It’s like taking that first bite of a watermelon,” explains Leah Park Fierro as she slices into an 85-pound wheel of Parmigiano-Reggiano. She’s standing behind the counter at Milkfarm, her new artisan cheese shop that’s a short bike ride from her Eagle Rock home. “The community has been waiting for a place like this,” says the 32-year-old former pastry chef, who after six years of working at the Cheese Store of Silverlake went off on her own.
Fierro is part of a new generation of young cheesemongers eager to take the full-service cheese counter from special-occasion destination to everyday neighborhood stop. Deli cases at upstart shops like Fierro’s may offer a smaller selection than the gourmet emporiums in Beverly Hills or Brentwood, but that’s the appeal: They’re less intimidating.
At Culver City’s two-month-old Wheel House, owner Alex Josef shows off the cow tattoo on his right arm as he doles out samples of Wonderland, a domestic cheese made from the milk of Nigerian dwarf goats. “These days most people would rather try a cheese that is made in the States,” he says. “That’s unbelievably exciting.” Josef worked in the video game industry before opening his tiny storefront, which stocks 100 cheese varieties, many of them not available elsewhere in the city.
“We feel fortunate to have regulars who’ve made cheese a part of their routine,” says Lydia Clarke, who with her sister, Marnie, founded the Claremont Cheese Cave four years ago. “One woman brings her five-year-old daughter every week—she can name half of our cheeses by now.” The sisters, whose grandfather founded Alta Dena Dairy in 1945, last year launched a second shop, DTLA Cheese, in the revamped 97-year-old Grand Central Market. “If this part of the city now has a great butcher and a great bakery,” says Marnie, “why shouldn’t it have a great cheese shop, too?”
Open Wide: Where to Get It
MilkFarm, 2106 W. Colorado Blvd., Eagle Rock
Wheel House, 12954 W. Washington Blvd., Culver City
DTLA Cheese, Grand Central Market, 317 S. Broadway, downtown