By Aaron Estes, Cheese Editor
Having lived in the
I can attest that it is somewhat difficult to find shops that offer a quality
cheese selection. The places that do
have carry cheese beyond your normal supermarket variety do not necessarily
specialize in promoting local, artisanal cheese. But, a friend sent me an email that mentioned about a
had just opened up in
Rhinebeck, for those of you not familiar, is
a beautiful historic area on the banks of the Hudson River in
home to several historic landmarks, restaurants and B&Bs.
With all of this to offer, there was one
thing definitely lacking… a place to buy New York-sourced cheese and beer. I've spent a lot time in Rhinebeck,
and understand the local feel to the area. So, I was excited to head to the Grand Cru Beer & Cheese Market and
check out the offerings.
Upon entering, I could see that this place takes great pride
in their beer selection. There were many
great and hard-to-find breweries offered that are sometimes difficult to
find even in New York City. In addition to the
shelves of beer in which to “build your own six-pack,” and refrigerated cases
to take and drink right away, they offer growlers and three daily selections from
which to choose. It was pretty
impressive to walk into this new shop and decide on having a pint from Victory
Prima Pils from PA, Ommegang Zuur from NY, and Avery Maharaja IPA from CO. All in all, this is quite a nice beer
selection in an area that desperately needed a specialty shop.
That being said, I wish that their cheese
selection was as extensive and varied as their beer selection.
In looking at the cheese selection, I saw a variety of
cheeses that were pre-wrapped in a cold case next to the register in the back. The cheese selection is New York-centric (which is great) with a few
European favorites thrown in, but it seemed to favor one particular New York cheese
farm above the others.
Of the 10 local
cheeses that were in the case (by my count at the time) 8 of them were from
Sprout Creek Farm in
There is nothing necessarily wrong with that,
but I would think that a shop with a New York focus would extend beyond the immediate
There were some other cheeses in
the case as well — Coach Farm Chevre and Old Chatham Ewe’s Blue — but the case
looked pretty empty with some pieces wrapped haphazardly in plastic wrap. When
I asked about a couple of the Sprout Creek cheeses with which I was not
familiar, they didn’t have anything open for me to sample, as everything is
pre-weighed, priced and wrapped.
buying a couple of pieces (more on the cheeses themselves in an upcoming post), I took a seat in the
front of the shop where they have a few tables and chairs. My cheeses were brought to me on a board with
a few crackers and shot glass of delicious local honey for me to pair with and
enjoy. But like I said, more on that in a future post.
I think it is important for any cheese shop to excite their
customers about the cheeses they carry. Bring them into the stories behind the cheese, where it was produced
and what the cheese maker is striving for.
A great way to do that is by talking over a taste, and talking about it
Getting a feel for your inventory can be a difficult thing to do,
especially in a brand new shop for a new area.
Making sure that there is enough cheese to sample as well as sell is a
fine line, especially without any prior knowledge or benchmark data. Having been open for only about a month as of
July 12, I think the owners have made a great start in bringing artisanal cheese
(and beer) to this community. I am
hopeful that as the shop owners get more of a feel for their customer base, and
familiarity with the great cheeses that are being produced in New York, they
will take the next step in branching out to other regions, offering tastes of
what they have selected, cutting to order, and bringing their cheese counter up
to the level that their beer selection has already achieved. I think this shop has a lot of
Give it some time and refinement, and this shop could become a destination spot for cheese and beer
lovers making a trip through the