The proprietors of Fancifull, on Melrose Avenue in Los Angeles, have searched and found the very best artisan and farmhouse cheeses in the land.
When I was in grade school, I wanted to be like the other kids and eat Kraft Macaroni & Cheese. But “processed cheese food” was never allowed in our house. Our fridge was stocked with Old World varieties like Gruyère and Emmentaler. Undaunted, I made dinner from scratch. When my family broke into the layer of breadcrumbs I’d sprinkled over the top of my casserole, they discovered layers of macaroni dyed a magnificent shade of electric neon orange. Isn’t food coloring wonderful? My dad was horrified.
As a child, I might have been more enamored with the color of cheese than the taste, thus forbidden Velveeta in all its fluorescent orange glory was fascinating. However, I’m grateful that my parents exposed me to gems like Tomme de Savoie, Epoisses, Pavé D’Affinois and Tête de Moine at such a young age.
It didn’t take me long to discover the scores of flavor profiles—grassy, herbal, caramel, nutty, earthy, moldy/blue, stinky, robust, buttery, milky, salty, sweet and sharp/tangy. My palette has ripened and matured, much like the cheese scene in this country. There is life beyond Velveeta—and it’s whey cool.
I recently met two people who are passionate about spreading the joy of American cheese—and I’m not talking about those rubbery, individually wrapped slices of the fake stuff. Terry and Wally August visit farms and creameries across the country, sampling hundreds of cheeses, to bring a small yet unique selection of America’s best artisan and farmhouse cheeses to their lactose-loving customers. The Augusts are not simply cheesemongers; they are the proprietors of Fancifull, a charming shop on Melrose Avenue that sells cheese, wine, charcuterie, jams, teas, chocolates, gourmet foods and custom gift baskets.
Two years ago, Terry and Wally began offering cheese tasting classes at Fancifull. These casual afternoon gatherings are designed around a huge communal table in their workshop where the vibe is lively and refreshingly unpretentious. The couple shares amusing stories, insights and tasting notes as guests sample an assortment of cheeses paired with wine, beer, nuts and fruit.
There are a variety of classes, from “Cheese 101” to “Making the Perfect Cheese Plate.” I was invited to “Cheese: An American Revolution” for a preview of cheeses sourced from U.S. farms and cheesemakers. In a word: delicious.
I really enjoyed the Kunik, a bloomy-rind triple crème from Nettle Meadow Farm in Warrensburg, New York. Made from goat milk and Jersey cow cream, this sumptuous cheese is mushroomy and buttery with a lemony tang and a minerally finish.
Another standout was the Goat Gouda from Central Coast Creamery in Paso Robles, California. This semi-hard, small-batch cheese is earthy and nutty with hints of caramel and herbs.
We ended the class on a blue note. Terry and Wally surprised us with a taste of the newest offering from the Point Reyes Farmstead Cheese Company. Bay Blue is a mellow, rustic-style blue cheese modeled on English Stilton. It has a fudgy texture and a salted caramel finish.
A cheese class at Fancifull, whether on a date or with a group of friends, is an enjoyable way to leisurely taste and improve your knowledge at the same time. Take enough classes and you just might become a cheese whiz.
P.S. I highly recommend making adult macaroni and cheese with Black Butte Reserve, a creamy, aged, raw-milk cheese that you can find in Fancifull’s shop. Just omit the food coloring.
5617 Melrose Avenue
Los Angeles, CA 90038
323-466-7654 or 800-350-4437
Open Monday through Friday 9 – 6; Saturday 10-4; closed Sundays.
Copyright © Michelle Gigon / 2014 Singular Communications, LLC.