A sample of some of the many varieties on display at The Big Cheese, including Gjetost of Norway (bottom center)
Gouda cheese wheels
If you’re from the Upper Mid-West, Lake Wobegon territory, where the Norwegians settled for reasons best known to themselves, you may already know about the goat’s milk cheese from Norway called Gjetost. (The name is pronounced yay-toast and means “goat cheese” — those no-nonsense Norwegians!) If it’s new to you, give it a try. It may be an acquired taste, but it’s interesting. It’s made by boiling milk, cream and whey, and has a sweet, pronounced flavor with caramel tones that match its looks — like a block of hardened caramel. Try thin curls on savory crackers, or flatbread, or maybe on Pepperidge Farm pumpernickel party slices to offset the sweetness. As with all good cheese purveyors, the Sterers will let you taste a sliver of anything you’re considering buying.
They also serve light lunches in the store. You can sit at one of the four or five tables in the front and have panini or cheese pie, or lamb sausages, Lebanese potato salad, falafel, hummus, dates stuffed with blue cheese, or any of the Middle Eastern specialties made fresh or from the prepared-foods case. (Yuval Sterer is from Israel.) Baklava, a few fruits and vegetables, free-range eggs when the couple’s happy hens are laying, a range of condiments, crackers, organic candies, and a selection of healthy drinks round things out. Orange blossom water, anybody?
The back of the space is devoted to clothes, books, housewares and gently used items, which explains why “The Big Cheese” shingle out front has a footnote: “and other stuff.” (I mentioned this is a quirky place, right?) And here’s a heads up for anchovy devotees: if you get to The Big Cheese soon, you can get a 28-ounce tin of flat fillets of anchovies packed in olive oil for only $8; a special sale and a huge bargain. I bought one, and I’m divvying the anchovies into smaller jars to store tightly closed in the back of the fridge.
For a quick look at the store, check out this YouTube video.