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Okay, after yesterday’s post I got an email with the following photo which, in my opinion, totally kicks the meat manger scene’s ass. I mean, the manger scene is hilarious, but would you check out the artistry on this thing? Sliced cheese doors and windows? Rosemary evergreens?! I’m dumbfounded.

This work of art was created by Chantelle, one of the friendly employees at my favorite Santa Barbara shop, C’est Cheese. I’ve been fortunate to get to know the owners, Kathryn and Michael, over the past year while also getting cozy with some of my favorite cheeses. In some ways, these guys are living my dream. I know you know I love bacon, but you just can’t imagine how I feel about cheese. The only reason I don’t write for a cheese blog is that cheese is pretty much sacrosanct to me. I wouldn’t want to ruin it with my feeble writing abilities. I’ve always said that if I won the lottery I’d spend months on end in Europe becoming a cheese and wine connoisseur. And here they are, experts in my own town. I often go in with a quandary about which cheese to buy for a certain occasion, and no matter who’s helping me, they patiently walk me through my questions, offering me samples and ideas until we find just the right thing.

Another area of their expertise is cured meats. I literally will not buy prosciutto anywhere else. They make their own pancetta. They have more salami than I would ever know what to do with, not to mention pate, foie gras and duck confit. Their passion for the world’s charcuterie is so great, in fact, that Michael developed an iPhone app to help you navigate any tricky menu. It’s called Salumi, and features nearly 100 different sausages, salamis, hams and more. And yes, that includes bacon in it’s multi-cultural forms. From pork and beef to fish and fowl, he’s really thought of everything. Most of the items I’ve never even heard of, but the next time I’m at a fancy restaurant and need to know the difference between soppresata and Serrano ham, I’ve got an app for that.

If you live in Santa Barbara, or just happen to pass through some day, I cannot recommend C’est Cheese enough. They do great cheese tastings every month with a variety of companion flavors like honey (my favorite) or champagne. They’ll get you set up before your trip up to wine country or your picnic at the beach. If it’s cold outside, try their signature grilled cheese with a cup of tomato soup! I really have to stop now before my salivary glands explode. Guess what I’m having for lunch today!

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