Ron Shalinsky, Owner of The Better Cheddar, has always had a passion for fine food. Back in the 1980s, the number of artisanal cheesemakers was increasing, and Shalinsky saw a need for more specialty shops to showcase new wedges and wheels. In 1983 Shalinsky bought a small sandwich shop in Kansas City, eventually opening a second location in Prairie Village, Kan. Since then he’s won numerous awards, including being named an Outstanding Retailer in 2003 by the Specialty Food Association.
“We’re unique in the sense that we’re a one-stop gourmet grocer,” says American Cheese Society Certified Cheese Professional Lincoln Broadbook, manager and buyer for both shops. “We offer thousands of specialty products—lots of cheeses but also other great accompaniments.”In addition to the rich inventory and lavish cheese selection (150-200 stock the case during holidays), The Better Cheddar also hosts classes and events. “We try to do something every month,” Broadbooks says.
culture: What’s your favorite cheese pairing?
Lincoln Broadbooks: We have a local cheese called Flory’s Truckle, a clothbound cheddar made by Milton Creamery along with the Flory Family of Jamesport, Mo. I really enjoy that cheese with sweeter compotes, especially local Kansas City Canning Co. Vanilla Bourbon Peach Preserves.
culture: How would you direct a novice to a good starter cheese?
LB: I’d talk to them for a bit and see how adventurous they are. Around here, it’s always good to start with cheddar—people know cheddar. But if you can get them to taste more cheeses that are aged, you can usually convert them quickly to other cheeses.
culture: If you could only eat one cheese for the rest of your life, which would you choose?
LB: Probably something like Abbaye de Belloc—I really like the nuttiness of sheep’s milk, especially when aged.
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