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Cheese, glorious cheese waffle bowls!

The Oregon Cheese Cave opened quietly, without fanfare last summer in the new Phoenix Clubhouse row on Highway 99. It’s a cozy, comfortable space with just a couple of seats next to phone booth-cheese refrigerators in the colors of the French flag. It’s here that cheesemonger Melodie Picard serves up local and European cheeses, Oregon wines and a light lunch with a smile.

Picard is on a mission to share her love of cheese and her commitment to local producers with others here in Southern Oregon. Thanks to a family heritage that is traced from Camembert, France, she brings European food culture experience to the Oregon Cheese Cave. Before opening the Oregon Cheese Cave, Picard curated Cartwright’s earliest cheese case, later was a Market of Choice cheesemonger and made her cheese bones at a food co-op in Santa Monica. Picard has also been a regular at the annual Oregon Cheese Festival in Central Point and is a member of the Oregon Cheese Guild.

The dine-in and take-home options for lunch or dinner are deliberately limited at the Oregon Cheese Cave so that the focus is firmly on the cheese. There’s a cheese plate at $8 with a selection of charcuterie for $2 more.

Cheese, beautiful cheese! There’s a good selection of local and imported cheeses available for tasting and purchase at the Oregon Cheese Cave, as well as a large assortment of cheese accompaniments including jams, jellies, crackers and utensils.

What drew me back to the Oregon Cheese Cave was cheese, glorious cheese, and also a delectable waffle bowl served with either sweet or savory delicacies. The waffle is vegan and gluten-free, a recipe concocted by nearby Organics Bakery. Unusual for this kind of product, the waffle puffs up nicely with a crispy exterior and tender eggy flavor. You can mix and match your items, selecting from several 3-ounce scoops of soft cheese, choosing up to three toppings and add extras as you like.

My cheese waffle was made with fromage blanc from By George, three large and juicy olives, and a shot of balsamic vinaigrette at $6. I added in cured meat — four slices of seasoned salami and several slices of cured ham — to finish off the flavors for $2 extra. The savory cheese waffle was good, enough to pair tastes several different ways — the creamy, mild-tart flavor of the fromage blanc paired beautifully with the sweet of balsamic, adding in the stuffed green olives and meat and all the juices puddling into the waffle for a final bite or two.

The sweet cheese waffle option includes choices from a list of dried and fresh fruits, honey and hot pepper jelly at the same price. Substitute vegan cheese in either the sweet or savory cheese waffle at the same prices, or add in a drink and chips at $2 for the works.

Cheese, beautiful cheese! There’s a good selection of local and imported cheeses available for tasting and purchase at the Oregon Cheese Cave, as well as a large assortment of cheese accompaniments including jams, jellies, crackers and utensils. There’s aged raw cow’s milk Gruyere, plus thick slices of Mimolette — dense with a chewy rind — the brilliant orange cheese tasting salty and meaty.

Cheese tastings are a lot of fun, Picard said. “Usually everybody pays attention to the first three cheeses, and after that it just turns into a big cheese party!”

Full rounds of Camembert and creamy Époisses de Bourgogne tempt the palate. Sharp and crumbly sheep’s milk Manchego from Spain and Pico — a goat brie with a mushroomy bloomy-rind and melting, buttery interior — are displayed on the shelves of the blue phone booth-cheese refrigerator box.

The second cheese phone booth-refrigerator has an assortment of local and well-loved cheeses from By George out in the Applegate, Face Rock in Bandon, the Willamette Cheese Company and others. Cheddars, fromage blanc, curds of every flavor delight the eye and activate the taste buds.

Sympathetic to those who are lactose-intolerant or just plain don’t like dairy, Picard also has vegan cheeses on offer. That third phone booth-cheese refrigerator has an aged white cheddar cashew cheese, creamy red pepper wedges and an artisanal vegan Camembert.

Not content with selling cheese and making cheese waffles, Picard also runs cheese-tasting events at the Oregon Cheese Cave at

6 p.m. on second Thursdays at $20 per person. The April 11 cheese tasting will feature a selection of three local Rose wines paired with three goat cheeses in honor of the spring season with its new, early release rose wines and baby goats.

Cheese tastings are a lot of fun, Picard said. “Usually everybody pays attention to the first three cheeses, and after that it just turns into a big cheese party!”

The Oregon Cheese Cave is located at 310 N. Main St. in Phoenix and is open from noon to 5 p.m. Monday through Saturday. For more information and to find out about special events and new cheeses, follow the Oregon Cheese Cave on Facebook or phone 541-897-4450.

Reach Ashland freelance writer Maureen Flanagan Battistella at mbattistellaor@gmail.com.

Savory cheese waffle bowl with fromage blanc, olives and charcoutrie, made fresh at the Oregon Cheese Cave. (Photo by Maureen Flanagan Battistella)