciders and we paid $25. The fruit and nuts were part of the deal. I think that's a steal.

If we ever go back to Portland, we'll definitely go back to Chizu.

Loleta - Cheesemaking Without the Fuss

We left the giant trees of the Redwood forests in Northern California to make our way to Willits to see a friend who was working at a place called The Grange Farm for Adaptive Agriculture. Intrigued towards what we were going to find on an adaptive agriculture farm we decided to brainstorm what it might be like. In order to brainstorm we needed fuel to think. Therefore, cheese.

We decided to stop at a dot on the map named 'Loleta' which apparently held a small cheese factory within the limits of the town. We peered out of the windows of the car at rural Humboldt county, green and lush pastures aren't necessarily what one thinks of when conjuring up an image of California but this was certainly the case amongst these parts. The vibrancy of the fields reminded me of my home country, England, with its rolling hills and farm buildings.


The shop was on a side street opposite a derelict building with smashed windows, it hardly seemed like a good location from the outside. However, when we went in we could clearly see that it was a popular location. First opened in 1982 I think the factory must look the same today as it did 35 years ago. The shop had a simple cheese case that was filled with what I like to refer to as 'solid no frill cheese!' There was a large selection of Jack, Cheddar and Havarti that was infused with different flavors and each cheese had a respective sample to try.


Filling our faces with cheese I looked up to the picture on the wall and saw an image of Guy Fieri from Diners, Drive-in's and Dives when he visited the establishment a few years ago. He was stood with Bob Laffranchi, the owner of Loleta Cheese. Guy Fieri was quoted as saying 'it was the real deal'. On a side note I think Fieri's spiked hair would make an excellent spot to place cheese and pickled onions for a party!


Being on a strict budget we decided to by the end piece of a Monterey Jack for our 'make it yourself and eat it out of the trunk on the side of the road' picnic. The end pieces were ridiculously cheaply priced at $2, it would have been rude not to buy one. As we set off on our merry way we saw the cows that made our cheese possible. We thanked them udderly...

Rogue River Dairy

Once you reach Southern Oregon everything seems to be named Rogue. The Rogue River Farm Stand and Dairy can be found not far from the meandering Rogue River after a long winding drive through Rogue State Forest. There is something about the word rogue that is pretty cool. A rogue to me is a mischievous swindler, a lovable bad guy - the Honorable Sheriff of Nottingham, Captain Jack, The Black Mustache....

So anyway, we were bumbling through backcountry Oregon feeling like rogues in search of Rogue River cheese. Our initial intentions were to go to the shop and cheese making facility in Central Point but because we got there so early the place was closed. Therefore we decided to continue on to the Dairy and Farm Stand in Grants Pass and I'm glad we did! When we arrived there were no cars in the parking lot and all we could see were cows - I guess Sunday is a quiet day for eating cheese. There was a milking parlor to the left, calves to the right and a pretty lawn with three picnic tables donning respective Rogue Creamery umbrellas to provide some shade from the hot sun. We hadn't even entered the shop and I already wanted to have my lunch there.

After viewing the outdoor premises we decided to venture inside. We were greeted by a lady stood behind a humble counter offering selections of Rogue cheeses. She was real friendly and directed us towards the cheese curd samples for the day; the lavender cheese curds were particularly good! The lady was one of only six (seven?) staff that work at this organically aimed establishment including all the herds people and merchandisers which surprised me considering the popularity of their product. I knew that the company had just started moving towards robotic milking and the lady (can't believe I didn't get her name) told me that despite the robotics costing an extremely large amount that they have greatly improved production. I was amazed to discover that each cow has a chip in its ear which automatically knows when the cow needs milking. Providing I have the information correct, the cow walks up to the milking barrier and if the chip sends a message that the cow has a full udder then it opens and allows the cow in to be milked! The milk is then transferred to Central Point to be made into cheese.

We tried the Caveman Blue and the Oregonzola (both wonderful) and then we discovered that they make grilled cheese sandwiches or as I prefer to call them - 'cheese toasties!' There were two to choose from so we decided to get one of each! The first was a 'Sebbie' that consisted of a delicious melting cheese made with a local chocolate stout and the second was a 'Classic' which was made with Caveman Blue and honey. We took 'em outside and ate them under the shade of the umbrellas on the lawn. The whole time we were eating, a cow was staring at us as if to say 'you've got me to thank for that sandwich' and I would totally agree (with a little help from Rogue River Creamery of course!)

Rogue River is a relatively new company and they are expanding fast. They export nationally and internationally. It's really not surprising why. If you forgive the pun, their cheeses, like their cows, are outstanding in their field and I have a special regard for their line of blues. Every blue cheese I have had from Rogue has been incredible - my favourite still being the smokey blue which is the best smoked cheese in the west!

Thank you Rogue River Creamery.

Thank you cows.

Good Thunder - Thunderously Good!

If you have ever been in a tent during a storm in the middle of nowhere , then you will have undoubtedly heard wild cracks of thunder that cause you to believe that the gods are wielding hammers and deciding the fate of the universe. Although at first it can be terrifying, once you sit back and relax you find it to be heart-poundingly exciting. This comparison is not unlike lots of people's approaches to washed rind cheeses. On first impression, most people recoil in horror at an orange (sometimes sticky, sometimes wrinkly) rinded cheese only to be pleasantly surprised and even heart-poundingly excited when they cut one open and try a piece. 

Good Thunder is a great name for a cheese. It's a good cheese and it hits you like thunder. Good Thunder is the name of a town with approximately 600 people near the town of Blue Earth, Minnesota. It's a little washed rind square which is soaked in Surly Bender beer a few times during it's production. It may look like an insignificant little square on the surface but underneath the surface lies a bright, chalky, dense cheese that tastes amazing! 

Cheese-o-meter rating: 9/10



The Cheese Iron

An iron for cheese? Surely not. It may be a quick and novel way to make a cheese toastie but using an iron on cheese is just ludicrous. Insane. Worrisome.

Of course, a Cheese Iron has nothing to do with the iron that straightens your clothes. A Cheese Iron is actually a fancy tool to check the maturation of the cheese! As you would expect, once you slice into a sexy fresh wheel of something tasty then the said cheese's life is effectively over. Using a cheese iron allows cheese maturers to measure the quality of a wheel without chopping into it. It's a legendary idea and it has been used for centuries! Forget the iPhone, the Cheese Iron is what you call a real invention!

For the purpose of this post, The Cheese Iron is actually a specialty shop in Scarborough, Maine. My parents had been visiting from the UK and when we passed this shop on the way home from Portland it was simply impossible not to stop there. It was literally impossible, I had no control, the car literally just turned itself into the car park off route one! It's a great shop with friendly staff who genuinely appear interested in the product and talking to other humans, which is refreshing. I spoke to a bright eyed, curly haired kid behind the counter who proudly disclosed that he was 'born and raised in Maine' and that the shop had been established ten years.

Make no mistake, this not a large shop and yet it is packed corner to corner with fancy schmancy items that make you salivate all over your t-shirt. I felt like a Bassett Hound, dribbling everywhere. There is beautifully displayed cheese, a large array of wines, beverages from near and far, a cheese maturation room, good quality meats, items to go, miniature desserts, the list goes on. To compliment the whole place, there is indoor and outdoor seating so that you never really have to leave!

After much deliberation and trying a whole load of cheeses I went for a Bresaola with Asiago, a bit of bread pudding and a piece of Timberdoodle to go! I then proceeded to demolish them at an outdoor table in the sun with my wife and parents who were equally enthusiastically tucking into their choices. If you are ever in Scarborough, Maine then you should definitely go.                            

Pre-salivation, post chat with curly-haired kid behind the counter! (That's NOT a Donald Trump hat!)

Pre-salivation, post chat with curly-haired kid behind the counter! (That's NOT a Donald Trump hat!)