I'm not proud to admit that I'm 9 months late in reporting on Hoboken's The Cheese Store (720 Monroe St.). Located at the very rear of the town (still no excuse since Hoboken's only a mile square), owner Chung Park and family (see adorable pics of his new baby on The Cheese Store's website) offer Hoboken residents a delicious array of gourmet cheeses, a small selection of fine imported (mostly Italian) products, and a variety of rotating daily special handmade sandwiches. (Aside: Park used to be an assistant manager at Murray's in NYC! Must ask him for store gossip...I know people who currently work there and others who've moved on.)
It's hard to explain the vibes, or feeling, of a place using mere words, but I must mention this because the small square store exudes warmth and personality. I entered at 6:50 P.M., 10 minutes before closing time, and although the counters and cases were spotless, Mr. Park and his colleague (presumably his mother) were more than happy to prepare me a fresh sandwich and thoughtfully suggest a fine cheese for me to sample. How often does this happen anymore? Customer service has dwindled so much that it's something to celebrate when people are genuinely nice and act like they're happy to have you patronize their business. Am I right or am I right.
After reviewing the chalkboard menu, I ordered the Sicilian Tuna, Kalamata Olives, Capers, and Extra Virgin on a Village Roll ($6.99). They were out of rolls, but graciously cut fresh slices of a multigrain loaf. The sandwich was impossibly fresh: the tuna with a pleasant briny saltiness, the kalamata olives thankfully less so, and the capers offering tartness to each bite. When was the last time you tasted good olive oil on a sandwich? The Cheese Store didn't skimp on quality products.
When prompted to name the type of cheese I was craving, I went for a "semi-soft, subtlely stinky" option and was rewarded with a Chimay cheese ($19.99/lb.), made by the same Trappist Monks who create the transcendent Chimay Belgian beer. Mr. Park informed me that the rind is washed with Chimay beer and I enjoyed rolling the creamy bits around my tongue in attempt to grasp a hoppy flavor. I read that Chimay cheese "...is a good cheese to take your time tasting -- it will help you to cultivate your palate." I like the sound of that.
Oh, and it's nice to write a review for myself, not for a website that's kinda sorta paying me to write good reviews (no offense, MG). The truth is, I thoroughly enjoyed my first foray at The Cheese Store and look forward to more reporting...