Wally's is best known for their wine store, and their annual tent sale, on Westwood Boulevard mid-block north of Olympic. Not much of a wine drinker, I stumbled on the real motherlode for me - a lesser known and fairly new part of Wally's that was far more exciting to me - when I happened to drive past the area at lunch one day: Wally's Cheese Box.
An adorable, compact cottage-like extension in the tiny parking lot next to Wally's Wine Store, Wally's Cheese Box is dedicated appropriately to all the beautiful edibles that you would want to enjoy with a good bottle of wine that you've purchased next door (or in my case, enjoy instead of / more than wine!).
The minute you enter, you are greeted by a treasure trove of fantastic cheeses in and out of the glass case that runs the length of the store - pretty much everywhere.
It was like discovering pirate's booty in the desert island of gourmet goods around the Westside Pavilion area - I wanted to dive in, dance and throw everything up in the air from sheer joy, while shouting "it's mine, all mine!" while found gold showers down around me. Aside from cheese-gold there was also a selection of charcuterie and packaged artisanal salami and most importantly...
...FOIE GRAS!!! I can't even name another store in LA where I've seen this accessible to the general public. Sadly I didn't have a cooler that day so didn't get any to take home. But I'd bought some to pan sear this past holiday while in Hong Kong and loved it. I need to come back to Wally's a LOT before July, when California starts to enforce a ridiculous ban on this proof-of-divine-design.
As for cheeses, it was hard to pick just three! But the Wally's staff was super friendly, knowledgeable and helpful - and at their recommendation I went with a cute palm-sized Epoisses en Cru (baby epoisses) $7.99, Fourme D'Ambert (on sale for $14/lb, normally $17/lb), and Truffled Gouda. All gorgeously strong cheeses, the way I like 'em. Loved all three.
(Picture taken after I got home - Wally's Cheese Box is tiny and there isn't any place to sit for a cheese tasting or anything)
To accompany cheeses, there is a very small but eclectic and mouthwatering selection of dry goods you can buy from tubs of marcona almonds, to this fig almond cake from Spain.
Of course crisps / flatbreads / crostinis are also on offer. Rustic Bakery baked goods especially got my attention, including flatbreads with flavors like olive oil & sel gris, sweet onion and creme fraiche. But the MUST GET item from this line is their Tart Cherry Handmade Pan Forte Crostini ($6.49) baked with dried tart bing cherries, natural almonds & Valrhona cacao nibs, flax seed and pumpkin seed in a gorgeous whole wheat cracker - an insane explosion of sour, sweet, earthy, and all kinds of crunchy pure luscious deliciousness in your mouth. From an artisan baker in Marin County. The best crackers I've ever had in my life. These deserve to be served in the bread baskets of the finest restaurants in the city. I finished the whole box in one sitting (with my fourme d'ambert and by itself) and had to go back to Wally's to stock up on more boxes.
Along with all kinds of fruit jams and preserves, there is also a selection of truffle honeys (black and white truffle ones!!!) imported from Italy with beautiful packaging. The giant jar is $29.99, and out of my budget, but the smaller TartufLanghe jar of white truffle honey was more affordable to try (though lower value given volume) at $14.99. Can't wait to try it over a camembert or toast!
Also loved the beautiful jars of artisan salts, some of which I've never heard of either. And there are dried pastas and arborios including ones pre-mixed with porcini mushrooms or truffle!!! (This truffle hog was definitely in heaven at the store)
Another 'best ever' item that I will be returning again for, is their amazing Vermont Cultured Butter, which comes in a cute little palm sized wooden basket and is the perfect balance of sweet and savory, creamy and light - all topped by fleur de sel crystals that add an awesome crunch and bursts of saltiness on the finish. Loved and have become instantly addicted to this butter. Not sure if I can go back to 'normal' kinds...
And last butnot least, I almost forgot - Wally's Cheese Box also serves a small selection of cheese sandwiches To Go. Guess which one I went with? Yep, Grilled Truffled Cheese ($7.99). I didn't catch the name of the cheese they used, but remembered being told it was a variation on Boschetto, a mixed cow & sheep's milk cheese with black and white truffles. Ah-mazing. The only note I had on the sandwich was about the bread - would have loved for there to be more options, but will wait to try the other sandwiches to see if different breads are used. I think what they used was sliced brioche bread - nicely toasted but not super exciting. The cheese was fantastic though - perfectly melted, smooth and creamy and light, and does not congeal quickly into a rubbery, chewy mess like most other grilled cheeses do.
A nice gourmet sandwich option for those who work in the area and want to pick up something quick and easy to eat at their desk, and for under $10. And you get to shop for mind-blowingly delicious snacks too while waiting for your food.
Joan's of Third may have the marketplace cornered, with a much larger selection of imported goods, cafe / deli fare in a lovely setting. But when it comes to a hidden gem of a neighborhood gourmet marketplace for foodies in West LA - Wally's hits the spot.
Update April 2012: They also have this AMAZING black truffle butter (from Savory Farm)!!! Can it be any more gorgeous? (Also, fresh baked baguettes are now available!)
Wally's Cheese Box
2107 Westwood Blvd., Los Angeles, CA 90025