new Things I Ate in Cambodia: St James Cheese Company: THE REVENGE (of good sandwiches)

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

St James Cheese Company: THE REVENGE (of good sandwiches)

St James Cheese Company
5004 Prytania St
New Orleans, LA 70115
(504) 899-4737

So my trip to New Orleans turned into Greatest Sandwiches Tour: 2011. I don't exactly mind. After all, this is the city of Great Sandwiches, or at least one of the greatest sandwich cities on the planet.

A great place to eat a great sandwich is St James Cheese Company, New Orleans's beloved neighborhood cheese shop. I used to live right up from St James, on St Charles, and it was awfully convenient. They do cheese-and-wine special dinners on a regular basis and I'd head up to those with friends sometimes.

St James isn't just a restuarant,after all - it's also a Cheese Education Center of sorts, and the staff will answer esoteric questions about the origin and provenance of any given dairy product. There's other stuff on offer as well - artisan pickles, deli meats, cheese boards and other speciality kitchen equipment, Mexican chocolate, all manner of preserves, and a lot of other items that could conceivably go nicely with cheese. It's all twee enough to belong in the Bay Area, I'm not gonna lie, but it's also a damn good cheese shop. They did a plate for my graduation dinner and it was a big hit. A certain professor of mine likes picking up one of their big catering samplers with cheese and bread and bring it to the last day of glass, outside on the lawn. It's probably an effort to get awesome performance review sheets.

They have a order-at-the-counter cafe that enjoys extremely popularity among society types in New Orleans, as well as a smattering of hipsters with incomes (well, it's true), and people like myself and my friends going out for an occasional splurge. The menu is sandwiches, cheese and charcuterie boards, and salads, and they'll slap a cheese on a plate for you with a knife and some bread if you find one you like behind the counter. It's a simple affair, and pleasantly so. Sometimes they take a bit. One wonders how long it takes to assemble a cheese plate.

There's a dreadful lack of avocados in Cambodia, and I ate a hell of a lot of avocado back in the USA. The Beecher's Cheddar sandwich ($8.95) is my favorite here, mainly because it's got avocado, turkey, some good sharp cheddar, tomato, and a little bit of basil, all on chewy ciabatta. Get them to melt that sucker for you, and you'll be in heaven.

We also got a free cheese plate - they do that kind of thing - and that's one of the best things to order here. ($10.50 for 3 cheeses, $16.50 for five). A selection of good cheeses dependant upon what the stafff feels like feeding you that day, and they'll explain it to you when you bring it out. On a recent visit, we sampled some fantastic goat cheese rolled in cracked black pepper, some gouda, a couple of interesting sheep's milk cheeses and a couple other selections (yeah, should have kept notes). They switch up the accompaniments from fig jam to blueberry jam to walnuts to whatever is on tap that day, which keeps it interesting. It's a cultural experience and it's also eating cheese. They've been doing a cheese-and-chocolate plate of late to be different and that sounds entirely promising.

The salads are pretty great as well. I especially like the manchego with pear, Spanish almonds, and quince dressing ($9.50) mostly because it reminds me of having breakfast in Spain, assembled into a single entity over some greens. (And pears are great. As my friend Kelsey observed, "The closest thing the fruit world has to candy. That's why I actually like them). The parmesan reggiano salad with salami, artichoke hearts, and olives is also formidable, though be careful because those son-bitches have pits.

They've got wine and a lot of different kinds of artisan beers, since this is New Orleans, and there must be libations. It's a nice way to pass a hot afternoon, killing a bottle of white and eating an inordinate amount of cheese. I suggest it.

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