Cheese Whiz

By Brandon Hernandez
Photos by Stacy Keck

(Published in the December 2010 issue)

Katie Grebow might be the cheesiest woman in town. In fact, the executive chef at Cafe Chloe in East Village has moved so much of the milky magic, she may even have helped start a trend.

“When we opened six years ago, not many places were doing cheese plates,” Grebow says. “Now, cheese and charcuterie are everywhere.”

Having kept detailed records of every one of the cheeses she has sold, Grebow’s about to hit the big five-oh...oh (500 varieties sold, that is.) To celebrate the milestone, Cafe Chloe is offering cheeses paired with exceptional wines for a discounted price from 4 to 6 p.m., December 5 through 9.

While she’s still at 497, the dairy queen talks shop:

PacificSD: When did you catch fromage fever?
Katie Grebow: I was a vegetarian from age 16 to 27. Cheese, beans and tofu were my main courses. Cheese has that satisfying, fulfilling, textural animal thing without being part of the animal. Now, I eat meat and seafood, but cheese is still my passion.

PSD: What’s the best cheese on the planet?

KG: Vacherin Mond d’Or is my hands-down favorite. It’s an exquisite cheese made from raw cow’s milk that has flavor notes of alpine meadows where the cows graze. It’s wrapped in pine or spruce, which gives it incredible mushroomy, forest-like flavor.

PSD: How much cheese do you go through at the Cafe Chloe?

KG: A ton. Between the mac ‘n’ cheese and the cheese plates, I’m ordering like 80 pounds at a time.

PSD: What tips do you have for enjoying cheese to the fullest?

KG: Eating cheese at room temperature is key, especially for firmer varieties-they’re kind of plain when they’re cold. And when you eat several cheeses, eat them from mildest to strongest so you don’t blow your palate.

Home Slice: Choice cheeses to-g

After much deliberation, Katie Grebow and Cafe Chloe’s bartender, Nicolae Stefan, provided this list of top-shelf cheeses and paired wines. Most of the cheeses can be purchased from the restaurant’s primary supplier, Venissimo Cheese Shop, with locations in East Village, Hillcrest and Del Mar (Venissimo’s prices shown).

Cravanzina, Italy ($23/lb.): soft-ripened sheep, goat and cow’s milk [pair with Primitivo or Pinot Grigio]

Curé Nantais, France ($29/lb.): semisoft, washed-rind cow’s milk [pair with Beaujolais or Vouvray]

Etorki, France ($27.50/lb.): semi-soft sheep’s milk [pair with Navarra]

Grayson, US ($28.50/lb.): semi-soft, washed-rind raw cow’s milk [pair with Pinot Noir or Chardonnay]

La Peral, Spain ($25/lb.): semi-soft blue cow and sheep’s milk [pair with Alvarino]

Mahón Reserva, Spain ($24.50/lb.): firm, natural rind raw cow’s milk [pair with Tempranillo Rueda]

Nevat, Spain ($29.50/lb.): semi-soft goat’s milk [pair with Priorat]

Saint Agur, France ($26/lb.): soft doublecrème blue cow’s milk [pair with Red Bourdeax or Pinot Noir]

Sally Jackson Guernsey, US ($29.50/lb.): semi-soft, chestnut leaf-wrapped raw cow’s milk [pair with Pinot Noir]

Schloss, US ($22/lb.): semi-soft, washed-rind cow’s milk [pair with Rioja, Pinot Noir or Gewurtztraminer]

Serra da Estrella, Portugal ($33/lb.): soft, natural-rind raw sheep’s milk with milk thistle [pair with Garnacha]

Speziato al Tartufo, Italy ($29/lb.): semisoft, clove-dusted, truffle-infused cow’s milk [pair with Sangiovese]

Taleggio, Italy ($17.50/lb.): soft, brushed-rind, raw cow’s milk [pair with Super Tuscan or Gavi di Gavi]

Timanoix, France ($75/lb.): semi-firm, brandy-brushed cow’s milk with walnut [pair with Red Burgundy or Brandy]

Tomme Brûlée, France ($36/lb.): semifirm, burnt-rind, raw sheep and goat’s milk [pair with Rhone]

Cafe Chloe
721 Ninth Avenue, East Village

Venissimo Cheese Shop
871 G Street, East Village, 619.358.9081
754 W. Washington Street, Hillcrest, 619.491.0708
2710 Villa de la Valle, Del Mar, 858.847.9616,