If you read this blog, then you know that working in Santa Monica causes me to cling to the eastside of town on the weekends. Only very special cases can lure me onto the freeway come Saturday, and this would qualify as such.
Christine, one of my best friends and also the talented artist behind the design of this site (you can see her portfolio here) was having a birthday. She was only allowing the most low-key of celebrations, so a trip to one of her favorite lunch spots, Artisan Cheese Gallery, was in order.
This was my first ever visit to the Studio City cheese/sandwich shop, and I was pretty dazzled. Namely because they have everything I dream of for lunch: salads and sandwiches with imagination, make-your-own cheese plates, a nice selection of wine, fancy sodas and house-made soup. What more can you ask for?
The most impressive sights of the meal was The Bistro, a knockout of a salad. Italian tuna, oven-roasted tomatoes, grilled artichoke hearts and roasted sweet red peppers all in one bowl, and this is just a half order. The cheese crisps only added to rather astonishing display. I’ve heard great things about the Aged Gouda Salad, too, and I believe. I mean cheese, apples and almonds over mixed greens…what could possibly go wrong?
Artisan has a not-so-average menu of sandwiches. We tried the Curried Chicken Salad, which has the added bonus of dried cranberries, plus Marcona almonds and celery for healthy crunch. Christine ordered the Dilly Egg Salad on toasted whole grain. Both were huge, flavorful and high on quality. I almost ordered the Duck Confit sandwich, which tempted me with its promises of fig jam and Le Marechal cheese (a nutty, raw milk cheese reminiscent of Gruyere)—there’s always a next time. A word of advice: do not miss the sweet pickles.
Artisan offers a soup of the day. That day it was gazpacho, and since I make it a rule to order the summer soup whenever it’s an option, I had to indulge. This one was on the chunkier, grainier side and topped with sour cream and avocado. Not a problem.
We were celebrating, so we went for it with cheese. Admittedly, this was a pricey plate—you get three non-premium cheeses for $17.50. But on the upside, the portions are generous, and you get a nice array of dried and fresh fruit. Also included are nuts and a bread basket, and they let you pick your own cheese. All these perks almost makes you forget the price.
We ended with this insane Chocolate Chip Peanut Butter Cream Cookie. They get them from Xtreme Desserts across the street. Normally, “Xtreme” things turn me off, but dang, that was a good cookie.