Free Cheese, Glorious Free Cheese at Santa Monica Place

If you want even more cheese, here are some plates worth paying for at top L.A. restaurants

If there are two words even better than the phrase “night cheese” à la Liz Lemon, they are free cheese. On January 16 from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m., The Cheeses of Europe will run a pop-up at Santa Monica Place’s central plaza. They’ll offer tastings of more than 15 European cheeses, plus a cheese-centric photo exhibit (oh là là) and specially priced cheese for purchase.

If you want even more cheese or just prefer to eat your cheese sitting down with a glass of wine in hand at your own table, you can also check out some of our favorite cheese plates around town.

For a pan-European experience, A.O.C. provides a bounty of impressive wines and cheeses from countries like Portugal, Switzerland, and Italy. A.O.C. is a solid pick for both the cheese dilettante and the cheese connoisseur. Selections are organized by the kinds of cheese, and the patient staff will expertly guide you through the process. There’s also an option to choose from a variety of accompaniments, like quince paste, bacon, and Marcona almonds (five cheeses for $25).

For Spanish quesos, wander over to Bar Pintxo, an intimate Barcelonan tapas joint nestled near Ocean Ave in Santa Monica. The restaurant specializes in its namesake pintxos (bar snacks), Spanish wines, and cheeses. Accompanied with an addictive quince paste, their plato de quesos allows you to create your own cheese place by selecting as many cheeses as you desire, with options including Manchego, Mahón, San Simón, Valdeón, and many more ($4 per cheese).

Another Santa Monica darling, Tar & Roses, serves a choose-your-own cheese and charcuterie plate (starting at $16 for three items and going up to $29 for seven items). Ask for a seat on their romantic patio and divvy up a cheese plate that comes with tangy house-made pickles, dried cherry mostarda, nuts, and quince paste. You’ll likely need a reservation at this hot spot.

Bagatelle, the French-inspired West Hollywood restaurant/lounge best known for its wild and louche brunches that attract those who like to dance on tables, has the first L.A. cheese plate we’ve found that could possibly be accompanied by sparklers. The five-cheese dessert platter ($25) comes with honeycomb, fresh fruit, seasonal marmalade, and pecans. If you like to party and deal with your “night cheese” cravings at the same time, this might be the right venue.

redarrowThe Cheeses of Europe Pop-Up, Santa Monica Place, 395 Santa Monica Blvd., Santa Monica, 310-260-8333

redarrowA.O.C., 8022 W. Third St., Los Angeles, 323-653-6359

redarrowBar Pintxo, 109 Santa Monica Blvd,, Santa Monica, 310-458-2012

redarrowTar & Roses, 602 Santa Monica Blvd., Santa Monica, 310-587-0700

redarrowBagatelle, 755 N. La Cienega Blvd., West Hollywood, 310-659-3900