Owners Steve and Kim Duty are longtime cheese aficionados and cheese-makers who decided to bring artisan products to the Sunnyside neighborhood. Kim has three goals for the shop: to provide new products to Denver that can't be found elsewhere in town (like a basket provolone from Parish Hill Creamery in Vermont); to tell the story of the artisans and farmers involved in the production of cheeses, meats and other items on the shelves; and to provide a fun and educational experience for customers while maintaining an "anti-cheese-snob policy," she says.
Steve is a Culinary Institute of America graduate with professional experience as a chef and cheesemonger; the couple owned a sheep farm and creamery in Virginia where they produced their own sheep-milk cheese. "I just wanted to make cheese," he explains, "but I ended up becoming a farmer."
Now, rather than working from dawn until dark to care for and milk livestock, the Dutys are happy to showcase the hardwork of others at Cheese + Provisions. While primarily a retail shop, the space also has a community table where guests can enjoy selections from the cheese and salumi cases as well as wine and beer by the bottle. With Colorado liquor laws being what they are, customers won't be able to purchase unopened bottles to take home, but will be able to purchase, sip and re-cork to carry out whatever they don't drink.
In addition to salumi and cheese, the shop carries a selection of small-batch crackers, sauces, preserves and other jarred goods, many of which are made in Colorado — from JoJo's Sriracha to OO Mommie Mushroom Ketchup to Modern Gingham preserves. Cheese + Provisions will be open Tuesday through Sunday from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m.
The world of cheese can be a little intimidating; after all, who can remember the difference between washed- and bloomy-rind cheeses, much less figure out how to pronounce those difficult names? So Steve and Kim have shared five tips for talking to your cheesemonger that will ensure you'll go home with something you'll love:
1. Don’t go straight for “What do you recommend?” or “What’s your favorite cheese?” Instead, tell the cheesemonger a little bit about you. A little bit of information goes a long way. For example, you can start by sharing your favorite cheese – even if it’s not a “fancy” cheese. That gives the monger a great starting point to figure out where to take you next.
Don’t know the name or style? Just indicate whether you like aged, hard cheeses or soft, runny cheeses. Say if you like them stinky, or you don’t. Do you have a specific use for this cheese? A recipe, a cheese plate, an awesome grilled cheese? That helps narrow it down.
2. Ask what’s in season in the style you like. It’s not common knowledge, but cheeses are seasonal, especially small, farmstead cheeses. Many are only available at certain times of the year. Want to know what’s just come into season or what is about to go out? Just ask.
3. Ask for a taste. The beauty of a ‘cut-to-wrap’ cheese shop, versus one where the cheese is already wrapped and priced, is that it encourages you to taste. As much as you like. And you don’t have to know what you are tasting. Don’t feel obliged to say, “Yes, I taste the mushroom-y, forest floor elements you mentioned.”
Instead, take a bite and feel free to ask, “What’s that I’m tasting?” A good cheesemonger will talk about the flavors he or she is getting on the front end or on the finish. After all, they are here to help educate you, not test you.
4. Ask for pairing suggestions. Want to know what to do with your cheese or what to drink with your cheese? Just ask! Most cheesemongers will be able to point you in the right direction.
5. Take a risk and have some fun. Okay, you don’t have to, but if you are game, let the monger help you find something that might not have immediately been on your radar. There are some great cheeses out there that might have a funky rind or a streak of ash but are surprisingly subtle in flavor.