The cheese of La Mancha

Cheese is a food that makes you want it so bad, it has been compared—by scientists, no less—to morphine and heroin. In fact there was a heroin-based drug going around Texas a few years back that mixed the deadly narcotic with over-the-counter cold medicine. That drug’s street name? Cheese.

But unlike hard drugs, cheese is easy to consume in moderation. Especially during happy hour, when smaller sized samplings of the world’s best dairy products are doled out at a discount. Here are some of Seattle’s notable HH cheese platters. Consume with caution.

Tucked into a few narrow rooms of a Madrona bungalow, with white-washed walls and a chalkboard menu and the cutest owners—a very young couple who wouldn’t know pretension if it smacked them across the face with the last issue of Wine SpectatorBottlehouse is a total charmer. During a daily happy hour from 5 to 7pm, cheeses are $3.50 per ounce or $10 for three. On offer: fleur d’aunis, a lovely semi-soft with a distinctive nutty flavor; a Gouda-style goat cheese; and the decadent Pierre Robert triple-creme.

I like to pop into Fonte from time to time after work and order up the $6 cheese plate during the daily HH from 5 to 6:30pm. It’s chef’s choice but often includes one of my favorite cheeses, tomme de savoie, plus a healthy hunk of funky blue. It comes with a few slices of bread and, for garnish, golden raisins, cranberries, Marcona almonds, and two mild peppers.

Toulouse Petit has seven cheeses on the HH menu from France, Switzerland, and, in the case of saveur du maquis, Corsica. Saveur du maquis is a sheep’s milk cheese with a rind coated in herbs like rosemary and juniper along with maquis, an aromatic plant indigenous to the storied island where it is manufactured. Amazing. These cheeses are three for $7.50 or five for $12 during happy hour.

I have a theory that the powers that be at Maximilien assign servers to the happy hour shift upstairs as punishment for serving the potage in the wrong bowl or something. In any case they are often in a bad mood, acting every bit the surly French waiters of legend. Such abuse is endured in order to get a nibble of the assiette de fromages, a selection of French cheese arranged on a platter like numbers on a clock face. This generous treat is just $7 during happy hour—5 to 7pm on weekdays and Saturdays from 8 to 10pm.

When I lived in Spain I was tasked, by the university I “attended,” to read Don Quijote in Spanish. That took me nearly all of my six-month stay there (long book, foreign language, cocktails to drink) but when I did hand in my final paper—which I’m sure was a fascinating read indeed—some friends took me to La Mancha to celebrate. I came back to Madrid with a tiny ceramic windmill and a big barny hunk of Manchego. The sweet memory of that cheese I relive at Lecosho, where Manchego is drizzled with honey, accessorized by Marconas, and sold for $7 during HH. Spring for a demi-baguette of Columbia City bread for $3 more.