As far as specialty shops go, St. James Cheese Company (641 Tchoupitoulas St., 504-304-1485; 5004 Prytania St., 504-899-4737; www.stjamescheese.com) may be as niche as a shop can be. The stores offer a vast assortment of ripe cheeses — the passion of owners Danielle and Richard Sutton. The Suttons spent four years working at Paxton and Whitfield, a 200-year-old cheese shop in St. James, London, and meeting cheesemakers across Europe. The couple returned to New Orleans to open their first shop in 2006 and opened a second store in 2015. Both the Uptown and the Warehouse District locations focus on cheese, charcuterie and gourmet groceries. St. James Cheese Company also serves pastas, salads and sandwiches featuring cheeses sold in the shop.
"We thought it was the kind of store New Orleanians would really enjoy," Danielle Sutton says.
The Suttons have an expansive inventory because of their relationships with cheesemakers across the country and the world. St. James Cheese's head cheesemonger recently attended a cheese festival in Italy and visited providers in Switzerland. The menu also features many domestic brands.
"We do a lot of American (cheeses)," she says. "When we first started, there were a lot more European (brands), but it's about half and half now. ... The American cheese industry has really exploded over the past 10 years."
During the holidays, St. James Cheese Company offers once-a-year delicacies that draw in customers.
"We get some cheeses that are very seasonal, (ones) that only come out around the holidays," Sutton says. "People look forward to them every year."
The shop also has an online store, through which customers can order gifts and catering trays.
"We do a lot of gift boxes for the holidays." Sutton says. "We have some gift set selections with different varieties of cheeses and meats and gourmet items, or you can do a custom box that you can pick up or we (can) ship all over the United States. We also do a lot of cheese and charcuterie platters for people hosting holiday parties."
St. James Cheese Company's cafe draws a crowd for lunch, mostly employees at local businesses who come for the cheese-laden sandwiches and salads. One popular choice is the Hook's cheddar sandwich with Wisconsin cheese, house-smoked turkey, fresh basil, tomato, mayo and avocado on ciabatta bread.
Both locations offer classes, such as the Cheese Boot Camp with author and cheese expert Liz Thorpe on Dec. 10th at the Warehouse District shop. The classes feature tastings and lessons about the styles of various cheeses. The shops also host special events, such as Friday Night Flights, which feature beer and cheese pairings.