Let’s talk cheese.
I once visited Paris, the world’s cheese Mecca. There were cheese shops on every corner. I gazed longingly through the cheese shop windows but I never entered; I was too intimidated. How do you choose a cheese when there are 500 cheeses to choose from? Especially when you must read the labels in French?
I’ve always regretted my cowardice on that trip and wondered what I missed out on. I’ve found a chance to redeem myself here in South Africa, at the Cheese Gourmet in the Joburg suburb of Linden.
There are lots of cows in South Africa so it makes sense that there is also lots of cheese. The Cheese Gourmet has it all — hundreds of varieties of cheese, all but two of which are produced in South Africa. (The shop carries two Italian imports.) Cheese Gourmet also sells charcuterie and all kinds of local gourmet food products.
Massive cheese selection aside, the Cheese Gourmet is a nice place to visit. It’s a cheerful space and the staff are friendly and eager to assist. They’ll let you taste as many cheeses as you want for free.
I have a confession to make. I’ve been to the Cheese Gourmet twice and haven’t purchased anything yet. And I think I know the reason. Before I go cheese-shopping at the Cheese Gourmet, I like to stuff myself with a cheesy meal at the attached Cheese Café. (Cheese Gourmet. Cheese Café. Get it?) Once I finish eating, I am too full to shop.
Not surprisingly, cheese features prominently in just about every item on the menu at the Cheese Café. (Sorry, lactose-intolerants. The Cheese Café is not for you.) The Café also serves good coffee and breakfast all day. My only complaint is that there is no macaroni and cheese. Note to the Cheese Café chef: Please consider adding this excellent American dish to your menu. I promise you won’t regret it.
The Ploughman’s Platter: Cheese, fresh butter, bread, pickled onions, onion marmalade, and a pork pie. Joe and I split this and we were both stuffed. My friend Jeroen, who is Dutch and hence knows a lot about cheese, also gave it a rave review. It costs R55 (about $8).
Grilled baby Camembert on buttered grilled bread, topped with onion marmalade and salad on the side. I wish I’d thought to take another photo once I cut into the Camembert and it oozed all over the bread. But I had to eat fast before it got cold. R42 (about $6) for one of the most delicious pieces of cheese I’ve ever eaten.
If you like cheese and are passing anywhere within a 20-mile radius of Linden (a charming suburb a few kilometers northwest of Melville), you must visit this cheesy slice of heaven.
The Cheese Gourmet/Cheese Café is at the corner of 3rd Ave. and 7th St., Linden.