I am not the sort of person who can walk by a cheese shop without going in. That’s what led me through a red door to discover the perfect sandwich: Quickes Cheddar, Marmite, avocado, and watercress pressed into a crusty baguette.
At Wedge and Fig, a new cheese shop and cafe in Philadelphia's Old City, this is called The Ex-Pat. It could also be called The Diary of Mary Quicke, after the British cheesemaker who makes this gorgeous clothbound cheese on her family's 450-year-old farm and blogs about it.
At Wedge and Fig, the cheese sandwich has been redazzled. Consider The Blue Fig, a shmear of Fourme D’Ambert with fig spread and prosciutto on pretzel bread.
Then there’s The Betty Draper – truffled egg salad (no cheese) and coins of thinly shaved cuke, served with a side of candy cigarettes.
Wedge and Fig impresses me as the sort of shop that mixes all the right vibes: it’s a little bit Left Bank -- think artists, streams of sunlight, a cafe garden bordered by fire escapes -- and a little bit lipstick. You’re just as likely to see a shop girl carrying a dog in her purse as you are to see a hipster with a drawing tablet.
The staff knows and loves its cheese. The front case keeps clear of deli ruckus – thank gawd – to keep the focus on interesting beauties: from gooey Pont l'Eveque to my favorite toasty Gouda, Old Amsterdam. A wildly large wedge of Quickes Cheddar lives front and center.
To encourage cheese and lounging, the café stays open late on Fridays and Saturdays (until 8 p.m.) to serve custom cheese boards. Bring in a bottle of wine, and you can have a cheese plate made to match. It's served on a slate with chalk-drawn arrows to show you the order in which to eat each selection.
Desserts made by Rebecca Torpie (above, right), formerly of Flying Monkey Bakery, should not be skipped, in particular her tuffet of goat cheesecake topped with caramel. And don't forget to check out the back garden -- down a dark alley just to the left of the shop.