Cheese, Please: Shopping at The Rhined in Cincinnati
Some people find their passion in decidedly unusual places. Such was the case for Stephanie Webster, who discovered her love of cheese not at a cheese counter or wine bar, but in a laboratory.
“I was a biology undergrad; in one of my microbiology labs we made cheese and yogurt, and they were really good,” she says. “It got me thinking about fermentation and how magical [milk] is.”
Webster started making her own yogurt, cheese and butter as a hobby while attending grad school, sourcing raw milk from a local farm and warming it next to the heater in her apartment. She went on to teach high school biology, instructing her students on how to make cheese in a lab project just as she had. Ultimately, the lure of cheese proved to be too strong to resist and Webster decided to switch gears: She left the education field for fermentation.
“I found myself wanting to be in the cheese world, where I could explore the food more,” she says. So Webster and her husband sat down and came up with a business plan—“It kept escalating and then all of a sudden we had a cheese shop.”
That shop, The Rhined, opened in 2017. It’s housed in a historic building in the Over-the-Rhine neighborhood (hence the name), the historically German working-class enclave north of downtown Cincinnati, which has seen a resurgence in recent years. The Rhined sits across the street from Findlay Market, Ohio’s oldest open-air market, and has quickly become part of the bustling local scene.
“Over-the-Rhine has definitely been undergoing a renaissance. There are a lot of new businesses opening and tons of great food and shopping,” Webster says. “It has really good vibes.”
Webster describes The Rhined as a European-style shop—one that gets its cheese primarily from small purveyors “who care for their land and care for their animals.” The cheeses on hand are mostly American, however, with a few European “oddities” to round things out, and Webster makes fresh, non-milk cheeses, including a pimento cheese, in-house, as well. All of the cheese at The Rhined is cut to order and stored in the largest form possible until then.
Of course, what’s cheese without wine? Luckily, The Rhined also sells wines by the bottle and by the glass. All of the available vinos are organic and biodynamic and come from areas such as France, Italy and Spain that are known for their superior cheeses, so picking the perfect pairing is a no-brainer.
Customers can pop in for a bottle of wine and some cheese to take away or sit down at the counter in the cozy confines of the shop, order wine or craft beer by the glass, snack on a custom cheese flight and watch the cheesemongers work their magic.
“We’re always busy taking the big wheels of cheese out and slicing them; it’s kind of like dinner and a show when you sit at the counter,” Webster says, adding that there’s also a small courtyard out back for those who want to enjoy their repast al fresco.
Want to be in the know about all things wine and cheese? The Rhined hosts regular classes, boasts a Cheese of the Month Club and offers catering, complete with recyclable, compostable cheeseboards. Folks who haven’t yet paid a visit to the shop may have already sampled its wares: The Rhined supplies cheese to many area restaurants and wine bars.
Images courtesy of Attilio D’Agostino.