Cheese lovers on the Westside don't have to trek all the way to Norbert Wabnig's shop in Beverly Hills to get good cheese anymore. They now have more than 100 cheeses, some very hard to find, to choose from in a small shop of their own in Culver City.
On June 7, Alex Josef and Steve Jones opened Wheel House Cheese Shop in a former television repair shop on West Washington Boulevard. A large cheese case fills the center of the room, with a marble counter and shelves for cheese-related items such as crackers and cornichons, Maldon salt and oatcakes, yuzu marmalade and gorgeous Oregon-made cheese boards. A second case is filled with speck, bresaola, duck salami, pate and olives. There's a basket of baguettes from Rockenwägner bakery, which is conveniently located just down the street.
There's a window counter with seating and wine barrels in the back, near a pretty outdoor patio. It's cozy, but there's plenty of space for the wine tastings and pairings, events and classes that Josef plans to host once they get their liquor license. Once that happens, there are plans to sell about 25 to 30 wines and beers. You know, to have with all that cheese.
Josef, who grew up on the Westside and lives down the street from the cheese shop, came to cheese only a few years ago, after a few previous careers (marketing, video games, dog-grooming, as he owns Dogromat in Venice). Josef got serious about cheese, started volunteering at cheese shops, and went to Portland, Oregon, to meet Steve Jones, owner of the Cheese Bar and winner of the 2011 Cheesemonger Invitational. Not only did Jones teach Josef a few more things about cheese but the two men decided to go into business together.
Josef says he'd been dreaming of opening a shop in his neighborhood for a long time; and then he was driving by and saw a for-lease sign in the window of the TV shop. "I love this neighborhood; there's a lot going on." There was not, however, much cheese.
Josef says he's interested in bringing cheeses you can't find anywhere else in town, in addition to classics that you can. Thus there are beautiful hunks of Montgomery Cheddar from Neal's Yard Dairy in England, but also Wonderland, an aged, natural-rind goat cheese from Mountain Lodge Farm in Washington State, made from the milk of Nigerian Dwarf goats. (Who knew.)
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There's also an aged goat cheese from Pholia Farms in Oregon, and Paski Sir, a sheep's milk cheese from Croatia. There's Cazelle de St. Affrique, a sheep's milk cheese from France; and Moses Sleeper, a cow's milk cheese from Jasper Hill Farm in Vermont.
Right now the website doesn't have a list of cheeses, so you'll have to call or go into the store to find out exactly what it's carrying. Josef says the selection will change pretty frequently, depending on what's available and how much people love their cheese: One double-cream cow's milk from Switzerland has already sold out and is on order again. So your best bet is to swing by the store and check out what's behind the glass. Say hi. See what's come in that day. Remind them to make some coffee and turn on the music.