Oh, it's a happy, happy Tuesday for those of us in the food world, and an even happier day for those of us wholly obsessed with cheese. Earlier this afternoon, Karin and Rob Lawler, the owners of the Truffle Cheese Shop (otherwise known as stinky paradise), inked a lease on the Cellar Wine Bar, which closed last week. In its place, the Lawlers will open the Truffle Table, and if you're anything like me, you're screaming with glee right now, even if it's to your deaf dog.
See also: - The Truffle's Rob Lawler on Spam musubi, brains, glutards and his favorite cheese - Round two with Rob Lawler of the Truffle - Q&A with Truffle's Miguel Verain, a competitor in the Cheesemonger Invitational
"At the Truffle, we break down cheese -- its complicated stuff, cheese -- for our customers and give them a unique education, and now we have the opportunity to translate that experience to the Truffle Table," says Karin, adding that she and Rob will continue to emphasize the wine aspect while obviously focusing on the cheese component.
"It's a cheese-themed wine bar," she says, noting, too, that the cheeses -- all of which the Truffle sells -- will also be for sale at the restaurant, adding a retail element, as well. The Truffle Table will be open Tuesday though Saturday from 3 to 11 p.m., and guests will get to choose from a half-dozen cheese plates, hand-picked by the restaurant's cheesemongers. "We don't have servers; we're all restaurant people who are now cheesemongers, and they'll be the ones that pick the cheeses for the various plates," Karin adds -- plates like Cheese 101, which will include seven different cheeses with varying textures, milk and styles, along with accoutrements: chutneys, jams, marmalades, fruit, nuts and olives, and mustard. Domestic cheese plates, an international selection and a "smelly" medley will be on the menu as well.
In addition to the cheese plates, Karin says that she and Rob will feature salads, plenty of charcuterie and "fantastic desserts," plus fondue Friday and an all-you-can-eat raclette night. "It's going to smell lovely in here, just like Swiss sex," she jokes. She and Rob will also host classes with guest cheesemakers and cheesemongers from all over the globe, and they'll use the space for pop-up dinners, too. And, she says, they'll complement it all with an "international wine selection and the weirdest beers we can find."
At the moment, there's just a beer-and-wine license, which may be modified in the future to a full liquor license incorporating spirits, but Lawler says she's in no rush. "Wine and cheese is a great combination, and so is beer and cheese, and what we do best in the cheese world is find the best distributors we can, and we're going to do the same thing with wine and beer -- and while our plan is to move forward at some point and apply for a full liquor license, what we have now is perfect for what we're doing."
The Lawlers, who purchased the Truffle in 2007, weren't necessarily looking for a new restaurant, but when they learned the Cellar Wine Bar was closing, they jumped at the opportunity -- and they knew owners Brian Delgado and Sandra Lopez. "When the Cellar Wine Bar first opened, we went in there and sat down at the bar and felt really comfortable, and we told Brian that if he was ever interested in selling to let us know," says Karin. "And when he was ready, it was like it was just meant to be, and we really wanted to take this opportunity to expand the Truffle Cheese Shop and get more cheese into people's bellies," she adds.
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The kitchen, which is tiny and has no hood, will be overseen by a kitchen manager, although Rob, a former chef, will be cooking one night a week, and Miguel Vera, a cheesemonger at the shop, will be the general manager and oversee pairings. "We'll have a kitchen manager, but it's a team effort, and right now, we're putting the feelers out with our chef friends and we'll see what happens," says Karin.
She and Rob are hoping to open the third week in May. "We'll close for a couple of weeks to do a small renovation and to train our staff, and then we'll be ready to open around May 21," she says. A patio, which will seat fifteen, is in the near future, too.
"There are cheese bars all across the country that are tied to cheese shops -- it's becoming a trend that we're really excited about," points out Karin. "I think what we're doing is going to be fantastic, and we can't wait to open and share our cheeses with all the people who come into the shop and, hopefully, lots of new customers, too," she concludes.