St. James Cheese Company
WHY IT’S NOTEWORTHY
When it comes to cheese, for most Orleanians it’s the orange stuff between the ham and a lettuce in a poor boy. Or the half-inch-thick melted rich top layer of crabmeat au gratin. Cheese in its finest forms has generally been something only a few gourmets lamented the lack of. St. James Cheese Company is the first outfit to fill that gap, with a collection of cheeses that’s not only extensive, but treated like the living thing that it is.
Appealing as it is to cheeselovers, the management recognizes the impossibility of success in selling nothing but cheese. So it also has pates, cured meats, and the like–much of it smoked or cured in house. From all those comestibles the shop makes boards, sandwiches and salads of superb goodness and originality. Beer, wine, and other beverages make it viable and delightful lunch or light early supper venue. Turophiles will find different cheeses on each visit, always including something they never tried before.
Richard Sutton and his wife Danielle opened their cheese shop in the year after Katrina, a time when all sorts of new ideas were blossoming Uptown. Both of them worked in the cheese markets of London (in the St. James neighborhood, hence the name). The British are passionate and knowledgeable about cheese (how else would Monty Python have been able to write one of their most famous skits about a cheese shop?), and the Suttons got the bug.
The long, narrow space barely qualifies as a restaurant, jammed as it is with mountain ranges of cheese. (“Understocked” is a word that has never been uttered here.) The few indoor tables (there always seems to be one open, though) are abetted by a few more on the porch. The place does a big take-out business.
»Smokey blue (house-smoked blue cheese, roast beef, multigrain bread)
Hooks Cheddar, smoked turkey, basil, tomato, mayo, avocado, ciabatta
Cave aged Swiss Gruyere, caramelized onion, multigrain bread
»Brie de Meaux, French ham, buttered French baguette
Mozzarella, basil pesto, Fra Mani salami, grilled on ciabatta
Mini moo (Cheddar grilled on multigrain bread, fruit and chips)
»Daily special sandwiches
»Parmigiano Reggiano cheese, mixed greens, Fra Mani salami, black olives, grilled artichoke hearts, walnuts, Dijon vinaigrette
Cantal cheese, julienne French ham, apples, walnuts, mixed greens, Dijon vinaigrette
»Manchego cheese, arugula, sliced pears, almonds, quince vinaigrette
Daily special salads
»Cheese boards served with bread, accompaniments, fruit, and daily cheese selection
Ploughman’s lunch (Cheddar, Stilton and goat’s cheeses, housemade pork pie or patè, green salad, bread)
»Charcuterie (house-made and artisanal cured meats, patès and cheeses, bread and accompaniments
FOR BEST RESULTS
Come often and try many cheeses. The staff is very generous about sampling.
OPPORTUNITIES FOR IMPROVEMENT
It would sure be nice to have this place open later in the evening. What a great after-event nibbling venue this would be!
FACTORS OTHER THAN FOOD
Up to three points, positive or negative, for these characteristics. Absence of points denotes average performance in the matter.
- Dining Environment +1
- Consistency +1
- Value +1
- Attitude +3
- Wine & Bar +1
- Hipness +2
- Local Color +1
- Courtyard or deck dining
- Open Sunday lunch
- Open all afternoon
- Quick, good meal
- Good for children
- No reservations
ANECDOTES AND ANALYSIS
When it comes to cheese, for most Orleanians it’s the orange stuff between the ham and a lettuce in a poor boy. Or the half-inch-thick melted rich top layer of crabmeat au gratin. Or the bubbling layer on something Parmigiana, just above the red sauce.
But cheese has all the character, variety, and distinctiveness of wine. Like wine, it acquires those qualities from the kind of liquid (milk) it’s made with, where it’s made, how it’s fermented, and how long it’s aged. The best cheeses–and, like wines, there are thousands of them–also require a little knowledge on the part of the consumer. But only a little. No cheese vendor ever equaled what the St. James Cheese Company does to advance that cause.