Cheeseless in Los Angeles

Italico cheese...
Image by Getty Images via Daylife

LA, you know I have much love for you, but some days…some days lady, you really work my nerve.

I’m trying to make some cheese.  It’s really basic: salt, milk and rennet. It’s finding the rennet that is making my head explode. When I was a kid, we learned how to make this cheese from an Egyptian lady.  Luckily the halal meat market in Diamond Bar (shout out to the Jibanis!) carried it, so it was no problem to get it and we made this cheese almost weekly. But all the Eid ul-Fitr festivities are this weekend so there is no way in hell I’m driving out to Diamond Bar for some plant extract. So, I turned to the internet.

I didn’t want to order it online, because I wanted to make the cheese today. Yesterday, I figured if I posted the question to Twitter which also feeds directly to my FriendFeed account then I’d get a response and pick it up in the afternoon. You’d think with all these self-described LA-based “foodies” who follow me on both services, that someone could have pointed me to a local store. I received exactly zero whole responses.

Today, I was reduced to actually using my phone to make calls.  Calling around for rennet in this city is both a beautiful reminder of how many accents there are and a jolt of reality that way too many people lack basic listening skills.  Most people were helpful and I applaud them for their efforts to understand my needs.  Unfortunately, the Pavilions in South Pasadena took horrible customer service and head-banging-on-the-desk stupidity into levels not seen since last night’s debates.  In a rush to get me off the phone when I asked the operator for ‘vegetable rennet tablets’, the lady tried to force me on to the pharmacy.  After having to raise my voice to talk over her incessant babble, I explained that the rennet would be used for making cheese. “Oh, I know. I’ll pass you to—.”


A new voice appeared on the line, “Produce, how can I help you?”


Did she just pass me to produce because she heard the word ‘vegetable’? Why yes she did.  I spent close to 12 minutes on the phone and spoke with 7 people.  No one knew what I was talking about, but after awhile another lady got on the phone and asked me what I needed.  She then had me hold for almost 2 seconds and came back ‘My supervisor says we don’t have it. Bye!’ and hung up. Now we all know there is no way she asked, let alone got an answer in that time.

I’ve called other halal meat markets, but there’s none close to me who sell rennet.  The kosher markets are all on the other side of town and will be closed by the time I get there.  None of the Indian grocers around me sell it either.

Now, it’s personal LA. I overlook the fact that you can’t get a decent cheesesteak or pizza in this town. I overlook the people who wear scarves and boots in the summer.  I overlook the traffic, the crowds, the local government.  But no one or nothing gets between me and cheese.  You hear that Los Angeles? I will not be forced to drive to Diamond Bar this weekend, someone out there knows where I can buy some vegetable rennet (liquid or tablets, I don’t care) tonight. Someone out there feels my pain.

7 thoughts on “Cheeseless in Los Angeles”

  1. I was with you up until:

    I overlook the fact that you can’t get a decent cheesesteak or pizza in this town.

    C’mon, you’re not seriously going there are you? I know east coasters who swear by Fredo’s, and you’re out of your mind if you’re saying Mario Batali himself isn’t making decent pizza at Mozza. Maybe you can’t get what you think is a perfect cheesesteak or slice, but saying you can’t even get a “decent” example is just plain hyperbole.

    But, to get back on topic, did you try the Cheese Store of Silverlake? I think they carry other things besides cheese itself.

  2. Wish I could help on the rennet but never made cheese. Can I learn from you?
    I hear that there is a place in Pas near the Gold Line that does a good cheesesteak sandwich from Aaron Proctor. He’s from Philly so I’d lend it more than a little credence. My cousin’s wife is from Philly and I can ask here who around here makes a good cheesesteak as well. She runs a circuit with her acting from OC to here to Sherman Oaks/Noho Arts.

  3. Oh yeah…asking Pavilions for anything out of the ordinary is beyond stooopid since they changed to the total Safeway product line. Barf.

  4. Spencer, I am not a fan of Fredo’s though I eat there and I do understand why people gush over it, but I’ve had way better pizza in Denmark. And you don’t want to hear my rants on Mozza.

    I did call the Cheese Store. The guy who answered had no idea what I was talking about. A friend is going in tomorrow, so I’ll see what she says.

    Fraz, I think I know what cheesesteak place you’re talking about. I think it’s the same place we go to. And sure I can show you how to make the cheese. If I ever get the rennet, I’ll make a little video. It’s amazingly simple and so tasty.

  5. I overlook the fact that you can’t get a decent cheesesteak or pizza in this town.
    I’m with Spencer on this one. Dunno about cheesesteak, but I’ve had some damn good pizza in LA.

    I overlook the people who wear scarves and boots in the summer.
    OK, this I feel ya.

    I was going to mention some of the kosher stores in Miracle Mile-ish carry it, but I see you didn’t want to drive cross town. Well…for next time….

  6. drewbage, thanks for the tip.

    lisabee, yes, i didn’t want to drive across town. and since it was a friday and holiday celebrations, i didn’t want to risk it. but i have a dentist appointment on that side of town on tuesday, so i’ll check out the stores then.

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