Tastes and toasts. Sliver samples and small plates. Food as art.
The Magnolia Cheese Co., a cheese shop-cum-cafe that dares to offer delicate portions and take-your-time service, has thrown down a gauntlet to Fort Worth diners: Slow down, sip, notice the fresh flavors, savor each morsel.
Owner Elizabeth Northern has big ideas for her little cheese shop that could. "Travelling about," says Northern, "I learned about small plates, a different approach to food."
Northern wants to feature lots of local foods and create everything from scratch in the glassed-in kitchen.The cut-to-order cheeses are the heart of the business, and just about everything on the menu grows from that theme. Sandwiches, salads, soups, even desserts feature cheeses (an apple-and-cheddar bread pudding, for instance).
Presentation at Magnolia Cheese Co. ranges from the precious to the exquisite. At the precious end was the jalapeño cheddar soup ($6), served in a half-pint Mason jar. The soup was thinner than most cheese soups, a big point in its favor, but wasn't as hot (both temperature-wise and jalapeño-wise) as we would have liked.
The twisted Spaniard sandwich ($9.50), with Serrano ham, manchego cheese and a date/garlic spread, was an excellent combination of salty and sweet flavors served on a slightly sweet brioche. The cheddar and turkey ($9) was less successful, with the five-seed bread overpowering the milder flavors of turkey and caramelized shallot. Both sandwiches were served with excellent crisp, deep-green kale chips.
A five-cheese plank of local cheeses ($16) falls into the "exquisite presentation" category. Local honey is drizzled on the platter, which features, in addition to the cheeses, curried San Saba pecans, grapefruit segments and a scattering of ruby-red pomegranate seeds. The cheeses, served in modest portions, included a Redneck Cheddar aged in Shiner bock, a brie with a thin layer of vegetable ash, and Manchegoat, which is, yes, is a Spanish-style manchego made from goat milk.
The chevre cheesecake ($8.50) also had a stunning presentation, drizzled with warm honey, walnuts and pomegranate seeds, and adorned with a V of candied sage leaves. The warm honey/nut topping elevated the cheesecake to heavenly regions.
We haven't mentioned the setting, but it's every bit as artful as the food. The cafe is furnished with a dozen or so purposefully mismatched antique tables and chairs. The blue-and-white plates are straight from Grandma's sideboard. Need a glass of water? Fill a graceful decanter with water and bring it and a handled Mason jar to your table.
There are cheese-themed accessories to be found here as well. Purchase a make-it-yourself mozzarella kit on your way out or buy a copy of The Stinky Cheese Man, that classic fractured fairy tale, for the little cheese-eater in your life.