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Despite its portmanteau name that dredges up images of those foot-fetish Georgetown boutiques, Cheesetique is, without a doubt, my favorite cheese shop in the area (not to mention a two-time Best of D.C. winner). The staff here is sort of the anti-Ray Bowers, the chronically cranky cheesemonger who runs Bowers Fancy Dairy Products in the Eastern Market; Cheesetique employees are polite and knowledgeable while still projecting an appropriate amount of artisan-shop quirkiness. Even better, I never get the sense they’re trying to gouge me.
Case in point: Cheesetique’s price for iberico de bellota. The shop sells the hard-to-find cured Spanish hams for $99 a pound. Contrast that with the price I paid recently at the noisy, no-frills, baby-stroller choked Eastern Market, where the seemingly kindly man behind the counter at Canales Deli charged me $150 a pound for the same meat, a 50 percent increase over the stuff at Cheesetique.
Now, I sampled the bellota at Cheesetique just to make sure they weren’t passing off inferior ham for the real deal. While the shaved meat was far saltier than the stuff I sampled from Canales, it did have the same depth of flavor —- an intense buttery nuttiness, with an undercurrent of grass and earth, that characterizes this prized jamon.
As I savored each bite of bellota at Cheesetique, I couldn’t help but have the words of antonio buzzing through my head: I felt like a chump who was played by the counterman at Canales, sort of like the mark at a Texas Hold-‘Em table who doesn’t realize he’s a mark.
Once Canales opens up tomorrow, Y&H will be burning up its phone lines, looking for some sort of explanation on how the deli gets off charging $51 more a pound than a competitor just across the District line. Keep it right here.