A cheese lover’s paradise

When I was younger, my family took a trip to Cowgirl Creamery in Point Reyes Station, Calif. As an 11-year-old, I was uninterested in the artisan cheeses. When my mom came back from the display cases, she handed me an apple wedge with a slice of locally crafted cheese on top.

But with an apprehensive bite and a subsequent moment of complete joy, I fell in love.

This love is why I was thrilled to discover the shop’s other location in Penn Quarter.

The store is beautiful and inviting, with lofted ceilings, brightly lit white walls and hardwood floors. While guests browse the selection of gourmet crackers and jams, music ranging from country to opera drifts from speakers, creating a relaxed vibe.

In the back of the shop, two large cases hold countless gourmet cheeses – in wheels – and a variety of salami. After sampling several of the Creamery’s unique creations, my friend and I decided to split some of the Creamery’s signature cheese, MT TAM, a triple-cream variety made in California. MT TAM is available in either a half wheel or a full wheel ($25.95 per pound).

After making our purchases, we sat at one of two tall, wooden tables facing the street and unpacked our meal. Along with the cheese and a half French baguette ($1.95), I ordered a small quinoa salad ($3.95) and mac and cheese ($5.75).

The highlight of the meal was the cheese. The MT TAM was creamy and rich, but not too heavy. It tasted delicious on the bakery-fresh bread.

The quinoa salad was also tasty and provided a crisp, fresh contrast to the velvety cheese. Mixed in with the quinoa were crunchy cucumbers, olives and light feta, all providing for a satisfactory textural combination. To drink, I ordered a San Francisco egg cream soda ($3.50), an interesting combination of Straus milk, soda water and vanilla simple syrup. A server mixed my drink for me, and the results were unique, yet surprisingly refreshing.

The shop provides a wide array of gourmet sandwiches ($8.75) – breakfast sandwiches are put out at 7:30 a.m. and lunch sandwiches at 10:30 a.m. I went before 2 p.m. to make sure much of the lunch sandwich selection was still available.

Per the recommendation of the friendly woman working behind the cheese counter, I ordered the day’s special with Landaff – a cow’s milk cheese from New Hampshire – marinated portobello mushrooms, bacon mushroom gravy and fresh greens.

Not surprisingly, the sandwich was delicious. The bread was fresh and chewy, and the cheese provided a velvety and mild base for the tangy mushrooms. I also had a cup of fresh tomato soup, topped with a crispy crouton and a dollop of the Creamery’s award-winning crème fraiche.

The mac and cheese was packaged and required a microwave, so we couldn’t consume it in store. But when I heated it up for a late-night snack, my frustration at the lack of heating appliances in the store melted away – just like the delicious Wagon Wheel and Red Hawk cheese that covered my penne. In true Cowgirl Creamery style, the meal was buttery, but not overwhelmingly rich.

Though there’s not enough seating for every customer to have a sit-down meal, Cowgirl Creamery is definitely a go-to for a quick, gourmet lunch. My taste buds have matured over the years, but the comfortable feel and delicious snacks at Cowgirl Creamery will continue to take me back to when I first fell in love.

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