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[Photograph: @sstiavetti]

So many people believe they are limited in their cheese selection by an unfortunate fact of geography. "Alas," they declare. "I have no local artisan cheese shops because I live in [insert tiny town in the middle of nowhere here]. If only I lived in a large city, I would be swimming in specialty cheese!"

What these folks may not realize is that you can buy cheese on the internet. There's been a fairly large up-cropping of specialty cheese retailers that sell dairy-wares online, and for relatively reasonable prices. Thanks to the advent of express shipping, you can order specialty cheeses in peak chilled condition.

Online cheese retailers usually pack their cheese shipments in insulated containers full of icepacks and styrofoam peanuts, then ship them one- or two-day service to almost anywhere in the country. You may be inclined to doubt that a few icepacks will be enough to keep your precious order refrigerated enough to not spoil, but fear not. On more than one occasion I've received an order of cheese two days after its ship date, and the cheese is so cold, I have to leave it out on the counter for an hour to reach room temperature.

To ensure delivery in time to prevent spoilage, many online cheese shops only offer shipping services that will deliver within 48 hours, and you'll need to make sure you're home to receive your shipment. If you miss the UPS guy and he leaves your package sitting in the sun on your doorstep, you'll arrive home to a very sad box of cheese.

Many smaller shops will ship cheese all over the country&madsh;ask about their shipping policies whenever you visit a cheese shop while traveling. For the time being, here are a few reputable online cheese retailers:

  • Murray's: Perhaps one of the most popular cheese shops ever, this New York fixture has an incredible selection of cheese and a hundred years of experience to back up their cheese knowledge.
  • Artisanal Premium Cheese: Artisanal stocks everything you would ever need to enjoy cheese: cheese books, cheese accessories, snacks, and mail-order cheese clubs.
  • Zingerman's: The famous Ann Arbor deli and gourmet grocery store has long been considered a haven for denizens of DairyLandia.
  • Arrowine: Located in the DC Metro area, Arrowine is a great little shop that's big on selection and customer service.
  • Cowgirl Creamery: Considered by many to be the Grand Poobahs of cheese, Cowgirl Creamery has an incredible selection and an equally incredible staff of knowledgable cheesemongers.

About the author: Stephanie Stiavetti is a writer and cookbook author in San Francisco. Stephanie's cookbook, Melt: the Art of Macaroni and Cheese, celebrates America's favorite dish by recreating it with small production, specialty cheeses. Her food blog, The Culinary Life, is a repository for all things comfort food related, from savory dinners to transcendental desserts.

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