Cheese connoisseur Jill Erber opened a specialty cheese store, Cheesetique, in Alexandria’s Del Ray neighborhood three years ago. She wanted to echo an era before supermarkets when people bought food in specialty shops. In January, Cheesetique moves to a neighboring store more than twice as big.
Why the move?
I’m going to perfect on what I’ve done. I’d like to be able to carry a lot more dairy: really local milk, exotic yogurt and local butter. We’ll have a lot more space to do lots of new dairy. We’ll also have more space for meat.
What are some of your specialties?
We love going local. The mid-Atlantic region is huge for cheese-making, and getting more so all the time.
You also teach classes about cheese?
Every two months we have a new topic. This one is holiday cheeses. We’ve done blue cheeses and American cheeses. We learn all about cheese-making, what’s special about each cheese, and then the rest of the class is tasting. It’s a record — [this] class filled up in four or five hours.
What constitutes a holiday cheese?
A holiday cheese is anything someone would consider a special-occasion cheese, [with unusual ingredients like] cranberries or figs or walnuts. Particularly festive-looking cheeses, too. One is a whirl of herbs in goat cheese. We’re also doing a lot of truffle cheeses.
You used to work in computer software development — how’d you get into this?
I always wanted to open my own business. … In preparation for opening the store, I worked on (a local cheese-making) farm for four or five days.
Haven’t you worked on other farms?
I also worked on a cow dairy farm for a year. It was on a kibbutz in Israel. … It was a perfect job for a kid looking for something crazy to do for a year [before starting college].