Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Cheese Louise is Getting Gourmet in Richland

I'm the odd duck in my family.

Born and raised in Richland, Washington to extremely hard-working blue-collar parents, my brother and I grew up riding bikes amidst the dirt and sagebrush, watching little league games eating Frito Banditos, and at that point in time Shari's was the one of the nicer restaurants in town. It was a great childhood spent with bountiful fresh local produce and Columbia River salmon on the dinner table, however, rural Eastern Washington didn't present many opportunities to step beyond that culinary profile.  Nor did I want to in my adolescence.

At some point between then and now, I became a yuppie and it's never more evident than when I visit my family over the holidays.  I try to not be snobby, but sometimes I can't help it.  Maybe it was the extensive travel I did throughout college...maybe it was subsequent moves to more hippie, liberal, and metropolitan areas...maybe I've just drank too much wine over the years, who knows.  What is clear is that I'm the interloper in a group that is as uncomfortable in a winery tasting room as I am at a professional football game...not that there is anything wrong with that.

Imagine my joyous surprise upon landing at the Tri-Cities International Airport prior to Christmas when my brother said in a nasally voice, "We're going to Cheese Louise for lunch."  Despite multiple Richland trips since they opened, I had yet to stop by and was excited to check out of the fare.  I knew it wouldn't have been their first choice and it meant a lot that they were taking an interest in my interests.

Located in the Richland Parkway, Cheese Louise specializes in artisan cheeses of both domestic and international origin as a core business.  Regular cheese tastings offer exposure to some of the less common styles of cheese, and the shop carries a full line of cheese accessories to complement the experience.  And...who can have cheese without wine?  A robust selection of Washington wine graces the shelves and the Cheese Monger is happy to make a pairing suggestion for the hunk of cheese you just selected.

As if that all wasn't enough, the back of the shop is set up as a bistro-style restaurant, a rustic menu featuring...you guessed it...cheese!  My family and I sat down, was immediately greeted with samples of the cheeses they were tasting that day, and as we perused the menu I enjoyed a very nice Coyote Canyon Syrah. My brother and dad selected panini sandwiches; a gourmet grilled cheese featuring ham, onions, spinach, tomatoes with multiple cheeses and a steak sammi, shredded tri-tip with a torta and fromage fort. Mom went for a lighter cheese plate, and a flatbread caught my eye. A pizza-like creation featuring local cheese and meats, the flatbread was the star of the show and left my brother grabbing at my plate for the morsels left on the plate.

Fresh, flavorful food, awesome cheese, and great wine create the foundation of success but the atmosphere of Cheese Louise is what will keep customers coming through the door in Richland.  Comfortable, relaxed, and educational, the fact that my entire family was able to enjoy a pleasant dining experience where everyone walked away happy speaks volumes of the ambience. Seattle yuppies and down-to-Earth less-snobby folks alike will be at home at Cheese Louis, positioning it perfectly in the emerging wine country that is the Tri-Cities.

Cheese Louise on Urbanspoon


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