My love for cheese has me shopping online.
I love cheese. Not the kind you buy in the supermarket’s deli counter: American, Swiss, cheddar, etc. Not really even the kind you buy at the supermarket’s cheese display: brie, Gouda, Havarti, Fontina, etc. (Although I admit I’m fond of Saga, which is available in one of Wickenburg’s supermarkets.) I like the kind of cheese available in cheese or gourmet shops, the kind imported from all over the world, the kind with complex flavors and interesting histories. The cheese that’s very difficult to get when you live in a small town on the edge of nowhere.
Oddly enough, Wickenburg’s Safeway store — the better of the two supermarkets in town — has a big cheese display and a rather impressive assortment of supermarket-type cheeses. It’s there that I can find the pseudo-fresh mozzarella that goes so good with tomatoes and fresh basil, the Saga that’s so nice on a crispy cracker, the double-creme brie that’s wonderful melted onto a slice of toasted French bread, and the goat cheese that tastes so nice melted on a Boboli crusted topped with olive-oil sauteed eggplant and garlic. That cheese display can meet most of my cheese needs, but not my cheese desires. I like to eat cheese as a meal itself and after a while, the supermarket cheese selections get about as boring as the supermarket meat department selections.
When we were out in California for the New Year, we stumbled into a cheese shop at La Jolla Shores. The shop had lost its original purpose. Although named “Cheese Shop,” it had clearly turned into a combination gourmet grocery store and deli. There were very few cheeses to choose from. In fact, I think Safeway has far more. But among the selections was a cheese called Morbier. We bought some, I ate some, and I remembered how much I liked cheese.
When we got home, I searched the yellow pages listings online to find a cheese shop in Phoenix. The closest I could find was A.J.’s supermarket. A.J.’s does indeed have a more expansive selection of cheeses than Safeway, but it doesn’t satisfy my cheese desires. Besides, A.J.’s prices tend to be outrageous. The Saga you buy there costs about twice the price of the Saga in Safeway. And it’s the same stuff. So how much is that other stuff overpriced?
Not to say that I shop for cheese based on price. Price doesn’t stop me from buying a cheese I really want, but it does prevent me from buying a lot of it.
Not satisfied with the Yellow Pages results, I went online with Google to search for cheese shops. I found a place called DiBruno Brothers, based in New York. Of course, I couldn’t remember what Morbier was called, but I remember what it looked like. (It has a very distinctive appearance.) And I remembered that its name began with an “M.” So I browsed DiBruno’s Web site until I found Morbier and clicked the Add to Cart button. Then I shopped around and bought a few more cheeses based on their description and checked out.
Shipping for my order was supposed to be $9, which I thought was very reasonable. But the next day I got an e-mail from DiBruno telling me that they had to charge me $10 more for shipping. I don’t like “bait and switch” tactics — which this appeared to be — so I cancelled my order. No Morbier for me.
That was about two weeks ago.
Yesterday, after munching on some Saga and longing for something different, I tried again. I found a Web site called Cheeses.com, which has all kinds of information about cheese. From there, I followed a link to iGourmet.com. I searched for Morbier, found it cheaper than DiBruno’s, and clicked the Add to Cart button. More cheese went into my digital shopping cart before I checked out. Shipping via FedEx is a reasonable $12.45, so the whole thing didn’t cost a fortune. Well, it did cost more than steak dinner for two at Charlie’s, but I’m sure I’ll enjoy it a lot more.
I wish there was a cheese shop locally, one where I could buy the cheeses and other unusual “gourmet” items I like to eat without leaving town. But if Phoenix and Scottsdale can’t support a cheese shop, I can’t very well expect Wickenburg to. Especially when the most affluent businesses Wickenburg can attract these days are Dollar Stores and Check Cashing Places.