The Lowdown on Westchester’s Top Cheese Shops
You deserve caramelized-onion cheddar, aged Gouda, and stinky triple crèmes.
Photo courtesy of Second Mouse Cheese
Residents of the county who have turophilia (a love of cheese) have a reason to smile more broadly these days. Enhancing the area’s dining scene are a number of specialty shops that offer a wide variety of cheeses from all over, along with knowledgeable service and a passion for the product.
Each store has its own personality and philosophy, but all are distinguished by a personal touch, with cheesemongers who aim to engage and educate the customer, an experience distinctly unlike purchasing plastic-wrapped cheese from a supermarket.
144 Larchmont Ave, Larchmont; 914.833.2274
Bistro chairs and a terra cotta floor lend a European feel to Auray Gourmet. Co-owner Carolynn Dilworth expanded the shop’s primarily European cheese selection when she bought Auray and moved it to its present location 12 years ago. Dilworth visits Europe yearly to personally source cheeses “that are unique and set us apart from the pack.
We’re more on par with a Murray’s than Whole Foods,” she says. “All of our cheeses are aged longer, so there’s a definite difference in terms of flavor profile.” In the fall, Dilworth adds more domestic cheeses to the case, growing the selection from 50-75 during the rest year, to as many as 125 cheeses during the busy holiday season.
Also onsite is a café, serving a breakfast-and-lunch menu of panini, omelettes, sandwiches, crêpes, and salads, as well as a robust cheese platter.
The Order: Chällerhocker, a “very hearty Swiss mountain cheese that’s a cross between Gruyère, Comté and Beaufort,” says Dilworth, who made the cheese with Swiss producer Walter Raess, the only creamery to produce it. “It’s delicious.”
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429 Central Ave, White Plains; 914.946.3609
Be careful not to bump into the three-feet logs of Auricchio provolone, carefully marked with age, arrival date, and anticipated cutting dates, that hang from the ceiling as you walk through this old-style Italian deli, open for more than 60 years. With 60 or so options in the case at any one time, cheese is the heart of the shop, says owner Anthony Perrotta.
Seventy-five percent of the selection is Italian, with the remainder hailing from France, Ireland and local farms; the tender, milky mozzarella is made in-house. Buffalo-milk Gouda and pecorino aged in wine earn raves from customers. Perrotta also uses many of the cheeses for the shop’s 33 varieties of homemade pasta, including 17 flavors of ravioli, and other Italian specialties, such as fresh sandwiches, stuffed peppers, and catering and cheese platters.
The Order: Hard pressed to pick one, Perrotta goes with the Italian-Swiss Grattone. “It’s our most popular,” he says. “It’s excellent, very good.”
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107 Pondfield Rd, Bronxville; 914.361.1770
This October marks the 10th anniversary for Dobbs & Bishop. Spouses, owners and self-proclaimed foodies Kevin McNeill and Ruth Walter, sorely disappointed by the tasteless cheese offerings at their local grocery store, decided to open a cheese shop shortly after settling in Bronxville.
A blackboard on the wall lists the more than 100 cheeses usually available, organized by type, including a “stinky” category. “As best as we can, we go for whole-milk cheeses and small producers, like Cato Corner and Cochran Farm, a goat-milk farm in the Adirondacks, to be a little bit different,” explains McNeill. Alongside American cheeses, expect imports from Switzerland, France, Italy, Spain, Holland and the UK.
Daily sandwiches; gourmet products, including olives, nuts, crackers, and jams; and “orphan cheeses,” which offer customers the opportunity to try small, inexpensive amounts of popular cheeses, are available. Subscriptions to cheese of the month clubs, gift baskets, and cheese platters are popular at holiday time. Cheese towers decorated with flowers are a store specialty.
The Order: Delices de Bourgogne, a triple crème Brie from France. “People go completely bananas over it. It’s like ice cream for grownups,” says McNeill.
19 Main St, Tarrytown; 914.703.6511
Twenty years ago, a self-described mid-life crisis prompted Hassan Jarane, then a professional photographer, to share his passion for food by opening Mint Premium Foods. Today, Jarane stakes claim to owning the county’s oldest cheese shop, and has seen customers’ palates evolve over the years, from asking for Havarti to requesting more varied and sophisticated cheeses.
Also a charming restaurant with eclectic décor to match its varied, globally influenced menu, the front counter showcases 40-50 cheeses, and a dozen varieties of charcuterie. Barrels of plump olives, baguettes, and all manner of imported mustards, oils, vinegars, dried figs, quince paste, and pasta are displayed as one enters. “We take pride in having a balanced selection,” Jarane says of his cheeses, 99% of which are imported from France, Holland, Spain, Germany and Italy.
The Order: Though customers frequently request truffle cheeses, Jarane goes through up to 20 wheels of English cheddar with caramelized onions and balsamic vinegar each week. “Even people who don’t eat cheese come for this,” he says.
72 Westchester Ave, Pound Ridge; 914.764.1525
This delightful, stylish store with a quirky name borrowed from a line in the movie The English Patient, turns out truly exceptional grilled cheese sandwiches. A secret sauce spread on the outside makes the bread super crunchy, a perfect contrast to thick slices of melty, flavorful, high-quality cheese. Owner Gayle Martin and her wine importer husband, Michael Riahi, bought the store in 2014.
Two years ago, Martin underwent the American Cheese Society’s rigorous education and testing process to become one of only 900 certified cheese professionals in North America. The focus here is on farmstead, handmade, domestic and international cheeses, with normally 60-70 cheeses behind the counter. Martin holds the cheeses until they are perfectly ripe and emphasizes that customers can buy any amount they want.
Classes are offered in fall and winter — one for children was sold out with a waiting list — and private classes for 6 or more are also available. The store is also a showcase for ceramics and a selection of gourmet crackers and condiments.
The Order: Prairie Breeze cheddar from Iowa. “It’s sharp, tangy and crunchy, yet creamy and hits all the right spots. I’ll be run out of town if I run out,” deadpans Martin.
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357 Manville Rd, Pleasantville; 914.579.2909
Ivy Ronquillo opened her dream cheese shop in April, named after an old business adage: The first mouse gets the trap, and the second mouse gets the cheese. An experienced cheesemonger, Ronquillo learned as Terrance Brennan’s right hand at Artisanal and while working at Murray’s Cheese and Greenwich Cheese Company. Of the varieties in her case, expect half to be raw-milk cheeses because they tend to be more flavorful and are more traditional.
And though Ronquillo doesn’t discount that European producers set the standard for cheese making, she stocks 60% domestic cheese, all produced in small batches, with an emphasis on local and American creameries that Ronquillo goes out of her way to support. A tavern license allows Second Mouse to offer sangria, local wine, cider, and beer to pair with a cheese plate or grilled cheese. Shelves are filled with artisan crackers, condiments and more, and the store stays open until 8 p.m. most nights to cater to the Jacob Burns crowd or for private parties (think book clubs or moms’ night out).
A Cheese 101 class is held monthly, with more topics to come.
The Order: Reypennaer XO Reserve, a three-year-aged Gouda with “crystalline texture, beautiful deep peach color, and a butterscotch quality so it serves as the perfect dessert course or as an I-don’t-feel-like-making-dinner cheese. We can’t keep it in stock,” says Ronquillo.
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