Coke and Roquefort at Andrew’s Cheese Shop

L’aigle Noir Roquefort (on left) .At $71/lb., the most expensive cheese at Andrew’s.
This guest post comes to us from Mira Advani Honeycutt, author of California’s Central Coast, The Ultimate Winery Guide: From Santa Barbara to Paso Robles. She frequently contributes wine and travel pieces to the Good Food Blog.
As a cheese lover I always admired the elaborate cheese trays at my friend Joy’s wine tasting parties. “They are from Andrew’s Cheese Shop,” she would announce. “I’ve got to take you there.”

And so she did. We met at Andrew’s on Montana Avenue in Santa Monica. I knew I was in for a treat when I read the shop’s tag line, “This Place Stinks.”

How many cheeses here, I ask, when I meet Andrew Steiner. He shrugs, “I don’t know.”  By my quick count, there were easily more than 100 types of cheeses in the two cases.

Andrew Steiner

Since most people think of pairing cheese with wine, I ask red or white? I was surprised to hear his answer: “If you want to be a genius, do champagne or sparkling wine with cheese.”

Andrew further astonishes me by adding beer and Coca Cola as a pairing option. He points to the L’Aigle Noir (black eagle) Roquefort, at $71/pound — this is Andrew’s most expensive cheese. “We are one of a handful of cheese shops in the country to carry this,” he says, adding that this would be perfect with Champagne, Sauternes wines or Coke (because of its sweet caramel flavor). As for beer, the shop holds a monthly grilled cheese and beer night soiree.

“Wine is difficult to pair because the cheese overpowers it,” says the cheesemonger However, if you must select still wine over sparkling or beer, he suggests a white wine with good acidity or residual sugar such as Sauternes.

But what about the die-hard red wine fan?  Andrew’s preference is to go with Beaujolais or Pinot Noir and lastly a big wine like a Zinfandel. For a Cabernet lover, he suggests triple cream cheeses that pair well with the wine’s tannins. “Cab and triple cream are complimentary to each other.”

Andrew also notes that a safe bet is to pair wine and cheese from the same region. Such as the pungent Époisse de Bourgogne (washed in local pomace brandy) with a fine Burgundy or a goat cheese from Loire with a Chenin Blanc from that area.

A selection of soft cheeses from Petaluma

Andrew’s fascination with cheese began when he started working at Joachim Spichal’s Patina restaurant. Soon the self-taught cheesemonger rose to the position of Maitre d’Fromage. After working in the Los Angeles restaurant industry for 24 years, he opened his shop on Montana in 2008.

As we embark on our tasting adventure, I notice a Womanchengo cheese. (A feminist take on Manchengo?) “I hate the name, “ Andrew confesses. “But it’s really good and completely different from Manchengo as it’s made of sheep’s milk.”

We taste the Spanis Garrrotxa, a pleasant cheese with a grassy flavor made from goat’s milk with a different texture than the usual softer goat cheese. The Boschetto al Tartuffo from Florence is a blend of cow’s and sheep milk and laced with white truffles.

The stinkiest cheese, Roccolo from Lombardy region is made of raw farmstead cow’s milk and, yes, it’s really strong. Andrew suggests a red wine with this, say a Burgundy or Brunello di Montalicino.

On the subject of raw or not, Andrew says, “When I try a new cheese, that’s the last question I ask, whether it’s pasteurized or not.” People think they are getting enzymes from raw milk but that’s not necessarily true, says the cheesemonger.