The place where our mutual infatuation with cheese really took root, Cheesetique is a lovely little shop in Del Ray, Virginia. It expanded in early 2008 to include a new cheese and wine bar, which also created a dedicated classroom space for the monthly themed cheese classes. In addition to the area’s best cheese selection, and friendly and knowledgeable cheesemongers, Cheesetique also stocks an array of charcuterie, fresh pasta, olive oils, gourmet crackers, local chocolates, all the necessary cheese accompaniments, wine and beer. (I recently wrote about my “Cheesetique Pasta,” made from the shop’s saffron pasta, salami and roasted tomatoes.)

You can check the archives here for recaps of a few of the past cheese classes, taught by Jill Erber, a.k.a. the Cheese Lady. Jill is the most gregarious cheese advocate I have yet to meet, and is surely destined for a career as the next food network star. Not on that cheesy reality competition, but as the host of a cheese talk/travel show. (Wouldn’t that be awesome?) 

Most recently, I enjoyed the samplings at the fall class, “Love ’em or Leaf ’em.” Some of these cheeses were ordered just for the class, so it was a special treat to enjoy them. A favorite was the Vento d’ Estate, an Italian cows-milk cheese that comes wrapped in a thick layer of green hay. The hay imparts a musty, grassy aroma and flavor to the cheese.

Cheesetique is not the only cheese shop in the area, so as the challenge goes on I will branch out a little and report back on some of DC’s other fine cheese cases. But if you are local, you really must make a point to stop in for a panini, cheese tasting, flight of wine or just some personal consultation with DC’s top cheesemongers.

Cheesetique is at 2411 Mt. Vernon Ave., Alexandria. They open at 8am on Saturdays during the Del Ray Farmers Market season, stay open till 10pm Friday and Saturday nights, and are closed on Mondays. If you already know and love Cheesetique, why not join the fan club on Facebook? See you in the shop!