Chizu: a sushi-style cheese bar in Portland/Oregon

It was a quickie: we had one hour overlap between her getting out of the weekly summer closure and me having to run to the airport. But hey, the things that can happen in an hour… One can discover a new favored place, a bunch of great cheeses, a fabulously dedicated person behind the counter, AND drink a glass of one’s favorite New Mexico (YES) pink bubbly…

Chizu list

All that is exactly what happened this afternoon, on 1126 SW Alder Street in Portland/Oregon, at Chizu. Chizu (Japanese for cheese, they tell me), is a sushi bar inspired cheese bar venture managed by Steve Jones (who sounds like someone I should know but unfortunately haven’t met so far), and manned (womanned) this afternoon by Emily Davidson. The concept is simple: you sit at the ten seat counter (there is one table for four), mark the cheeses you’d like to have on a list, or give them omakase style free reign – and they cut away! Around thirty local and international cheeses, expertly chosen and in peak condition, beautifully presented, and in my case, being the only customer, super-expertly commented. No surprise here: Emily used to be a cheese maker at Cowgirls Creamery, which is awesome in itself.

Chizu cheese board

What a west coast feast. My favorites were the Cloud Cap from Cascadia (raw cow, tomme style, with a tangy, crumbly center), Pholia’s Hillis Peak (a paprika rubbed raw goats hard cheese, super elegant), and Briar Rose’s fantastically funky and yet totally sophisticated Lorelei, a small, goaty take on Taleggio. And of course, Rogue Creamery’s Smokey Blue, a fragrant reminder of all the hazelnuts that grow in Oregon amongst the vines and orchards. It was Rogue founder David Gremmels who insisted I had to make it to Chizu – thank you, tomodachi.

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