So it’s hump day: You’re looking for a midweek pick me up. Or maybe it’s Friday; you’ve survived the week, time to throw down some cheddar. Okay maybe it’s Monday, or Saturday, or the third Thursday of the month, and you’ve just endured your ninth bridal shower of the year and your annual review didn’t go as smoothly as planned and your manicure chipped within seconds of you leaving the salon.
In any case, you deserve a treat– and not just any treat. You deserve a cheese plate that covers all that drama with a luscious lactic coating and leaves you floating on a cloud of brie bliss, a breeze of delicious dairy wafting you away from your problems.
Now, you know that the budget-friendly hunk of “100% Real” cheese that has been sitting in that grocery store case for two weeks isn’t of the “Treat Yo Self” caliber that you’re looking for. But honestly, what is? I’ll tell you what, it’s time for a Whole Foods cheese trip.
Wait, don’t recoil from the screen and clutch your wallet in fear. Hear me out: You deserve this. Think of the brie cloud, think of the dairy breeze blowing you away.
Yes, the price tags at Whole Foods will make any penny pincher cringe. Yes, you might rub elbows with Instagram models seeking their perfect açai bowl ingredients, and mommy bloggers fitting in their daily workout in the granola aisle. Yes, we’ve heard the saying—we know, Whole Foods = Whole Paycheck. Still, sometimes it’s worth it.
If you’re able to force your way past the models and the mommies, you’ll see the promised land. Bins on bins, piles on piles, pairings and professionals and everything in between. The cheese haven. This is the step up from the grocery store that you need: The cheeses here are primarily organic and completely free of artificial flavors, colors, and preservatives. (This is totally what people mean when they say clean eating, right?) Gone are your bad day thoughts.
The options are better, the “you deserve this” reasoning is strong—but now the question is pressing: How do you, a simple grocery store goer, make the most out of this new Whole Foods experience? Have no fear, I’m here to make it easy.
Step 1: Find parking.
No, just kidding, I’ll give you a little bit of credit and let you make it into the store on your own. I will, however, remind you to bring your super cute tote that you bought from that super cool website that one time, and that you always realize you’ve forgotten just after the first item is scanned at the checkout line.
Ok this is the real Step 1: Once you’ve found the cheese case, take it all in. Just stand there and bask in its glory. Each Whole Foods boasts hundreds of different cheeses, so I sincerely hope you make time for some meditation. Take a lap. Take another. Map out your attack.
Step 2: Hit up the sample person.
This is no time for shame. They’re there handing out free cheese; there’s no excuse to skip out on this opportunity. Do a taste test. Walk away, put on a hat and glasses, do another.
I kid, there’s no need for disguises—these angels of the cheese lands will typically let you sample to your heart’s content. But as you munch away, ask questions! Find out what pairings will bring this cheese to the next level, perhaps an orange blossom honey to kick your plate up a notch or a fig jam to sass up your snacking. Even better, that cabernet on the shelf—yes that one right behind you, it’s even on sale!—may bring out flavors in your cheese that you didn’t even know existed. For your preferences, questions, general notes of cheese love, these employees are there to help. (Plus, the longer you gab, the more samples you can pack away.)
Step 3: Make a game plan.
Likely, halfway through your talks with the sample person, you’ve dropped the facade of only wanting one cheese, and you’re ready to bring home a basket’s worth of the good stuff. For a well-rounded cheese plate, we suggest mixing milks and textures. Draw up a game plan for your board. Then take another lap around the case and check out your different options, ranging from the hard and semi-hard to the blues and completely fresh picks.
Step 4:. Stick to that game plan!
Let’s say that you’ve decided on a cheese plate for two. (Your roommate will be home tonight, and if they eat enough, you can Venmo them for half and have a partner in crime as you binge Netflix and munch the night away.) Three to four cheeses make the perfect cheese plate for two. In this case, go for one or two favorites and shake up the third choice with something that intrigues you but that you’ve never tried.
If that’s too much, never fear, you can still ball on a budget. Here’s a Whole Foods hack: The cheese counter often stocks a basket of odds and ends, where you can snag perfect small portions. Each hunk is usually under five bucks, so you can make a board with variety on the cheap.
Remember: When in doubt, turn to the sample master for advice.
Step 5: Get your pairings.
Once you have your cheeses, it’s time for the pairings. Typically, Whole Foods stacks suggested matches near their cheesy counterparts, so be sure to eye up the honey, jams, and dried fruit options. While also being delicious additions, pairings can entirely change the flavor and experience of familiar cheeses.
The upside of this being Whole Foods is the all the options around you, making it a one-stop shop for your well-deserved treats. Feeling particularly carnivorous? Hit up the meat counter for some charcuterie or find some right by the cheese. Or head to the produce section for a bunch of fresh fruit. And, of course, don’t forget to grab a bottle of vino on your way to check out—better yet, grab two. Again, if you’re not sure what to pair, don’t fear the cheese counter worker!
Step 6: Get out!
Resist the Whole Foods lure. Sidestep the juicers reaching for the latest in liquid health, breeze past the paleo newbies, googling as they peer at labels on labels, and take your prized basket of gold to the finish line. Whip out that reusable bag you so proudly remembered. Then, avert your eyes as the price appears on the screen, all while you quietly reaffirm to yourself, you deserve this.
Avoid the strange looks as you head back to your car with a Judd Nelson-worthy fist pump into the sky.
Step 7: Celebrate – and stop justifying your purchase!
There’s a time and place for the usual grocery store, but sometimes you want a treat that feels a little more indulgent—without hitting up the cut-to-order cheese shop. For those occasions, the Whole Foods trip is not a bad one, worth the money and worth the effort. If you’re looking for a high-class cheese board, high-quality options, and a lesson in pairings, a little trip to Whole Foods can help you do it right.
After all, it’s been a rough few days. You ran into your ex when you were wearing your laundry day outfit. Your favorite jeans developed a nice little hole, right in the crotch. There was a timesheet mix up and your paycheck will actually be a week late…because of course.
So yeah, it’s been a rough few days. You deserve this.
Photo Credit Kate Young