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Salumiere Cesario

November 20, 2012

By Kirsten Telander:

I’ve often said that when I die, I’d like to end up in a Sephora store with a cheese closet and a wine cellar. As a mere mortal, I can’t seem to maintain a wine cellar, my husband has banned me from Sephora, but who would figure that this small town would have a cheese closet?

Salumiere_Group 300x200Thanks to Damon Burke, along with his wife Colby, Walla Walla was introduced to the cheese closet in 2006 when the couple opened Salumiere Cesario Gourmet Grocery in a modest space on 2nd Avenue.

The first time I interviewed Damon, I had to ask the obvious: where did the idea of the cheese closet come from? Apparently, he was flipping through television channels and ran across Keeping Up With the Kardashians, and the famous for being famous family was having lunch at [The] Blue Table, which he and Colby used to frequent while living in Los Angeles. “It totally changed the way I viewed cheese,” he said. And then I lied to him. I told him I had never watched the show.

Salumiere_CheeseCloset 300x200Salumiere Cesario recently expanded and moved to the enviable location of 12 E. Main Street in the building most recently occupied by Romanza. The name? Damon combined Salumiere, which means grocer in Italian and Cesario (pronounced CHE-sario), his grandmother’s maiden name, to honor her memory. Apparently, she was a great storyteller and if you have the time, Damon can tell you the story behind any product in his store.

I can tell you from experience that whether I’m buying gourmet salts, Turkish olive oil (you can also create your own olive oil blend at the olive oil bar), tonic water, or a brand of wine that I’ve never heard of, Damon is very particular about what hits the shelves.

The staples of the shop are the meats and cheeses, the ginormous and diverse selection of which has nearly landed me in a 12-step program: I, Kirsten, admit that I have eaten a ridiculous amount of D’Affinois and Drunken Goat cheese. Meats? There’s Salumi (Seattle), Fra’ Mani (Berkeley), Salumeria Biellese (Brooklyn), Creminelli (Salt Lake City), plus Prosciutto and ham that you won’t find anywhere else in these parts. The expansive commercial kitchen –a far cry from the former cubby in the grocer’s former location – allows for more catering and prepared meals.

Like so many chefs in Walla Walla, Damon wants to change the way that people eat and wants to “expand and delight the palate,” he says – a phrase I sometimes speak out loud with an English accent for reasons I can’t explain.

Salumiere_Meats 300x200The day I dined there, the gentleman next to me was enjoying a tall glass of amber colored beer (Colby says the beer on tap is a huge hit) and the grilled cheese sandwich on locally made sourdough with a “secret blend” of cheeses. Clearly it was a religious (or other) experience for him. I felt like I was on the set of the film, When Harry Met Sally, and I considered ordering it myself. But the thought of the two of us groaning on the patio, potentially scaring passersby, had me looking at other options.

The menu is limited by design ­– Colby emphasized that they are a grocer first – and everything on the menu is refreshingly simple. “I don’t like fuss in food. If you can’t eat it (referring to garnish) why is it there?” Damon says. This has always been my experience with the chicken salad sandwich. So simple, but oh so good. And the house made pickle served with it has made me a convert. Never again can I eat one out of a jar with a stork on the label.
Salumiere Cesario relies heavily on their website (www.salumierecesario.com) and their Facebook page (www.facebook.com/SalumiereCesario) to share specials events, menu items and seasonal promotions. Check it out.

Address: 12 East Main Street, Walla Walla, WA 99362
Phone: (509) 529-5620
Hours: Mon-Sat 11am–6pmSun 11am–4pm

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