“A slice of pie without cheese is like a kiss without
a squeeze,” an anonymous person once said.
Cheese has been a food for both royalty and peasants
for centuries. Now, thanks to the Internet, Americans
have a vast number cheeses from which to choose and
which they can easily purchase. These are my choices
for the best online purveyors of cheeses.
(International orders—for cheese—from these
sites are not possible at this time due to customs restrictions,
taxes, and other fees. One purveyor says that these
charges can add as much as 300 percent to the cost of
With more than 700 varieties to choose from, the list
of cheeses here is astounding. I was so intrigued by
some that I just had to try them (like Sage Derby and
Mirabo Walnut). Choose by region, type, consistency,
milk, or by other categories, such as vegetarian, molds,
rennet type, or wax type. Detailed item descriptions
include taste, consistency, even height, length, and
width of the pieces.
In addition, you can join several cheese-of-the-month
clubs and purchase accessories (crackers, knives, graters),
samplers, cheese-making kits, books and videos, and
more. All totaled, there are more than 1800 products.
CheeseSupply.com offers discount, volume, and wholesale
prices and has a tracking system. Registering is free
and keeps your information and order history on file.
It is very easy to spend a lot of money at this site,
but it is well worth it. The deliveries are made via
UPS and FedEx and are packaged with cold packs and insulation.
Ordering more than $75 gets you free shipping.
This site is not dedicated solely to cheese;
however, its cheese selection is quite impressive. It
rivals that of CheeseSupply.com, and igourmet.com has
better prices—sometimes by half.
There are various categories to shop under, including
the less often seen Kosher, organic, and unpasteurized
cheeses. Find great assortment packs, such as the Champagne
Cheese Assortment, Cheddars of the World, New England
Artisan Cheese Board, and the Oktoberfest Cheese Assortment.
One assortment that raised my eyebrows is “Romantic
Cheeses.” Romantic cheese?
Other features on the site include serving suggestions,
recipes, a free e-newsletter, events and tastings, cheese
baskets, a gift finder, gift certificates, corporate
gifts, “Of The Month” clubs, an encyclopedia
of cheese, and party planning ideas.
To ensure fresh shipping, igourmet.com developed the
FreshWave system, which “incorporates a Styrofoam-lined
shipping chest that is chilled by refrigerant gel packs.”
Their quality guarantee policy will provide a hassle-free
refund or reshipment.
Artisanal Cheese Center (http://www.artisanalcheese.com)
Artisanal cheese, by definition, is cheese
that is made in small quantities, sometimes by hand,
and usually with local ingredients, thereby ensuring
the freshest, most delicious product possible. This
site offers a wonderful collection of artisanal cheeses
from around the world. Product descriptions include
wine recommendations. The site has an order-tracking
system and a satisfaction-guaranteed policy.
The accessories are enticing, from quince membrillo
(a spread made with quince fruit that’s excellent
with blue cheese) to Mostarda di Uva (an Italian mustard
made with figs and grapes) to fig logs. Also available
are gift baskets; gift certificates; corporate incentives;
books; cheese clubs; a free e-newsletter; recipes and
tips; and cheese platters for parties, which include
five cheeses, grapes, membrillo, Medjool dates, and
assorted nuts, and are presented on wicker trays.
Because the company is based in New York City, it also
offers classes, “Tastings & Events,”
intern programs, a bookstore, and an event space at
its Artisanal Cheese Center.
Murray’s Cheese (http://www.murrayscheese.com)
Murray’s Cheese is a store (actually, two stores)
in New York City. The 2005 Zagat Survey rated it #1
in Top Quality by Category (Cheese & Dairy), Best
100 Overall, Top 50 Service, and Top 50 Bangs for the
Buck. If nothing else, Murray’s has quite an impressive
selection of cheeses. Select by country, milk type,
and style, but also by beverage pairing, such as “White
and Sweet” or “Old World Red.”
Accessories and other food items (condiments, crackers,
oils, vinegars) are available, as well as individually
created cheese platters and box assortments. Wholesale
purchases can be made. Join the cheese club or learn
more on the Cheese 101 page.
Ideal Cheese Shop (http://www.idealcheese.com)
This is the Web site for the Ideal Cheese
Shop in New York City. It has been open since 1954 and
was deemed the #1 cheese shop in New York in the 1999/2000
Zagat Survey. It also won the 2002 Retailer of the Year
Oscar, which is awarded by the National Association
of Specialty Foods. The site doesn’t have as many
selections as others, but there are still some nice
Browse by country of origin or use the search bar to
plug in keywords. Other items available are gift certificates,
a cheese-of-the-month club, gift baskets, a recipe archive,
and a cheese FAQ page. The “Cheese Board”
is a forum where people can post questions and recipes.
Three More Sites
The Specialty Cheese Company, Inc. (http://www.specialcheese.com)
specializes in hard-to-find cheeses from the Middle
East (such as Naboulsi and Ackawi), Hispanic cheeses
(such as Anejo Enchilado and Queso Blanco con Frutas,
which contains pieces of pineapple and mango).
Mozzarella, New York, Inc. (http://www.mozzny.com)
specializes in mozzarella products, as its name implies.
Should you need to, you can order in large quantities,
which might be difficult in your local market.
Choices at Cheese Express (http://www.cheeseexpress.com)
are relatively limited compared to the other sites,
but the prices are reasonable. It’s a bit of an
odd site, though. For example, I couldn’t understand
why they would put porcini mushrooms in the cheese category
or Finlandia Swiss in the Italian category. And I must
take issue with a cheese purveyor that refers to Parmigiano-Reggiano
as “parmesan.” (That’s like calling
vichyssoise “cold potato soup.”)
Regional U.S. Only
I would be remiss if I did not mention that there are
regional cheese producers in the U.S. who provide farm-fresh
cheeses. Many of them take great pride in their products
and strive to be community- and environment-friendly.
There are too many to mention, but any search engine
will yield some good choices. Plug in the region or
state you’re interested in and add “cheese”
(e.g., “Vermont cheese”). This will get
you a list of Vermont cheese producers from which to
choose. Selections from these makers tend to be limited,
but your cheese will come directly from the producer
and you’ll be helping to keep America’s
dairy farms and cheese plants going.
I think this site lists every cheese ever created. To
get complete descriptions of cheeses, search by name
(if you misspell it, the database will give you a list
of the closest matches), country (who knew Afghanistan,
Slovakia, and Tibet made their own cheeses?), texture,
or milk (yak-milk cheese, anyone?).
You can search for vegetarian cheeses, cheese facts,
cheese recipes, or browse the bookstore (you will be
redirected to Amazon.com to make purchases).
Run by the American Dairy Association, this site provides
links to certain cheese producers and purveyors. Along
with cheese information, the site offers recipes, featured
chef articles, contests, newsletters, an “Ask
the Expert” page, and a Cheese Profiler (a series
of questions to determine the type of person you are
and the cheeses that suit your personality best). Another
feature is the Snackulator, which determines the best
snack to pack on the go, based on a list of questions.
Additionally, get party help with prep lists, a cheese
and wine pairing guide, and downloadable Home Tasting
Kits (placemats, cheese “markers,” and tasting
notes). The Cheesemaker Maps help you locate local cheese
makers across the country.
Finally, if you are a true turophiliac (a cheese lover),
you might enjoy a visit to WordIQ.com (http://www.wordiq.com/definition/Cheese)
for a little cheese trivia. Check out the site to find
out why the moon is made of cheese.
Roberta Roberti is a food expert and freelance