Jenny Knotts is kind of like Fergie from the Black Eyed Peas. (Wait, hear us out.) She's a loyal member of Wally's Wine who felt a calling to branch out on her own, yet remain tied to the greater whole. On the heels of a five-year stint as Cheese Specialist at Wally's, Knotts has created an extension of the Westside wine shop called Wally's Cheese Box, creating a wider and grander fromagerie than would have ever been possible within Wally's walls.
"We have about ten times more space," Knotts says of her new digs, which she hopes will become a destination spot. Located just across the driveway from the original, their stock has grown to include up to 50 additional cheeses, and about eight racks of specialty foods compared to the three available over at Wally's. "We thought it was time to do it full-blown," she says.
Knotts seems particularly proud of Gouda, as three are the house favorites. L'Amuse is the prize piece, with the cleverly named Ewephoria and the Fenacho with fenugreek seeds vying for a close second. The Scharfe Maxx, a cow's milk double cream from Switzerland and Cypress Grove Purple Haze Chevre with lavender and fennel pollen also come highly recommended.
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The Cheese Box is also supporting several local purveyors, including Breadlounge, Gaia's Goodies, and Platine Cookies, which is also in the neighborhood, and they plan to have their vendors host tastings at the shop every Saturday.
In addition to the more than 200 meat and cheese varieties that can be sliced fresh in the store, Wally's Cheese Box also sells a wide variety of unique kitchen items, such Himalayan salt plates, which are used similarly to cedar planks when grilling or broiling. Speaking of salt, there are three whole shelves devoted to it in rock form, and a massive array of hard-to-find imported chocolates. Knotts has also brought back the old Wally's practice of sandwich-making. They have a small menu of hot panini and cold charcuterie sandwiches, the star of which seems to be the prosciutto and Plugrá butter on a baguette with aged Gruyère and field greens.
Gaia's is scheduled to lead this week's tasting between 1 and 4 p.m. on Saturday, but samples aren't hard to come by anytime at the Cheese Box. "We want people to know what they're getting before they spend money on cheese that's $25 a pound," Knotts assures. (It's worth noting, however, that not all products are this pricey.)
In that generous spirit, free Breadlounge baguettes are available at the shop until August 15th.