When I was first sent the Cheese Grotto after signing up for a cheese tasting, I thought, this is ridiculous. I have a small kitchen, so I find I have to be judicious about appliances and kitchenware — it was a whole thing to admit that yes, I may need to finally make room for a blender. So a box designed specifically to store and age cheese seemed too much. Like honestly, how often am I going to be using this?
The thing about some appliances, though, is that you find yourself changing your habits in order to use them. Everyone I know with an air fryer has reorganized their cooking to keep using the air fryer. I did get that blender, and now I have smoothies for breakfast every day. And now that I have a cheese grotto, I’m finding myself always wanting to have a good cheese on hand, which I can enjoy under much better conditions than haphazardly wrapped and stored next to the condiments in my fridge.
The cheese grotto was designed to mimic the conditions of a cheese cave — cool, airy, humid — so that you can store cheese unwrapped, and often on your kitchen counter (though, if you have the space, you can put the whole thing in the fridge for an even longer shelf-life). The cheese is stored on shelves, while a brick you submerge in water and then place in the bottom provides the right humidity to keep the cheeses from drying out or molding. Ultimately, even the runniest, funkiest cheeses last longer than if you’d just wrapped them in parchment paper and kept them in the butter drawer.
But the grotto is also elegant. The removable shelf doubles as a serving platter, so when friends come over you can casually ask “Oh would you like some cheese?” and slide out some already plated cheeses. And when they ask what on earth you just did, you can say it’s just your personal cheese humidor, like you’re a Vanderbilt.
America still doesn’t have a great cheese culture. Americans consume about 40 pounds of cheese a year, mostly mozzarella, block cheddar, and other pre-sliced varieties you can get at the deli counter. But artisanal cheese production and consumption are growing. In 2019, the Rogue River Blue from Rogue Creamery in Oregon was judged best in the world at the World Cheese Awards. This year, American cheesemonger Sam Rollins won second place in the World’s Best Cheesemonger competition at the Mondial du Fromage, the best an American has ever done at the competition. And the charcuterie trend shows no signs of stopping.
That means more people than ever are appreciating artisanal cheeses, but with little intuitive knowledge on how to treat them right. The cheese grotto is sort of a set-it-and-forget-it tool when it comes to cheese storage. You can age your own cheese in there, if what you got at the cheese store seems under ripe to you. But if you have no idea what that’d even look like, you can just store what you have so it’s already on your counter when you want some. It’s an easy way to treat cheese well. And there’s a model that packs flat for easier storage when you’re fresh out of cheese.
Sure, you may not need a cheese grotto. Your fridge drawer may serve you perfectly well. But things could be better, if you want them to be.