No matter how you slice it, cheese is super delicious
A former South Bay teacher opens doors to a new cheese shop in Hermosa Beach.
- CategoryEat & Drink
- Written byJennie Nunn
- Photographed byShane O’Donnell
Brazilian-born Solange Comer, founder of newly opened specialty cheese shop Cultured Slice in Hermosa Beach, is a self-admitted cheese nerd. “I get so excited when I find something new—it’s like Christmas,” she says. “Cheese is such a social food. It brings people together, and that’s another part of why I love it … because I love talking to people about my passion.”
Solange, who hails from a French-Italian family that moved to Manhattan Beach from Europe three decades ago, logged many hours cooking in the kitchen with her mother, grandmother and great-grandmother. “I was exposed to so many cheeses and was eating Stilton before I could walk. So it was brought on at a very early age for me, and I loved it.”
Solange procures cheese from Spain, Italy, France, Vermont, Washington and Northern California and offers daily grab-and-go lunch boxes—including vegetarian and gluten-free options—and vegan cheeses. She also creates custom cheese and charcuterie boards for dinner parties and large events. “I became fascinated with different pairings and what would taste good,” she explains.
For 22 years she worked as an early education teacher—most recently at American Martyrs School in Manhattan Beach—but she always had a dream to open her own business. “While teaching, I never lost my passion for cheese or cooking or entertaining,” Solange says. “I remember as a teenager there was a small cheese shop here in Manhattan Beach, in this little strip mall on Sepulveda. I remember going to it and thinking, ‘This is so great.’ But it closed, and I’m not sure why. I don’t know if the South Bay wasn’t ready for it at the time, but cheese maybe wasn’t as big as it is now.”
It wasn’t until four years ago that Solange decided to make cheese her full-time job. “I really felt like this is the time and this is the place. I worked really hard to make this dream come true, and it was absolutely terrifying. But I thought, ‘If I don’t try, I won’t know.”
“I have people who come in to buy cheese for breakfast to pair with fruit. The times have changed, and cheese is such a staple in people’s lives.”
Along with her wife, Solange designed her approximately 600-square-foot, European-inspired store with white subway tile, sealed concrete floors, pendant lamps made from cheese graters and chalkboards revealing fun cheese facts. “It’s a little European, a little beach and a lot of me,” she shares. “I remember that mom-and-pop shop feel we used to have, and I’m just hoping that I can bring that back. The shop was met with such excitement and support. Some of the neighbors have been watching and waiting and said, ‘We’re so happy you’re here.’ So I’ve thought, ‘I’m okay, and I’m on the right path.’”
She wanted to create a “one-stop shop” environment with a neighborhood feel. “I have customers that say, ‘I’m going to a friend’s house tonight, and I need some cheeses,’ or ‘It’s a girls’ night,’ or ‘My husband and I want to pack a picnic and need a board,’” explains Solange, who can create just about any type of board and cheese compilation for varying budgets. “I have people who come in to buy cheese for breakfast to pair with fruit. The times have changed, and cheese is such a staple in people’s lives.”
Solange admits she has plans in the works for potential partnerships with local businesses and events, including Cheese 101 education classes for customers.
“There’s lots of room to grow, and I love the feedback I’ve gotten so far. I feel like people feel my vision, and it’s definitely a sigh of relief.”
She attributes her late father as a driving force in her decision to launch her own company. “I have big plans in the South Bay, so we’re just getting started.”
Cheese Checklist: Solange’s No-fail Picks & Pairings
Bayley Hazen Blue
“It’s a soft, raw, cow’s milk cheese from Jasper Hill Farm in Vermont. This blue has a dense, creamy texture and a grassy, spicy aroma and would pair well with a stout beer or a fruity dessert wine—or even a chunk of dark chocolate. It has a wow-factor that is sure to please any blue lover.”
“This triple cream brie from Île-de-France is incredibly smooth, creamy and buttery. With hints of mushrooms and nuts, this pairs well with a pale ale, fruity wine and, of course, bubbles. It makes for a perfect dessert cheese; however, I wouldn’t be able to wait until dessert.”
Beemster Extra Aged Gouda (X-O)
“It’s a hard cow’s milk cheese from the Netherlands and aged for no less than 26 months, which gives it a deep butterscotch, whiskey and pecan, long-lasting flavor. I love this Gouda for the crunchy crystal bits that can be found nestled in the cheese. It’s an amazing pair with a little fig jam, a dry red wine or dark beer.”
I am glad to count Chef Jason Travi and the team at new Santa Monica hotspot Riva as my friends, so want to acknowledge that bias from the outset. I am rooting for Riva! Not that this second opening from the dream team that brought us Fraîche in Culver City needs it, as their fan base is already quite extensive. Riva is Chef Jason’s spin on Italian coastal cuisine with a nod to some seriously good pizza; with his wife/partner Miho handling pastry, manager Thierry Perez on wine and partner Keith Fox watching vigilantly, this same quartet of talents has finally brought “real” Italian food and wine to Santa Monica.