Cheese shop brings class to the curds
Travel the world from the comfort of your cheese board
Published: Wednesday, October 31, 2012
Updated: Wednesday, October 31, 2012 00:10
Wielding a comically large knife that could make Michael Myers envious, Rob Lawler, owner of Denver’s Truffle Cheese Shop, slices purposefully into a hubcap-sized wheel of L’Amuse Gouda cheese, fresh from Holland. He passes a few slices to his visitors for sampling. “We encourage people to try before they buy,” he says.
The Truffle has been on its cozy stretch of 6th Street since 2000, and husband-and-wife duo Rob and Karin Lawler bought the shop in 2006. Since then, the formula has been mostly the same: hand-sliced cheeses from all over the world, European specialty items like jams, spices, and candy lining the shelves, and always a friendly recommendation on what kind of cheese will pair with tonight’s meal. “It’s always been an artisan cheese shop, but the products have always changed a lot. It’s sort of a traditional business, which you don't see much these days,” Lawler says.
The Lawlers’ hands-on approach to cheesemongering—and yes, it’s a word—has made The Truffle a fixture on Denver’s Best Cheese Shop lists. Miguel Vera, one of the shop’s cheesemongers attended this summer’s Cheesemonger Invitational, cutting, wrapping, and plating with the country’s best ‘mongers. All of The Truffle’s hundreds of cheeses are selected to please the shop’s demanding palates, sourced from abroad or from local producers like Fruition Farms and Avalanche Cheese Company.
Take a date and have them marvel at your knowledge of the Pecorinos of Italy’s Lazio region. Or more likely, submit to the experience of The Truffle’s cheesemongers and get educated on the merits of French raw-milk cheese.
The Truffle connects with its community by staffing booths at the Cherry Creek and City Park Esplanade Farmers Markets, and holding classes and tastings at the shop. One recent event had participants sample and discuss the cheeses, meats, and butters of the Parma region in Italy while Lawler cut open a 90-pound wheel of Parmigiano Reggiano—that most uniquely Italian of cheeses.
Rob Lawler is proud of his store’s mission to represent his producers at their best, and to provide fromage aficionados with the best product. “The meat we mostly get from a salumi maker in Manhattan, Salumeria Belliese,” he says, showing guests around The Truffle’s formidable cheese and meat cases. “They’ve been curing meats in Manhattan since the ‘20s. Everything they do is fantastic.”
When The Truffle wanted to buy their milk from a local company, they helped Ugly Goat Dairy’s Michael Amen buy a cow, which still produces milk for the shop to this day. And the cow’s name is, of course, Truffle.
Though Lawler’s been slicing cheese since before charcuterie culture became huge in Denver, he sees himself as perpetuating an ancient way of life. “We’re really careful to make sure that everything is handled well and cared for the way it should be cared for… it’s something that’s only recently been popular in the United States, but there have always, always been cheese shops.”