And the Cheese(monger) stands alone
One of the recurring themes on this page is the unique things we transplanted sand-dwellers left behind in the big city. Whole Foods. Trader Joe’s. Ethnic restaurants (especially Indian, Vietnamese and Middle Eastern). Specialty shops like Penzey’s, Honeybaked Ham and Vaccaro’s. Well, thanks to Good For You Foods grocer Andy Meddick, at least one of those needs is about to be satisfied. His brand-new, black-and-white-striped Morgan & Gower Cheesemongers on Baltimore Avenue is stocking up on quality artisanal cheeses and charcuterie, most of which will be carved to order. Wow! Even Trader Joe’s doesn’t do that.
This ain’t yo’ momma’s Velveeta, kids. Meddick hopes to raise Rehoboth’s curd consciousness with a collection that includes everything from Roquefort Gabriel Coulet La Petit Cave weighing in at about $40 per pound, to the deliciously aged yet slightly more wallet-friendly Old Quebec Cheddar at $11 a pound. Our impression of grocery store cheese prices can be distorted, because rarely do they sell an entire pound at one time (that’s a lot of cheese!). But we’ll happily part with $4.25 for a quarter-pound wedge of something we like. Well, that comes to $17 a pound.
Knowledgeable mongers and mongerettes clad in chefs’ coats will guide you through the process of choosing your favorite fromage, hand-cutting it so it’s fresh and not shriveled from sitting in a deli case. Some of the more popular items will be precut in small grab-n-go portions. Meddick explains, “I’m a block from the beach, and I’m selling lots of cheeses people have never tasted before. So I’ll probably prepackage a few varieties that prove to be most popular. You won’t find mass-produced product in my store. Why would people fight for downtown parking to buy something they could get in a supermarket?”
Andy was born in Wales, just outside the capital city of Cardiff. His father was a professional glassblower, shaping scientific glassware by day for the University of Wales, and crafting decorative pieces in the evening. Andy’s appreciation for the finer things started with dad turning molten silica into gleaming works of art. His knack for careful buying came from mom. She was, in his words, “always on a diet.” She lost more than 100 pounds after she married Andy’s dad, and shopping trips involved a watchful balance of taste, calories, fat and fiber. “She was a great cook,” says Meddick. “I grew up with a focus on quality and careful meal planning.”
Seven years ago when he emigrated to Rehoboth Beach from Ellicott City, Md., he missed his established food markets. “Like a crazed person, I opened a 5,000-square-foot store. I’d never done that in my life!” He quickly learned that the average sand-dweller or vacationer wasn’t going to trek up to Route 9 just because his tomatoes came from a local farm. He downscaled, but couldn’t shake what he calls “the expensive health food store” image.
Once the dust settles at Morgan and Gower Cheesemongers, Andy will introduce a menu of hot and gooey grilled cheese sandwiches. He also plans to launch an e-commerce market to sell his cheesy treats online, along with the more popular health-centered items people came to appreciate at Good For You Foods. He’ll also resume his Cheese 101 classes, presenting such diverse topics as the volume of product vs. varieties of milk, aging techniques and even the preparation of holiday platters.
Neither Morgan nor Gower will be on the premises. In fact, there is some question as to their whereabouts. But ornate chandeliers will sparkle in the windows, setting the tiny fromagerie aglow. In true Baltimore Avenue fashion, a glittering mirror ball will signal specials and sales. “It has to be fun,” says Meddick. “I’m not an elitist by any means. I want the shop to be comfortable, a little bit elegant, but definitely not cheesy.” Yes, he actually said that.
The shop should be open by next week.