Serious Cheese: Beecher's Handmade in Seattle

Serious Cheese

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"Beecher's is a great model for the new urban gastronomy—it reminds us city-dwellers that food comes from somewhere."


Photographs courtesy of Beecher's Handmade Cheese

Seattle's Pike Place Market delicately straddles two seemingly antithetical modes: down-home city produce market with plenty of local flair, and crowded tourist trap complete with fishmonger hijinks and overpriced hippie regalia. But to paint this place in such broad strokes is to miss the real beauty of it. What it comes down to for me is that for all the spectacle, a lot of the food you can get at Pike Place is really, seriously good.

Other than the fishmongers, nowhere in the market is food performance as important to the experience than at Beecher's Handmade Cheese, where tourists and locals alike can witness real, high-quality, artisanal cheese being made right before their eyes. To be sure, cheese is a largely rural enterprise, but Beecher's has brought it right into the downtown of a major American city. And yet the place still wouldn't pique my interest if the cheese they made weren't so damn good!

Beecher's Flagship cheese is a cross between cheddar and gruyère—a fine cheese, and especially good in their famous penne and cheese, available at the store fresh, or to go, or in little (free) tasting cups. However, the real reason to visit Beecher's is for the award-winning Flagship Reserve, special cloth-bound batches of the Flagship cheese made "when the milk composition is just right." Other treats at the store include fresh cheese curds (from the latest batch of Flagship), and excellent grilled cheese sandwiches of all different stripes.

If that weren't enough, Beecher's also has a decent selection of local cheeses of the Pacific Northwest, from producers such as Mt. Townsend Creamery, Juniper Grove Farm, Beehive Cheeese, and many others.

Beecher's is a great model for the new urban gastronomy—it reminds us city-dwellers that food comes from somewhere. Cheese doesn't just grow on supermarket shelves, pre-grated. There's a process, guided by people, behind what we eat. And often times, that's precisely what makes it good. I really believe we'd all be happier and healthier if there were more places like Beecher's around to help us realize that.

Beecher's Handmade Cheese

1600 Pike Place, Seattle WA 98101 (map); 206-956-1964

About the author: Jamie Forrest publishes from his apartment in Brooklyn, New York, where he lives with his wife, his daughter, and his cheese.

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