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Cheese stores on Long Island

Ten years ago, Long Island was largely a cheese-shop-free zone. In the west, Cedarhurst’s Cheese Shop occupied the same storefront it had since 1977. In the east, Mattituck’s Village Cheese Shop (established in 2001) and Sag Harbor’s Cavaniola’s Gourmet (2003) served their respective forks. But in between . . . nothing. Caseophiles had to depend on gourmet shops and specialty supermarkets, where most of the cheese was offered precut and advice-free.

Fast-forward to 2018. Suffolk, at least, has heard the siren song of the Stilton: With nine cheese shops, the county is pretty well covered. Nassau lags behind, with only three shops stepping up to the cheese plate. Here’s a look at Long Island’s 12 dedicated cheese shops.

American Cheese

American Cheese (289 Railroad Ave., Sayville): Erin Nicosia
Photo Credit: Yvonne Albinowski

American Cheese (289 Railroad Ave., Sayville): Erin Nicosia was so bullish on the burgeoning American farmstead cheese movement that when she opened her shop in 2010, she decided she would sell only domestic cheeses. She called the shop American Cheese so there would be no confusion. If a customer asked for "something sharp, like a Cheddar," Nicosia would counter with a taste of Tarentaise from Thistle Hill Farm in Vermont. Brie seekers might be steered toward Old Chatham Sheepherding Co.'s Hudson Valley Camembert or Kunik from Nettle Meadow Farm in upstate Thurman. The community response was so positive that in 2013 she moved to larger quarters. American Cheese's new premises comprise an airy, light-filled dining area (for enjoying panini, cheese and charcuterie platters as well as wine and local beer) and a charming garden. More info: 631-750-5202, americancheeseshop.com

Babylon Cheese Cellar

Babylon Cheese Cellar (51 Deer Park Ave., Babylon):
Photo Credit: Yvonne Albinowski

Babylon Cheese Cellar (51 Deer Park Ave., Babylon): Opened in 2011 by Anthony Latino, Babylon Cheese Cellar sells a range of cured meats, specialty items and fancy condiments, but the soul of the fragrant little storefront is its rotating selection of cheeses. You might find Gruyère and Brie, a cave-aged cow's-milk Challerhocker from Switzerland or a Pecorino Moliterno al Tartufo, a truffled sheep's-milk cheese from Sardinia. There are cheese plates and sandwiches and even a "cellar school," two-hour classes where pupils learn the fundamentals of fondue, cheese platters and more. More info: 631-983-8804

Brew Cheese

Brew Cheese (Multiple locations): Noting the affinity between
Photo Credit: Newsday / Erica Marcus

Brew Cheese (Multiple locations): Noting the affinity between two of the world's greatest fermented products -- cheese and beer -- Dave Striffler opened Brew Cheese in Stony Brook (127 Main St.) in 2016; a second Northport shop (40 Woodbine Ave.) followed in 2017. Both stores offer dozens of cheeses, with an emphasis on American ones such as SarVecchio, a Parmesan-style cheese from Wisconsin; Grayson, a Taleggio-inspired cheese from Virginia and Womanchego, a Connecticut take on Spanish Manchego. Pull up a chair (25 in Northport, 12 in Stony Brook) and enjoy a cheese plate, raclette or sandwich and beer on tap (also sold in growlers). Refrigerators are filled with bottled and canned craft beers, and shelves are loaded with specialty groceries. More info: Stony Brook, 631-675-6060; Northport, 631-239-1927

Cavaniola's Gourmet

Cavaniola's Gourmet (89 Division St., Sag Harbor): Cavaniola's
Photo Credit: Gordon M. Grant

Cavaniola's Gourmet (89 Division St., Sag Harbor): Cavaniola's may be the least centrally located specialty market on Long Island. Yet, perched as it is at the upper reaches of the South Fork, it draws year-round business from all over because, said Michael Cavaniola, "we have stuff that no one else has." Cavaniola, who owns the shop with his wife, Tracey, stocks about 200 cheeses, some of which are rare even in their countries of origin. Right now, he is welcoming the year's first Vacherin Mont d'Or, made from the milk of cows that spent the whole summer climbing to 3,000 feet above sea level in Switzerland's Jura region. Not just Stilton, but Colston Bassett Stilton; not just Italian Gorgonzola, but raw-milk Cremificato Gorgonzola from Lombardy. The Cavaniolas also own the adjacent Cavaniola's Kitchen (specializing in prepared foods) and wine shop. More info: 631-725-0095, cavaniolas.com

C'est Cheese

C'est Cheese (216B Main St., Port Jefferson): Since
Photo Credit: Bruce Gilbert

C'est Cheese (216B Main St., Port Jefferson): Since 2011 C'est Cheese has established itself as cheese central for Suffolk's North Shore. This spacious, well-appointed shop stocks about 100 cheeses, and any of them can be sampled on a cheese plate in the adjoining restaurant (the menu, predictably, tends toward the cheesy). Owner Joe Ciardullo has a soft spot for the blues -- he usually stocks about a dozen, including Ewe's Blue from Old Chatham Sheepherding Co. in the Hudson Valley. His other passion is for the stinkers known as washed-rind cheeses. Creamy, funky Epoisses from France's Burgundy region is what he calls his "gun-to-the-head favorite." Other odoriferous specimens include Willoughby and Oma, both from Vermont, and Grayson from Virginia. More info: 631-403-4944, cestcheesepj.com

The Cheese Patch

The Cheese Patch (20 E. Main St., Patchogue):
Photo Credit: Yvonne Albinowski

The Cheese Patch (20 E. Main St., Patchogue): Paige Pfeifer's original Cheese Patch opened in 2012 in the back of the Patchogue gift boutique Wisteria Lane, but in June 2014, she moved to a larger and much more visible shop right on Main Street. Pfeifer stocks 50 to 60 cheeses, most of them imported, as well as nuts, jams, breadsticks and other cheese accompaniments. Her No. 1 seller is Beemster Vlaskaas, a Dutch Gouda that Pfeifer characterized as "creamy with butterscotch notes." Other customer favorites include Piave Vecchio, a crowd-pleasing Northern Italian, and Colliers Powerful Welsh Cheddar. The new location has seating for 30 as well as wines by the glass and beers on tap. More info: 631-438-0393, thecheesepatch.com

The Cheese Store

The Cheese Store (532 Central Ave., Cedarhurst): Long
Photo Credit: Linda Rosier

The Cheese Store (532 Central Ave., Cedarhurst): Long Island's oldest cheese store was founded in 1977 by Lou Rakita. Now his son Mitch presides over what has become Long Island's premier purveyor to "special-needs cheese buyers," people whose diets are low-fat, low-salt, kosher or, not infrequently, all three. Cedarhurst sells a full line of fat-free cheeses from Lifetime Cheese in California, kosher French Brie, kosher Parmesan-style cheese from Wisconsin and a soy-milk mozzarella that actually tastes like cheese. Most cheeses are priced between $15.95 and $17.95 a pound. The shop's bestselling cheese is a fresh, large-curd "hoop cheese" (aka pot cheese, $6.99 a pound). Among the 100 or so cheeses, you'll also find such standards as Stilton, Morbier and Gouda. To go with cheese, the shop is chock-a-block with reduced-fat, low-salt and high-fiber snacks. More info: 516-295-3099, cheesestorecedarhurst.com

Cheese & Spice Market

Cheese & Spice Market (5768 Route 25A, Suite
Photo Credit: Cheese & Spice Market

Cheese & Spice Market (5768 Route 25A, Suite D, Wading River): When Wading River's The Shoppes at East Wind debuted in 2016, Cheese & Spice Market was one of the first to open. Owner Patty Kaczmarczyk brought in more than 50 different cheeses, among them such domestic standouts as Humboldt Fog from Cypress Grove in California, Grayson from Meadow Creek Dairy in Virginia and Oma from the Von Trapp Farm (yes, those Von Trapps). Plus cheese boards, cheese knives, cheese crackers and accompaniments. On the spice front, Kaczmarczyk stocks about 60, from anise to za'atar, and the world of flavor includes peppercorns from Malabar and Telicherry, cinnamon from Sri Lanka and Thailand, smoked paprika from Spain and hot paprika from Hungary. More info: 631-886-1521, cheesespicemarket.com

Curds & Whey

Curds & Whey (20 Birch Hill Rd., Locust
Photo Credit: Marisol Diaz

Curds & Whey (20 Birch Hill Rd., Locust Valley): Samantha and Michael Chait opened this cheese-centric specialty market in 2012. Michael had owned the wine shop across the street for 15 years. "We already had a customer base," he said, "and now they can just cross the street and get some cheese to go with the wine." Samantha has a thing for small-production American farmstead cheeses and names among her favorites the Brie-style St. Stephen from Four Fat Fowl in the Hudson Valley. Her customers "love anything with truffles," such as the Truffle Tremor from Cypress Grove, California. The charming shop also sells charcuterie, condiments, sweets, pies and bread from Blue Duck in Southold, ice cream from Joe & Liza's in Sag Harbor and a collection of housewares and table linens. More info: 516-399-2800, curdsandwheylocustvalley.com

Village Cheese Merchant

Village Cheese Merchant (28 S. Park Ave., Rockville
Photo Credit: Newsday / Erica Marcus

Village Cheese Merchant (28 S. Park Ave., Rockville Centre): New-wave burgers, Neapolitan pizza, Spanish tapas, Ipswich clams, high tea -- Rockville Centre has it all. Except, noted longtime resident Chris O'Mara, a cheese shop. And so, in late 2017, she rectified the situation by opening Village Cheese Merchant. A cheese enthusiast but not an expert, O'Mara partnered with veteran cheesemonger Patrick Ambrosio, who has gone out of his way to find little-known gems that offer great value. He's currently touting Chartreux, a soigné semisoft cheese from southeast France that he likens to the great Morbier. Of course, you'll also find Italian Piave, French Bleu d'Auvergne, English Stilton, Italian Fontina and Spanish Manchego, as well as a good selection of cured meats (sausages by Molinari, Olli, Alps and Trois Cochons, as well as Prosciutto di Parma, jamon serrano and bauernschinken ham from Germany). Plenty of cheese-adjacent products, too: crackers and preserves, cheese knives and boards. More info: 516-705-5020

Village Cheese Shop

Village Cheese Shop (105 Love Lane, Mattituck): The
Photo Credit: Nicole Horton

Village Cheese Shop (105 Love Lane, Mattituck): The wineries and farm stands of the North Fork demand a great source for cheese. Founded in 2001 by Rosemary Batcheller and now owned by Michael Affatato, Mattituck's Village Cheese Shop puts a premium on diversity, with a good mix of French and Italian classics, English Cheddars and blues, plus some Spanish, Swiss and Dutch. There a particular focus on American farmstead cheeses, such as Ouleout, a washed-rind raw cows' milk cheese from Vulto Creamery in upstate Walton, whose pungency recalls an Alsatian-style Munster. The shop stocks everything needed for a picnic lunch at one of the wineries. Enjoy a cheese platter, sandwich or fondue at a table in the glassed-in atrium. Affatato, who logged many years in the wine business, has introduced an impressive wine list. He's also set up a satellite cheese counter in Greenport at The Market, 44 Front St. More info: 631-298-8556, thevillagecheeseshop.com

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