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Artisan Cheese Gallery... finally!

creamfinger Sep 8, 2008 02:26 AM

For one reason or another every time I'm in near The Artisan Cheese Gallery on Ventura, and hungry, I always end up going someplace else. Now I know that I've been eating crap food all this time when I could have been dining on sandwiches of the Gods. Ok, a tad dramatic, but the eats were damn fine. I tried the Duck Confit on Fresh Ciabatta Bread. Before adding the duck, they give the bread a good schmere of fig spread and add a few slices of a slightly pungent cheese called Le Marechal (I had to write it down). They then put the whole deal in a sandwich press. It comes out warm and a bit gooey. Also, all of the sandwiches seem to come with a few chunks of Tony Packo Sweet-Hot Pickles on the side (which they also sell). It was the best non-deli style sandwich I've had in recent memory. Next time, the lamb...

One word of warning. The prices and selection shown on their website are totally wrong. The actual prices are higher, but the selection seems much bigger.

Ps, Yes, I know I spelled Artisan wrong in the headline, but it's Chowhound, so I can't correct titles, only internal text. Which I suppose is for the best. If they let us edit everything in our own posts, we might be able to gain access to NORAD or NASA or maybe the brewing control room at Anheuser-Busch.... wouldn't want that.

  1. barham turner Sep 11, 2008 04:32 PM

    I have mixed feelings about ACG. Yes, they are a great spot for tasting cheese and they have cheeses (and other products) you can't get elsewhere in the area. The two sandwiches I have tried were very good. But it's truly a buyer beware place. The prices of the cheeses can be surprisingly high. I got a small wedge of Tomme de Savoie this afternoon that set me back $26. I should have asked, I know. Many of the cheeses they sell are upwards of $35 or $40 a pound.

    Additionally, more than once I have been waited on by a person who had very little cheese product knowledge. This afternoon I was actually given misinformation.

    I had asked for an aged Gouda. As many of you know, this is a cow's milk cheese from Holland that is aged a minimum amount of time, I believe one year. It's a specific type of cheese. So the young woman behind the counter said, Oh yes, we have lots of those. She first suggested a four-year-old aged Gouda that looked, texture-wise, like a very old Parmigiano with those white spots on it (not mold). I passed, but gawd only knows what the price was. I said, no, a regular aged Gouda. She says, OK, and takes down an uncut wheel of Cypress Grove Creamline cheese. I know this to be a California cheesemaker, so I stop her. That's not aged Gouda, I said. She asserts that it was. They are a negociant and the cheese is from Holland, she says. I questioned that, saying that the label says "aged goat cheese" and the cheese company is from Arcata, California. She says, no, it's a Gouda, and she checked with the guy behind the counter who confirmed it was from Holland. I am dumbfounded at this point. Is the cheese label just decorative? So I tasted the cheese and it was fine, although it was not an aged Gouda. I'm tired of sparring with the woman so I just buy the cheese and google it at home. She sold me an aged goat cheese from Holland called Midnight Moon from Cypress Grove Creamery. She either had no idea that aged Gouda means something specific, and isn't just a description of any old Gouda-style cheese, or she was trying to bluff her way out. Either way, I was sold something I didn't want and was told it was what I ordered.

    After I got home, I did call the Cheese Gallery to report this, really as a service to them, as it's embarrassing for a cheese shop staffer to be so inept or obtuse. And I basically got the runaround from someone who didn't seem to appreciate the fact that they were uninformed about aged Gouda. She argued with me that aged just means it's older and that Goudas are made all over. Maybe, but "aged Gouda" is a specific cheese from Holland, and you can bet your bottom dollar that the Cheese Store of Beverly Hills wouldn't insult customers' intelligence by selling them something other than an authentic aged Gouda from Holland.

    So in closing, if you choose to shop at ACG I would recommend that unless price is immaterial to you, always ask the price per pound of each cheese as it isn't marked. And look at the label of the cheese for accurate information; don't go by what the staffer says.

    7 Replies
    1. re: barham turner
      mrshankly Sep 11, 2008 06:04 PM

      Wow!! I was on the other side of the store when the guy yelled out that it was from Holland to your sales rep!! I too looked at the cheese and thought "that's not Gouda from Holland". Very funny! I get the impression that the majority of their employees helping cheese customers are just learning and it looks like they're not necessarily being taught very well. It makes you really appreciate the cheese mongers at the Cheese Store of Beverly Hills where it's a small education in cheese for the customer every time by some really dedicated people.

      1. re: mrshankly
        barham turner Sep 12, 2008 09:16 AM

        What a coincidence! Chowhounders are everywhere. Woe to uninformed, clueless cheese salespeople.

      2. re: barham turner
        Das Ubergeek Sep 12, 2008 04:40 PM

        Maybe this is a stupid question, but if you were specifically looking for an aged Gouda and you were being pressed with something that was not an aged Gouda, why would you not: a) say, "No, I'm looking for an aged cow's milk Gouda from Holland b) refuse to buy the cheese if it's not what you're looking for?

        I'm not excusing the cheesería -- they should know what's what -- but I find it odd that you would just buy it though it wasn't what you wanted.

        1. re: Das Ubergeek
          barham turner Sep 12, 2008 04:54 PM

          But the cheese person insisted it *was* an aged Gouda. We got into a long involved (albeit civil) argument over the label and I just decided not to argue anymore. You're quite right, I should have trusted my own cheese knowledge. I allowed myself to be bamboozled.

          The only good thing is that the cheese she foisted upon me is actually quite delicious. Different from aged Gouda, but excellent in its own way and certainly one of the better aged goat cheeses I've had. That doesn't change my main point, which is that one can't trust the people selling the cheese to know what they're talking about.

          1. re: barham turner
            d
            Diana Sep 12, 2008 08:45 PM

            Frankly, I think she gave you a much better cheese

            1. re: barham turner
              h
              harleyrose Sep 12, 2008 10:32 PM

              If you want to give it another try, there are two aged Gouda style cheeses (cow's milk) from the Netherlands sold at ACG that I really like...Prima Donna and Beemster Classic. Both have that caramel flavor and those wonderful protein crystals...Prima Donna is more subtle and the Beemster Classic a bit more intense. Prima Donna is one of my stand by favorites...I know everyone will like it. I just tried Beemster for the first time a couple of weeks ago, and I like it even better than the Prima Donna and it was a huge hit at our last tasting.

              1. re: barham turner
                bodie Sep 13, 2008 07:49 PM

                I find the help at ACG very spotty.

                Some are quite nice. One in particular, a middle-aged man who may or may not be Melody's husband, is very knowledgeable and yet so damn rude. The younger staff seem nice but harried and not quite sure of all the product.

                For a neighborhood place, offering cheeses that are often upwards of $40 or $50 per pound, one hopes for just a bit more.

          2. mrshankly Sep 11, 2008 03:23 PM

            Went there today for lunch. Ordered the duck confit and the special eggplant feta pressed sandwich.

            The duck confit was interesting. The meat was dry and rather flavorless but the fig spread was very tasty. Bread quality was also very good. I'd definitely try it again if the duck would have more flavor (any flavor, really).

            The eggplant feta sandwich was fantastic. Delicious eggplant with onions and sun dried tomatoes and just the right amount of feta (a hearty amount). Bread was fresh and crispy.

            The pickles... oh, the pickles... sweet and tart... I'm already planning my trip for more of them.

            Service there is a very disjointed. The cheese store section is on a collision course with the cafe section with both the employees and customers walking back and forth and nobody quite knows who is up next for service. The guy who was there today who looked like the manager/owner was completely clueless to the dynamics of the store and was busy chatting with the employees here and there instead of identifying and rectifying bottlenecks in the store.

            Overall, I'd go there again because the food is good but I hope they can get there act together on deciding whether or not they want to be a cheese store, a cafe, or both.

            4 Replies
            1. re: mrshankly
              h
              h2obemo Sep 20, 2008 01:59 PM

              I just had lunch at the ACG this afternoon. I do like the fact that this place exists in Studio City, but I am really unhappy with the service. Only once I have I been there when I found the person behind the counter to be really helpful. I am not in a position to judge their cheese knowledge or selection, but as an average customer who wants to feel a little bit special, at least while I am being waited on, I feel they absolutely suck. I totally agree with mrshankly's assessment of
              their disjointed service. Other customers, apparently regulars, were given preference as their questions were answered while it was my turn to be
              helped. While I have been happy with the cheese and the food (though a little expensive), I always leave feeling like I have been ignored and even
              disrespected. The older guy at the register today (perhaps the same one) had absolutely no clue how to make people feel warm and welcome, and there is no assurance that you will be helped or rung up in order. I think this place could be both a great little cheese store and cafe if they figure it out and vastly improve customer service.

              1. re: h2obemo
                d
                Diana Sep 21, 2008 10:25 AM

                There's only one guy there who doesn't sort of "get it" service wise. Sadly, you hit on him. I just try to avoid getting him. He's not mean, he just doesn't seem to have the knack.

                Everyone else there is better.

                1. re: Diana
                  h
                  h2obemo Sep 21, 2008 11:06 PM

                  Well, I may have gotten him that day, but that doesn't explain the poor service I have received from different employees on my previous visits. I have now been there at least five different times and have been served by five different people, only two of whom I considered nice and helpful. Not coincidentally, I was the only customer in the store those two times, so they pretty much had to give me their full attention. I think the problem extends beyond this guy who doesn't have "the knack", and in my case has not been circumvented by avoiding him.

                  1. re: h2obemo
                    d
                    Diana Sep 22, 2008 06:59 AM

                    I'm sorry you've had such a negative experience. Beyond that one guy, I've never had a problem, and I've been served by pretty much everybody. Sometimes, when doing a large order, I do call ahead and sort of schedule a time, or let them know I'm coming.

                    I can't tell you what the difference is.

                    Sometimes, when I get bad service in a place from a bunch of employees, I have to sit back and look at what I was acting like. Do I walk in there grumpy, or expecting to be treated poorly? Was I acting irritated or too much in a hurry? Was I on my cell phone?

                    Not always the case, but sometimes I found my own behavior was the reason my service was sub par. I'm not perfect, no one is, but now I try to be a better customer, too.

                    But then, who knows what happened to you those times Look at Sweet Lady Jane, famous for just bad service no matter what-definitely not any customer's fault.

            2. j
              jenn Sep 10, 2008 04:44 PM

              I have to be in LA for business in the next month. Can someone post the address and the hours for this place? It sounds yummy.............

              3 Replies
              1. re: jenn
                Das Ubergeek Sep 10, 2008 05:02 PM

                Mon-Sat 10.30-19.00
                Sun 09.00-17.00 (due to farmers' market behind it starting at 09.00)

                http://www.artisancheesegallery.com

                -----
                Artisan Cheese Gallery
                12023 Ventura Blvd, Studio City, CA

                1. re: Das Ubergeek
                  d
                  Dogbite Williams Sep 10, 2008 08:07 PM

                  That's the north side of Ventura Blvd. just a bit east of Laurel Canyon, for those of you who prefer corners to numbers.

                  1. re: Dogbite Williams
                    r
                    Red4Mit Sep 11, 2008 10:19 AM

                    The menu that I just picked up yesterday says "cheese" on the duck confit sandwich. I grabbed one from the stack they had at the counter. Most of the other sandwiches specify a type of cheese, but not this one.

              2. Suebee Sep 10, 2008 10:21 AM

                Totally agree! My mom ordered a massive cheese tray from Artisan for my son's bris a few months ago which was balanced, delicious, and beautiful. Tucked among the cheeses were little chunks of crystallized pineapple, sweet pecans, apricots, and other additions I'm forgetting. See pic for remnants of the cheese tray.

                When we were all still in recovery mode, my mom would generously pick up Artisan sandwiches on her way out to Echo Park. I was in pain, we were exhausted, but man we ate well during those first few weeks!

                ~Suebee

                 
                7 Replies
                1. re: Suebee
                  r
                  Red4Mit Sep 10, 2008 12:37 PM

                  I picked up 5 of their sandwiches for a work lunch today. I have to say they went over in a fantastic way! I ordered the Duck Confit, The Mr. Fred, Roast Beef, Grilled Italian Veg and the Muffaletta. Outstanding!! I picked up a menu and wished so badly that I'd had it yesterday when I place the order over the phone. Their online menu pales in comparison to the hard copy I have. But at least now I have it!

                  1. re: Red4Mit
                    creamfinger Sep 10, 2008 04:37 PM

                    Ok, now go look at the menu and tell me what kind of cheese is in the Duck Confit sandwich...

                    1. re: creamfinger
                      Debbie W Sep 10, 2008 04:40 PM

                      I just looked at the takeout menu we have at home (dated 7/15/08) and it just says "cheese" for that sandwich. LOL!

                      1. re: Debbie W
                        Mattapoisett in LA Sep 10, 2008 05:42 PM

                        Le Marechal Cheese (Unpasturized Cow's Milk) according to the website.

                        1. re: Mattapoisett in LA
                          Servorg Sep 10, 2008 06:07 PM

                          And according to the OP who said that they "wrote" down the name of the cheese. I guess this whole little sub thread has me confused (nothing new there).

                          1. re: Servorg
                            Das Ubergeek Sep 10, 2008 07:20 PM

                            Don't be confused.

                            For a while they had printed menus that didn't specify the cheese used, and apparently neither did the website. The people at ACG were horrified (they're a cheese shop and their description says "cheese" instead of what kind of cheese and where from) and fixed the website and printed new menus... but Debbie W has an old printed menu.

                            Adding to this is that their online menu and their printed menus are different -- and there's more to be found out from the printed menus.

                            1. re: Das Ubergeek
                              creamfinger Sep 10, 2008 10:12 PM

                              Thanks for explaining for me. Exactly right.

                2. r
                  Red4Mit Sep 9, 2008 12:30 PM

                  I have never been, but have always wanted to go. I am thinking of ordering some sandwiches for a work lunch tomorrow. How big are the sandwiches? Is one enough, or is one big enough to split for two people. Thanks!

                  11 Replies
                  1. re: Red4Mit
                    d
                    Diana Sep 9, 2008 12:55 PM

                    Well, I don't really know. They're so good, everyone I know finishes the whole thing in one sitting!

                    I would treat people and go for one per.

                    1. re: Diana
                      r
                      Red4Mit Sep 9, 2008 12:57 PM

                      Thank you! Maybe two for one??

                      1. re: Red4Mit
                        d
                        Diana Sep 9, 2008 01:11 PM

                        Ooh, that's the way to go. When should I show up at your office? ;)

                        1. re: Diana
                          Steve2 in LA Sep 9, 2008 01:45 PM

                          Another BIG fan of the Artisan Cheese Gallery. Been going since well before the remodel, liquor license, addition of knowledgeable cheese people, etc.

                          Not only is the Duck Confit sandwich remarkably fit t'eat but you'll be missing out if you don't also try a Grilled Italian Vegetable on Olive Batard and their take on a Muffaletta.

                          Word to the wise, don't even THINK of walking out of there without a jar of Tony Packo's Sweet & Hot pickles or a lump of Italian Tallegio. Mmmm, Tallegio!

                          1. re: Steve2 in LA
                            creamfinger Sep 9, 2008 02:07 PM

                            Funny post-script #2...

                            I hadn't looked at the price of the pickles before I brought them to the register, so when I saw $9 for a medium sized jar of pickles I reflexively said "$9?" His response... "when you find a jar of Tony Packo's in LA, you don't ask the price, you just buy them!'. He was right.

                            1. re: creamfinger
                              SecretAsianMan Sep 11, 2008 01:39 PM

                              Hmm. I just asked my friend visiting from Michigan to pick some up. They're made in Northern Ohio and available by web at http://www.tonypackos.com/. 2 24oz jars for 12.95 plus shipping

                              Can't wait to try.

                    2. re: Red4Mit
                      CarlieInLA Sep 9, 2008 02:18 PM

                      Some of the sandwiches are huge while some are regular size. The muffaletta is quite large with really thick slices of fresh mozzarella. The duck confit (my favorite) is definately smaller. I woudl say you should get a variaty that are cut in half. I also highly recommend the roast beef and the Mr. Fred. The turkey is a little boring.

                      This is my favorite cheese shop, I love how knowledgable the staff is and they definately have a huge selection. You can also always call ahead and ask them to order something for you. They also carry delicious buratta that flies off the shelves.

                      1. re: Red4Mit
                        Debbie W Sep 9, 2008 05:23 PM

                        They don't overstuff the sandwiches. One per person. Maybe if someone is extra extra hungry or a particularly large eater, they could even eat one and a half. Sometimes my husband and I get two different sandwiches and split them. Or we split a sandwich and one of their salads - I like the olive and feta salad. My favorite sandwich is the rosemary chicken panini - grilled chicken breast, provolone, pancetta, spicy aioli, arugula on ciabatta. It's just so yummy after it's pressed. Inexplicably, my husband doesn't like the pickles, but we make sure to get pickles with both sandwiches so I can have both our servings. Those things are like crack! Don't forget to look at their weekly specials since often one of the sandwiches on that list is quite enticing - we had one last week with sopressata and a goat's milk gouda. The salads on the weekly specials tend to incorporate more seasonal items as opposed to their year-round salads.

                        1. re: Debbie W
                          c
                          carter Sep 9, 2008 06:29 PM

                          Not being much of a cheese or pickles person, I still have to ask what are the characteristics that make the pickles so wonderful as well as different from most others?
                          On another note, in Artisan's first year, around the holidays, they had fabulous pates and the likes. Do they still have them?
                          Must get me into a duck confit sandwich soon, though - just the thought of it creates a chin in need of wiping!
                          Will have to try your favorite couple, rosemary and chicken, one of these days as well.

                          1. re: carter
                            d
                            Diana Sep 10, 2008 08:16 AM

                            crisp, tart, sweet-just super duper

                            1. re: carter
                              Debbie W Sep 10, 2008 09:41 AM

                              I would say simultaneously sweet, hot and crunchy. Not sure about the pates, not so much my thing.

                        2. tatertotsrock Sep 9, 2008 12:12 PM

                          Yep, One of the happiest/yummiest places on earth!
                          They are great! The cheeses are great! The sandwhiches are amazing! I'm good ol' school grilled cheese! MMM, gruyere on toasty pressed bread...what could be better? Oh, adding a few pickles to the plate and finishing with a truffle.
                          I took my friend gift certificate and some pickles for his brain surgery recovery...he called me the next morning (this is about 9 1/2 hours after he had his skull probed) and he said:
                          "thank god you left me those pickles! When I woke up, I asked the nurse if my friend had really left me pickles and the nurse said yes. I asked if I could have them. She said 'wouldn't you want something other than pickles, you've just come out of surgery?' I told her the pickles are exactly what I want..."
                          How cool is that?! When he got himself utta the hospital, he got some cheese and brought it to out Griffith Observatory Picnic.
                          Only complaint: The place is like a smack/crack house...y'a know "just have a tast of this one while you wait.." Then once you've rung up your sandwich-which is the only reason you went-you realsize that youve bought 4-5 other cheeses...gheeze, too many good things to choose from!

                          1 Reply
                          1. re: tatertotsrock
                            Dommy Sep 9, 2008 01:50 PM

                            You had me at cheese... but you won me over for life with pickles... Moved UP on the to do list...

                            --Dommy!

                          2. creamfinger Sep 8, 2008 07:49 PM

                            A funny post script to this story...

                            After I was done eating the sandwich I was very curious what cheese they used, because on the printed menu it only said duck confit, fig spread and "cheese", which was oddly non-specific considering it's a cheese store. This question caused a near riot among the staff. It seems they didn't realize that the menu, which was apparently just printed only said "cheese", but not the kind of cheese. I thought they were going to beat each other up. I felt so bad.

                            2 Replies
                            1. re: creamfinger
                              a
                              a213b Sep 8, 2008 11:15 PM

                              That's too funny!

                              I forgot to mention that the orange/fig spread they put on the sandwich can be purchased on its own there -- it goes FANTASTIC with a D'Affinois!

                              Mmmmmmmm ....

                              1. re: a213b
                                sbritchky Sep 8, 2008 11:39 PM

                                ... d'Affinois and thick, dry crackers prepared with rosemary, for example. Add a glass of complex oloroso and thin slices of Spanish, Italian, or Virginia ham, and you may never get to the main course -- or the main anything else!

                            2. d
                              Diana Sep 8, 2008 01:08 PM

                              Melody, the owner, is a gem, and her staff, with one exception, are all amazing pros! My husband's favorite sandwich is her Duck confit, and I have to try more. Problem is, every time I go, I'm there to order cheese. I end up ordering a lot, and then have a moment of gustatory guilt and cancel getting myself a sandwich!

                              1 Reply
                              1. re: Diana
                                a
                                a213b Sep 8, 2008 01:13 PM

                                LOL, I'm the EXACT same way.

                                I sample a little here, a little there, get some of this and that, and then BAM! I've spent $75 and am totally full from all of the tastings!

                              2. j
                                Jwsel Sep 8, 2008 11:16 AM

                                I love the duck confit sandwich -- and I am really not a big sandwich fan. However, I am a bit disappointed with Artisan Cheese Galery. The place has changed significantly. When it first opened, it was a cheese store with a few tables that served a couple of sandwiches. There was no question that the emphasis was on the cheese.

                                The last time I went, however, there were fewer shelves with gourmet items, more tables, and most shocking -- a lot less cheese. I was really disappointed, because the Artisan Cheese Gallery filled an important niche in the Valley, a high-end cheese store with a wide selection. That no longer seems the case. Now it feels primarily like a restaurant with a nice cheese counter.

                                1 Reply
                                1. re: Jwsel
                                  a
                                  a213b Sep 8, 2008 11:29 AM

                                  JW,

                                  I initially felt the same way as you when I went in after their recent remodel.

                                  But I was in there this weekend, and they do have just as many cheeses as before -- I know because I specifically asked. I think it's just the new layout.

                                  Having recently tried the Beverly Hills Cheese store for the first time, I must say that I now love Artisan all the more. My wife and I were treated with more than a little snobbery at BHCS, whereas Melodie and Co have always welcomed and treated us like close friends.

                                2. Das Ubergeek Sep 8, 2008 08:09 AM

                                  All you have to do is click on the title within two hours of posting it and you'll be able to edit it.

                                  1. Servorg Sep 8, 2008 05:38 AM

                                    The sandwich sounds great. What do they get for this concoction of the god's? And, just so you know, if you are within the 2 hr. time frame for changing things in your post you CAN edit TITLES as well as the body of the post. NASA and InBusch better look out now. ;-D

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