Beecher’s Handmade Cheese

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I have been told that Pike’s Market is a must stop for tourists visiting Seattle. So we made a trip down on this sunny and crisp morning. With weather this nice both tourists and local were taking advantage. We walked along the cramped stalls, looking past the fresh produce and assorted handmade accessories. We were here searching for a light breakfast destination. My travel companion is incredibly particular about the food he eats, and more so on the cleanliness of the place serving him this food. So all the worn down restaurants with rickety seats and undusted window ledges, just couldn’t meet the standards he set. We eventually decided to venture across the street to see what could attract our eyes and lure in our stomachs. It was looking like our choices were limited to one of cafes, in between continuous rows of bake shoppes. In the end it was the stainless steel machines churning milk and making cheese that caught our attention.

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With faces pressed to glass and a line out the store’s front, “Beecher’s” showed promise. If it was this popular it must be good. Behind the cornered glass were three employees making cheese. Their hair nets, powder blue latex gloves, and white crisp lab coats gave my guest the confidence of cleanliness he required. We had made our choice to have brunch here. Leave it to a French Canadian to find the only place in the city that makes and offers their own cheese curds. Cheese curds are delicious, made popular in Canada as the lead in our nation’s most well known dish, poutine. It was a shame that there were not fries available, nor was there any gravy to be offered. As we considered crafting our own poutine on the spot.

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You order out front with the cashier, reading choices off an overhead menu. You are limited to sandwiches, soups of the day, and macaroni with their own in house made cheese. You make your request, they take your name, and you stand aside allowing the unending line to pass. The wait was decent as the place was packed, and the sandwiches we ordered need to be assembled and pressed from scratch.

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Seating is limited to a row of sedimentary metal milk cans. There were more patrons than there were seats available. You either got one, ate standing up, or left the store to in search of some else where. We were lucky to be hovering behind a couple who left, allowing us to claim two cans before our food came to pass. These seats faced a narrow bench we were to eat on. Our view, an intimate view of the cheese making process. I felt bad for the men working behind the glass. Folks like myself were snapping pictures, and staring down each one, like animals at a zoo. Their’s seemed like a stressful job, with the need to always be “on”.

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Above the wall of glass, separating factory from shop were signs. They spelled out the steps for making cheese and gave detail to each one. It starts with fresh local milk, next the pasteurization process, then the actual cheese making, after a step called cheddaring, before the final hooping and aging. Interesting, but it was too crowded and busy to stand and read. We were quick knowing our seats were needed and the expectation is speedy turnaround.

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When your name is called you approach the counter and pick up your labelled and wrapped sandwich.

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“Tomato flagship soup”. With a name like that I assume it was their signature soup, and therefore a must try. Plus if you are planning on having a cheese sandwich, there is no better accompaniment than a warm bowl of tomato soup. Available in a small or large size. In retrospect I was happy to have only gotten the small as this was a thick and rich soup. Any more would have been too much. With the above portion you got enough to appreciate the taste with leftover for dipping your sandwich in. The perfect serving for two. I accepted the offer of including some complimentary house made croutons and shredded cheese with regret. Both were sprinkled in and added unwanted grease and texture to the soup. The cheese melted and created puddles of oil. The croutons crumbed and created lumpy mush deposits on the bottom. Other than that this was a pretty stand up soup. My guest deem this the best tomato soup he has ever had, that it resembled the good tomato paste you get on pizzas.

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“Flagship sandwich” to match the soup. A step up from your regular grilled cheese. After a few bites the cheese became overwhelmingly salty. Though whenever I got bites of basil and tomato in, it gave things a much needed, but not enough, freshness.

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My guest got the “Smoked ham”. With multiple layers of salted meat between the bread, all other ingredients were lost. He eventually discarded half the amount to be able to finish his meal. I personally found the cheese sour tasting, and unnecessary in an already very salty and heavy sandwich. The bread for both sandwiches was amazing. You got that great snap and crunch when biting down. Though in order for the bread to get like that it is toasted hard, and becomes so rough that it scrapes the roof of your mouth with every mouthful. Worth it.

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For those wanting to take some cheese to go, the back portion of the shop supplies you with a variety of cheeses and a host of cheese accessories to choose from. All cheeses are cut and wrapped grocery style. Familiar names like Gouda and cream cheese caught my eye. The rest were variations on originals, with quirky names specific to “Beecher’s”. “Idaho golden Greek”, “big boy blue”, and “paley bar”. You could eat a different cheese every day for a month and still have more to try. They even offer cheese plates advertised as a way to impress. Grouped and priced by how many they serve they offer favourites like “flagship”and “Marco Polo”. These are accompanied by crackers and pate, each carefully selected to compliment the plate.

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Would I come back? – Yes. We failed to pick up some cheese curds during this trip. I would like to see how they stack up comparatively to those made in Canada, and those from Quebec. And also to have them as part of a poutine. As we were not in Canada, there was no offer of crisp fries or thick and meaty gravy with these cheese curds.
Would I recommend it? – Yes. What a treat to be able to see how your cheese is made before you eat it. There is always that curiosity of how things come to be. And here you get to watch it happen as you eat it. The food is classic and comforting, the location is convenient, and their product is fresh. For those who like the farm to table approach this place should meet with your approval. Don’t deny your cravings.

BEECHER’S
1600 Pike Place, Seattle WA, 98101
206-956-1964
beechershandmadecheese.com
Beecher's Handmade Cheese on Urbanspoon

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