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Big BYOB Cheese Sale Scheduled for Saturday in Brighton Park

By Casey Cora | December 18, 2013 4:14pm
 A Southwest Side cheese distributor opens its doors for a semi-annual sale.
Great American Cheese Collection
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BRIGHTON PARK — So it's not Eataly.

But the Great American Cheese Collection, nestled between a meat distributor and furniture warehouse on the Southwest Side, offers a robust selection of hundreds of gourmet cheeses and supplies some of the city's best known hotels and restaurant groups.

Four times a year, the small outfit throws opens its warehouse doors for a big sale offering more than 100 cheeses from dozens of the country's best artisan producers. The event takes place 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. Saturday at 4727 S. Talman Ave.

"These are the things you end up licking off your fingers, off your hand, off your arm," said company founder Giles Schnierle, of Beverly. "We keep bringing them out all day long."

The event is BYOB, so guests are encouraged to bring wines and beers to share.

Schnierle and others will be on hand to talk about the finer points of each cheese and offering samples, including slices of aged cheddars, aged sheep's milk gouda and a popular private label "Creamy Sexy" triple-cream blue cheese made just for them.

When it's time to buy, they'll be slicing to order — all you have to do is ballpark how much you want.

"We deal in dimensions, not pounds," said marketing manager Suzanne Owen.

The sale will also include vending by local food producers The Scrumptious Pantry, Mayana Chocolates, Grown-Up Kid Stuff and Twofold Foods.

Started by Schnierle some 25 years ago, the Great American Cheese Collection has largely flown under the city's culinary radar as a supplier to places like the Waldorf Astoria, Hyatt Hotels, the Morton's chain of steak houses and the Sodikoff Restaurant Group.

The company's refrigerated warehouse stores several thousands pounds of the domestically produced cheese from 28 different states, all of which are tested for quality before getting shipped out to its final destinations.

"It's a tough job but somebody's got to eat cheese all the time. But you have to know what good cheese tastes like..and you have to know what it is before you sell it," said operations manager Evan Higgins.

The company will move to a new location in early 2014, when it becomes one of the newest tenants at The Plant, the food production facility and business incubator in Back of the Yards that just raised enough money to overhaul its front entrance, which will include a small storefront.

"I think when we're at the new place, our plans are going to be to do more regular tastings, perhaps every week," Schnierle said.

Parking is available outside the warehouse and most major credit cards will be accepted. For more information call 773-779-5055 or email giles@greatamericancheese.com