The New Year’s resolutions have been going strong, but there’s a chance that you’re starting to slip a bit. Did a hamburger accidentally get ordered instead of a salad? Whoops. Did those 100 sit-ups a night turn into “watching Netflix from the floor with your knees up”? Shoot. Don’t give up your goals! But maybe, remember that your ambitions (especially those about food) need to be tempered. For every one one of those salad meals, maybe you can also work in a reward like, say … cheese? But don’t just settle for whatever sounds gouda – check out this list of shops who have picked only the best of the best, and the wildest of the wild. Because if you’re going to break your resolutions, it better be for the best possible indulgence, right?
Marion Street Cheese Market
The Marion Street Cheese Market has come a long way from it’s cheese-centric beginnings – it now boasts a beer cooler, a café hosting live music, local gourmet chocolates, and even kitchen utensils and cookbooks. They’re also the only three-star-rated certified Green Restaurant in the Chicagoland area (Frontera Grill and Uncommon Ground are the only other certified Green Restaurants in the city). But the cheese nerds here have definitely not lost focus on their cheesemongering – their selections include the caramel-y L’amuse gouda, the buttery Big Ed’s, or the surprisingly firm goat cheese known as Washed Bear.
By and far one of the best gourmet stops in the loop, Pastoral is seriously nerdy about cheese. Aside from offering selections of rarities and local productions, Pastoral also offers it’s own cheese classes like “Beer and Cheddar” and “Bubbles, Cheese and Chocolate.” From Turkish cheddar-evil-twin Talum, or the nutty nuclear orange Mimolette, Pastoral has a wide array of special treats. And if you’re just looking for a tasty lunch, skip the intensive tasting style of cheese-eating, and just get it on top of a delicious fresh-made sandwich.
Sure, they might be a grocery store, but don’t knock Fox and Obel without perusing their selection. While their variety will obviously be much larger due to the scale, the buyers at this upscale grocery clearly have a curatorial eye. In addition to their surprisingly talented baking program, the “fromagerie” also shows off some top-tier taste: funky-sweet Roquefort Papillion, nutty and savory cave-aged Gruyere, or good old Maytag Blue are some of the many tasty options available.
LUSH Wine & Spirits
While not a traditional cheese shop, this boozy haven offers a different way to enjoy some top-notch fermented milk products. While the main attraction is the hundreds of wines, spirits, and fancy beers, the Chicago Ave. shop (as well as the Roscoe St. shop) also feature a tasty snack bar with sandwiches, appetizers, meats, and obviously cheeses. From their rotating list of dozens of fermented milk products, you can choose an aged Pecorino, Beehive’s Barely Buzzed coffee-rubbed cheese, or any number of to go with a bottle of wine. It’s the perfect option for those that want to indulge in some cheese-nibbling without committing to a whole wedge of the good stuff.
Provenance offers a small selection of all the good things in life–wine, beer, cheese, ice cream, pickles–a virtual curiosity shop for the stomach. Their selection of cheeses is small but lovingly curated. Provenance’s greatest asset? Appetizer platters. You can order a selection of cheeses for anywhere from 4-8 people, with olives, nuts, crackers and other goodies thrown in as needed – instant classy party, just add knife.