Cheese. It can make or break a party. Bring the stinky stuff and others may judge you in ways you never dreamed possible. Bring the Drunken Goat again and the snobs like myself will probably be all, "Oh, Drunken Goat again." Actually, most people will probably applaud you, but let’s talk about surpassing expectations for a moment. Let's talk about going local. Let's talk about being blessed to have an abundance of awesome cheeses that are made in Texas. Let's talk about going to Houston Dairymaids.
Really? How would you know about cheese, you might be asking. Well, after the better half of a decade that I spent blending salad dressings at a low country restaurant and baking gourmet cookies in a warehouse in Wilmington, North Carolina, I moved to New Orleans and wrangled a job at St. James Cheese Co. for four or so years. It's a cheese shop that pretty much revolutionized the fromage game in New Orleans post-Katrina. Today there's dozens of great restaurants with incredible cheese programs in the Crescent City.
In Houston, the person to thank for an abundance of incredible cheese boards around town — The Pass & Provisions and 13 Celsius, to name two stunners — would be ACS-certified cheese professional and owner of Houston Dairymaids, Lindsey Schechter.
Schechter herself got into the cheese business after working in restaurants for a solid decade, and she has an astute understanding of the troubles small dairies and cheesemakers have with distribution. So she seeks out great, unknown cheesemakers herself, and sources their fine products to restaurants on her own. She started as a wholesaler, but tells the Houston Press it was an easy progression into opening the retail side of her Heights-based shop in 2012.
Home to more than 150 cheeses, Houston Dairymaids is an exceptional spot for both the uninitiated and the well-versed cheese lover. Here you’ll find all the hits, from Stilton to Ossau-Iraty to America’s fashionable little darlings, Green Hill and Harbison. But even if you’re not able to just walk in and talk about what you want or desire, the staff has you covered.
The first time I walked in, I wanted to talk about something I didn't know very much about at all. Texas cheeses.
“Texas dairies don’t ship out of state that much,” Shechter informed me. I'd only ever seen Dallas-based Mozzarella Co. in New Orleans and elsewhere. For this reason alone, stepping into Dairymaids is a must for cheese nerds.
It doesn’t actually operate like most cheese shops. There aren’t cases of cheese on display. Here, the cheeses are kept in the walk-in (a few softies and pre-cut best-sellers inhabit a reach-in for easy access out front), and folks can mosey up to a tasting counter for a sample of six different cheeses that are rotated weekly. Still, the knowledge, service and goods are nothing but top-notch.
Here now are the Texas cheeses you should be eating at your next party or snack time. Make sure also to stock up on Potter's Crackers, local baguette, cookies and macarons, and Texas-made preserves and honey while here too, and you can even take home a bottle of wine that the staff can recommend for a perfect pairing with your cheese.