fb pixel

Log In

Reset Password

Bigger Cheese Cave gains retro lounge, more treats

View all photos
This custom cheese board from Oregon Cheese Cave in Phoenix contained an entire miniature bloomy rind cheese, a slab of England’s Huntsman Gloucester with Stilton, cured meats, roasted nuts, brined olives, a wee jar of honey and two beautifully decorated Linzer cookies. [Sarah Lemon/Mail Tribune]
A Monte Cristo sandwich from Toasted Cheese food truck features Munster. [Sarah Lemon/Mail Tribune]
Blackberry jam flavors the “Spicy Jammer” from Toasted Cheese food truck. [Sarah Lemon/Mail Tribune]
Sandwiches from Toasted Cheese food truck come with pickle spears and potato chips. [Sarah Lemon/Mail Tribune]
Select beverages, including wine, can be consumed in Oregon Cheese Cave’s new lounge in Phoenix. [Sarah Lemon/Mail Tribune]

Mélodie Picard revels in being cheesy.

For Saturday’s grand reopening of her Oregon Cheese Cave in Phoenix, the outgoing entrepreneur greeted customers in costume — Capt. Jean-Luc Picard of “Star Trek” fame.

Also self-styled as the “Rogue cheese queen,” Picard is a French transplant to Southern Oregon. Imparting her knowledge and love of European cheeses, Picard equally champions domestic and even locally made cheeses. In new digs next door to the old, founded in 2018, on North Main Street, Picard has five times the space to celebrate all things cheese.

Some of that space in Picard’s roomy new quarters has been transformed — with retro furnishings and a whiff of cheesiness — into a lounge where customers can enjoy cheese boards and beverages. Picard will create just about any assortment to order, filling in the board’s edges from her inventory of preserves, crackers, honey and sweets.

Lovely special-occasion fare, Picard’s platters can stand in for dinner when you’d prefer to skip cooking and instead nibble some savory treats. A couple of winters ago, I asked Picard to prepare, for about $30, a romantic spread for date night at home. The board contained an entire miniature bloomy rind cheese, a slab of England’s Huntsman Gloucester with Stilton, cured meats, roasted nuts, brined olives, a wee jar of honey and two beautifully decorated Linzer cookies — a generously and thoughtfully composed feast.

Indeed, cheese aficionados and newbies alike can’t go wrong giving Picard free rein. New in November is Oregon Cheese Cave’s cheese club, which affords three to four cheeses of Picard’s choice for $25.

Join the Oregon Cheese Cave email list and get monthly updates on what’s in stock — from limited-edition French cheeses like Pont L’Eveque and Delice de Pommard to domestic and imported charcuterie and pate. Choose cheeses — cow, goat and sheep — by the piece or the pound.

This month, Picard offers her own fondue mix of Comte, Emmental and Raclette. For authentic French baguettes, preorder Philippe’s Bread for Saturday pickup at the shop, along with bottles of fine wine, cider or craft beer.

My co-worker, Julia, and I each chose a can of wine — rose for her and Portuguese “vinho verde” for me — to go with sandwiches from Toasted Cheese food truck. Each priced at $5, the 250-milliliter cans were chilled, along with a few ciders and beers, in Picard’s beverage refrigerator.

Toasted Cheese joined Mas Elote Bar in Oregon Cheese Cave’s back lot for the reopening festivities. Samples from several other vendors, as well as hearty tastes of Picard’s cheeses, also were on offer.

The classic Monte Cristo jumped out at me from Toasted Cheese’s menu of nine sandwiches, priced from $9 to $11. For anyone whose notion of an American mainstay involves Kraft singles and mayonnaise, this truck touts “fancy grilled cheese.”

Toasted Cheese’s “Big Boy” pairs chicken and ranch on a sandwich with guacamole and Doritos. The “Get Baked” folds flavors of a loaded baked potato into bread with bacon, scallions and a layer of mashed potato, plus sides of nacho cheese and sour cream for dipping.

The truck also prepares four breakfast items, including a burrito, until 10:30 a.m. The kids’ classic costs $7 and comes with a drink. Adult sandwiches come with sides of pickle spears and chips.

Julia favored the “Spicy Jammer” for its sweet-hot combination of blackberry jam and jalapeno. A vegetarian, she ordered the bacon on the side to take home to her dogs.

While our sandwiches grilled, we browsed inside the Cheese Cave and sampled the rich, nutty Alp Blossom, a German cow’s milk cheese coated with flower and herb petals. We decided to take home a wedge, as well as slivers of this year’s Rogue River Blue, the grapeleaf-wrapped cheese that claimed the title of world’s best three years ago.

Settling into one of Picard’s couches with our sandwiches, we chuckled over the vintage Scooby-Doo toys on display and the lounge’s tongue-in-cheek focal point: a television console lacking its screen and electronic guts.

Our sandwiches were nicely griddled — mine with the bread’s requisite eggy dredge — and oozing with plenty of cheese. The Monte Cristo was a fat stack of ham and turkey amalgamated with Munster. Liberally dusted with the de rigueur powdered sugar, it gained more sweetness from its side of raspberry jam.

Jam seeped throughout the bread bookending Julia’s sandwich, complementing the melted Gouda and cooling the jalapeno. Our drinks provided nice palate cleansers, particularly in the presence of salty pickles and potato chips.

I preferred this sandwich to a special I tried last spring at Medford’s farmers market. A fan of Italian hoagies, I was taken in by Toasted Cheese’s daily special with an 8-ounce side of tomato soup ($4). But the mixture described as “slaw” was more accurately dressing-drenched iceberg lettuce, which added nothing to the sandwich’s traditional red onion and tomato. Muddling it even further were chiplike dill pickle “crispies,” which I mistook for simply crunchy dill pickles.

Next time, I’ll stick with the Cristo — or try the three-cheese “fancy classic” with my soup.

When not at Thursday’s market in Hawthorne Park, Toasted Cheese can be found at the Medford post office.

Located at 312 N. Main St, Unit A, Phoenix, Oregon Cheese Cave is open from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Tuesdays through Saturdays. See theoregoncheesecave.com, follow @oregoncheesecave on Instagram and call 541-897-4450.

Reach features editor Sarah Lemon at 541-776-4494 or slemon@rosebudmedia.com