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Say Cheese and It’s Yours!

A Beginner's Guide to Preparing for Your First Visit to Central Wedge


My first visit to a cheese shop in Galway, Ireland, was memorable and overwhelming. I remember thinking a store dedicated to cheese was the most awesome idea I had ever seen. While not uncommon in European countries, it was a foreign concept to me and it changed the course of my life. I guess that’s why traveling is so important!


Upon entry, there was (in my memory) a 20-foot-long deli case along the back wall filled with wheels and wedges of cheese.  Two rows of pantry goods lined the space between the door and that counter. Behind the counter were two cheesemongers serving customers while others stood in a line that was wrapped around the perimeter of the shop. I avoided getting in line as long as possible, finally choosing a couple of small prewrapped cheeses from a self-serve case, to go with some crackers and chutney I had selected. This allowed me to check out without having to figure out the lingo and etiquette of ordering cheese.


This story probably speaks more to my social anxiety than the intimidation factor of the cheesemongers but I was unprepared for ordering cheese in that atmosphere. Several years later when I was planning to open Central Wedge, I remembered that experience and I realized a visit to my cheese shop could be a new experience for a lot of my customers.


shop exterior of cheese shop with main door and windows

Whether you're a cheese aficionado or a newbie looking to explore the world of fromage, a visit to a cheese shop should be a delightful experience. Before you step foot into cheese heaven, a little preparation can go a long way in making your journey even more enjoyable. To help you, I've compiled a handy list of tips to ensure you're fully prepared for your cheese-tasting escapade!


Learn What You Can in Advance


If you’re reading this, you’re already off to a great start! Now you know that we have more than 75 cheeses all made in Pennsylvania using cow, sheep, goat or a mix of milks. We also seasonally offer a small selection of cashew cheeses for lactose intolerant or vegan customers.

 

Prior to your visit, check out our café menu, calendar of events, google listing, and Facebook or Instagram pages. Make note of any special events or promotions, operating hours, and customer reviews to help you get a feel for our atmosphere and what we specialize in. Perhaps you’ll note some things you didn’t expect.  A few moments reading through our website will help build anticipation of your visit and tailor your experience to make the most out of your time with us!

guest circle around grazing table and select cheeses while winery serves samples in background
Guests enjoy a grazing table and local wine at an event hosted by Central Wedge

Bring an Open Mind (and Palate!)


One of the most exciting aspects of visiting a cheese shop is the opportunity to sample a variety of cheeses you may have never tried before. You’re not required to visit the shop knowing exactly what kind of cheese you want and how you want to pair it. In fact, we encourage you to be open to what we have available at any given time. Different areas of the world excel in their specific style of cheese and Pennsylvania is no different. Our selection may be different from what you expect from the grocery store or other cheese shops.

Ten different prewrapped cheeses of varying sizes sit on cutting board
a variety of Pennsylvania cheeses in different styles, shapes and sizes

Before you get to the counter, consider what kind of cheese you normally purchase. Do you like soft and creamy cheeses or a more aged harder cheeses with a stronger flavor? Please share your preferences with us. We will try to find cheeses that fit your current preference, and if you’re open to it, we will offer something new too. If you bring a little willingness to try new flavors, styles, textures, and aromas, you might discover a new favorite cheese that you never knew existed!


Be Willing to Ask Questions


You don’t have to be a cheese expert to enjoy a visit to Central Wedge! Please ask us for recommendations or more information about the cheeses we have available. We work with more than 35 Pennsylvania cheesemakers and do our best to know their personality, production choices and business story. All these things have an impact on the taste and quality of the cheese.

shopkeeper talks with customer during checkout process

We are passionate about learning cheese science, and we are more than happy to share our knowledge with you. Whether you're curious about the aging process, why the rind of one cheese looks totally different from another, or the origin of a particular cheese style, we have plenty of insights to offer. If we don’t know the answer, we’ll take some more classes and get an answer for you!


Bring a Cooler Bag


If you're planning to purchase cheese to take home or you will be traveling, consider bringing a cooler bag with you. A cooler bag with an ice pack will help keep your cheese selections cool during your journey. Some cheeses are sensitive to temperature fluctuations, so it's essential to transport them in a controlled method to maintain their quality. We sell frozen ice packs just in case you forget.


Counter Etiquette


We strive to greet each customer as they enter the shop, so you know that your presence matters to us. Each customer deserves our full attention for sampling and selecting cheese, and we work to make sure each of you receive it! However, this may mean that you will wait for service while we’re with another customer.  Please take a few moments to look around the shop and we’ll be with you as soon as we can.

cheese samples served on glass plate sitting on engraved cutting board
samples of cheese are served on plates or disposable spoons

While sampling, we will serve cheese samples on a spoon or a small plate. This addresses two concerns – food safety and sustainability. It’s just good food safety to provide a separate plate for each party that is sampling. Additionally, we can wash the plates instead of serving samples on some form of single use paper or plastic. Sometimes you may select a cheese that is better served with a spoon and that will be offered to you on a single use plastic spoon. We are creating a cheese experience where every sample should be about presenting the cheese to you in the best form possible.


Ordering Process


We sell artisan, farmstead and specialty cheeses, most often produced by a small business that employs skilled labor. Additionally, most of the cheesemakers we source from are working with small batches of milk, which economically speaking, makes the price point higher for our cheeses. It is unlikely that you will find many of the cheeses we sell in grocery stores.


At Central Wedge, we price cheeses by the pound to account for fluctuations in the sizes of pre-cut pieces. You can expect to see most cheeses priced between $20-$30 per pound for cow milk cheeses. Some of the artisan cheeses, sheep and goat milk cheeses have a higher price point between $30-$50 per pound. Take a deep breath - you are not required to take the whole wheel, nor a whole pound.

refrigerated deli case full of cheese wheels and wedges
The deli case holds our cut-to-order cheeses.
vac-sealed cheese sits on shelf with shelf tag hanging on shelf
Shelf tags for vac-sealed cheeses list the price per pound and estimated size of the cuts

The cheeses we sell fall into two categories of prewrapped and cut-to-order cheeses. If a cheese is vac-sealed by the cheesemaker, we sell it at the size that it wrapped. The other option is cheeses sold whole form on a wheel or log. When you select a cut-to-order cheese to purchase, the next question we ask will be, “How much would you like?”


The smallest amount that a cheese shop generally sells is ¼ pound or 4 oz. This allows us to serve you a cut of cheese that is appropriate amounts of paste and rind. A smaller piece would just be rind, which is not desirable. Other common amounts to request for cuts of cheese are 1/3 pound, ½ pound, or a pound.


Depending on how many people you’ll be serving or how you plan to use the cheese, we can help guide you to select the amount to order. Also, cheeses are not created in equal sizes and weights. If you aren’t sure how a specific cheese will be cut and offered for sale, just ask.

Whole wheel cheese and 1/4 wheel cheese sit on cutting board
an example of a small form cheese that can be sold as a whole or half wheel

Enjoy the Experience


Above all, remember to savor the experience of exploring the wonderful world of Pennsylvania cheese. Take your time, indulge your senses, and relax into the pleasure of discovering new and delicious flavors. Whether you're a cheese connoisseur or a curious novice, a visit to Central Wedge is sure to be a memorable and enjoyable experience.


So, there you have it, a beginner's guide to prepare for your trip to the cheese shop. Armed with these tips, you're ready to embark on a cheesy adventure like never before.


We hope to see you soon and remember to make every bite count!

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