Some girls like to be wined and dined. I’d never turn away a nice meal and a $10 Malbec (expensive wine is wasted on me), but on a Wednesday night I’m just as happy to be beered and cheesed. Joe and I went on a weeknight date to The Cheese Shop of Des Moines on 42nd Street, just a few doors down from La Mie. The neighborhood has a new contender for favorite place, after our sampling session there.
Joe and I split a cheese plate, bread and a big bottle of New Belgium Prickly Passion Saison ($25 total tab) and sat at the high top tables and just chatted about our day and eavesdropped on owner C.J. explaining cheeses to the after-work customers.
When we talk about good growth for Des Moines, The Cheese Shop gets it right. It’s clearly an authentic endeavor that’s a bit of a gathering place, a bit of an educational experience and an indulgent, friendly spot for people who geek out on good cheese. I met C.J. Bienert a few times when I was writing for Juice and he was working at Gateway Market and was worried when he left Iowa to intern with cheesemakers in Vermont (or so I recall through the Register) that he wouldn’t really come back and set up shop here. But he and his wife, Kari, actually made this dream come true. And knowing that, the Portland-hip woodgrain walls and handsome bar take on an extra layer of warmth and richness that maybe someone randomly coming in off the street looking to pick up a few ounces of Brie might not get right away. It’s not Trader Joe’s. It’s young people with a passion creating a new place special for us Des Moinesians. And it’s full of cheese and wine and beer and other such delicious morsels!
My favorite from our plate was the Iowa goat cheese:
Here’s a peek at the menu. I think that they said the cheeses in the cheese plate change weekly:
I was trying to avoid saying that The Cheese Shop has a Portland feel to it, but I can’t help it. I want to say, though, that it doesn’t feel like it’s trying to be hipster or anything. It’s just cool in a way that, when Joe and I visited Portland a few years ago, I wished we had more places in Des Moines with a just doing what we love / awesome design aesthetic / solid playlist vibe. The Cheese Shop has that.
Oh, and if you’re free Saturday afternoon, you should stop by this event: