Inspired namesakes. (Photo by Heather Joan on Flickr.)


First Take: Cheese & Chutney

Oak Cliff is home to Dallas's newest cheese shop. Hallelujah and pass the Gouda.

Praise be! We have another neighborhood cheese shop.

After tantalizing us for months with a “Coming Soon” banner hung in the window of their shop just down from the Kessler Theater on Davis St., Jeff and Chitra Foster have finally opened their Cheese & Chutney Fine Foods Market in Oak Cliff, a place where, until now, the best you could do in the realm of non-cellophane-wrapped cheese was a fresh-cut slab of cotija or milky queso fresco from Fiesta Mart on Jefferson or perhaps a hunk of Parmesan from Cibo Divino.

The Oak Cliff couple is changing that. He handles the cheese, they will tell you; she the chutney (of which they carry a nice array; they’re working on amping up their selection of boutique mustards, including one laced with cognac). They have a spontaneity and warmth that’s welcoming and inviting.

On Sunday, three days into the soft opening, Chitra was hanging a sign in the window announcing the official opening party on Aug. 20. They were still picking up sundries from Staples. A trash can to discard the papers and little spoons with which they sample out their wares, for example. They clearly love to have you discover what they have carefully selected. And vice versa … to have you request. A chalkboard already bears a customer wish-list. I added my request, a Gorgonzola dolce, preferably one so creamy and oozing you might scoop it with a ladle and then drizzle it with honey. They smiled. Already they were thinking about questioning their distributors. This isn’t something you get everywhere.

The shop sells a selection of cheese accountrements in addition to its case of cheese. (Photo courtesy of Cheese & Chutney.)
The shop sells a selection of cheese accountrements in addition to its case of cheese. (Photo courtesy of Cheese & Chutney.)

The cheese selection is compact, but well chosen: a truly glorious, nutty Swiss alpine cheese; a fresh, tart chevre from Haute Goat Creamery (in Longview); California stalwarts like Humbolt Fog, with its distinctive line of ash, and Point Reyes Blue. They have an Italian pecorino with wonderful salt crystals; a lovely looking 6-month aged Manchego; a caramelly aged Gouda; fresh Indian paneer; and others—all available by the ¼ pound, ½ pound, you tell them.

Neighboring confectioner CocoAndre is making a dark chocolate bark for them that dallies playfully with the sea salt chocolate fad via salty shavings of aged Grana Padano. Truffles rolled in dark cacao nibs have goat cheese ganache around a goat cheese center. (Both are exclusive collaborations between the two micro-shops, and those truffles in particular are something I dare you to pass up.)

No one had been able to turn down the Taleggio, Jeff said. The washed-rind, russet-colored Italian beauty with its silken white center was pungent even right out of the refrigerated case. I wasn’t about to be the first to resist.

They’ll soon carry wine and serve sandwiches. Cheese boards will include a dessert-leaning option with an apricot-studded Wensleydale and chocolate chevre log. (As you may know from my Valentine’s Day post, I do find cheese in lieu of dessert sexy.)

Mondays are their day off, but during the week, the shop is open till 7pm, giving people time to cross the bridge, pick something up on their way home.

Meanwhile, Jeff is finishing an accounting degree from UT Arlington. Chitra has a full-time job in civil engineering. Will they hire help? They don’t know yet. For now it’s just the two of them, holding down the neighborhood cheese shop. Sign me up for the weekly ¼ pound of Taleggio.