4508 Lee Hwy., Arlington; 703-525-0990
While domestic cheeses, particularly New England–made, are well represented here, this shop’s real strength is in its choices from France, Italy, Spain, and England. There’s also charcuterie from Fra’Mani and D’Artagnan as well as ice cream from the famed Jeni’s Splendid Ice Creams in Columbus, Ohio.
2411 Mount Vernon Ave., Alexandria; 703-706-5300
With its informative labels, Jill Erber’s Del Ray shop is as much about education as it is about an abundant selection. Little-known cheesemakers share space with bigger producers, meaning that both caseophiles and Kraft lovers can find something to try. Shelves are packed with crackers, jams, books, wines, and cheesemaking kits.
Cork Market & Tasting Room
1805 14th St., NW; 202-265-2674
The owners of Cork Wine Bar down the street also emphasize wines at this shop, but the cheese is worth attention, too. About half the stock is domestic and a good representation of this country’s best artisanal cheesemakers, including Thistle Hill Farm (Tarentaise) and the local Meadow Creek Dairy (Appalachian). There are lots of individual wheels—convenient for grab-and-go.
919 F St., NW; 202-393-6880
The only East Coast branch of this San Francisco brand is a tidy shop with a devotion to quality. The cheeses are mostly small-batch, many are local, and some European selections, such as Tomme de Bordeaux goat cheese, are sold only to Cowgirl. A case holds the brand’s freshly made cottage cheese, crème fraîche, and fromage blanc. You’ll also find an excellent house-made pimiento cheese and California olive oil.
1222 King St., Alexandria; 703-879-2467
In his airy Old Town shop, Frenchman Sebastien Tavel and his wife, Mary, stock about 60 cheeses, most American-made. Look for wheels from such local producers as Pipe Dreams Fromage (fresh Crottin) and FireFly Farms (Black & Blue). There’s also charcuterie, from Iowa-made prosciutto to Virginia country ham to jamón Serrano from Spain.
Red, White & Bleu
127 S. Washington St., Falls Church; 703-533-9463
While much of this shop is dedicated to wine and craft beer, the cheeses top 60 varieties, from Australian Roaring Forties blue to Virginia’s Meadow Creek Dairy Grayson. It also carries Uptown Bakers breads and Jamie Stachowski’s sausages and terrines.
Tastings Gourmet Market
1410 Forest Dr., Annapolis; 410-263-1324
Stacey Adams stocks about 125 artisan-made cheeses, many of which aren’t widely available. Try Bay Blue from Maryland’s Chapel’s Country Creamery, delicate Brunet from Italy’s Piedmont region, and Wisconsin’s GranQueso, a multi-award winner at American Cheese Society competitions.
How to Build a Great Cheese Platter
Our Favorite Local Cheesemakers
Interesting Alternatives to Common Cheeses
This article appears in the May 2011 issue of The Washingtonian.