By Lisa Britton

For the Baker City Herald

Cody Cook’s smile is almost as big as the wheel of Parmesan-Reggiano cheese.

Just almost though — at nine inches tall that cheese would be hard to match.

Cook opened The Cheese Fairy in downtown Baker City on May 4, and she had a grand opening May 26 during which she cracked open the 80-pound wheel of Parmesan-Reggiano.

She sold 70 pounds of cheese during that opening, 10 pounds of that being the Parmesan.

Cook, 30, grew up in Keating. She discovered her love of cheese at age 9 when she tasted a baked cheese dish in an abalone shell at a restaurant in Halfway.

She’s worked as a professional with cheese for six years — four of those at The Welsh Rabbit in Colorado and the rest at Bella Main Street Market in Baker City.

In 2017, Cook earned distinction as a certified cheese professional through the American Cheese Society (that involved passing a test that required many hours of study).

Now she’s opened her own cheese shop — the only one, she said, along Interstate 84 between Portland and Boise.

“I’ve been talking about it for years. There are a lot of people who love cheese,” she said.

The Cheese Fairy is in the same building where her brother, Travis Cook, operates the Copper Belt Winery tasting room at 1937 Main St.

Cody Cook orders cheeses by the wheel or blocks, which she cares for to keep as fresh as possible (such as turning the cheese every week, and keeping it properly wrapped).

“You’re extending the life of the cheese, the flavor, the aroma,” she said. “If you care for it properly, it’ll last.”

She orders cheese through an importer in Seattle.

“They have over 2,000 cheeses,” she said.

Her plan is to make a trip there once a month, but demand for cheese has surpassed her expectations and she’s made the drive every two weeks since opening.

The cheeses she stocks are “traditional to their region and staples in the cheese world.”

“These are all my favorites,” she said. “I’ve tried 400 cheeses and remember them all.”

And she’s not done yet.

“There is still so much that I can learn,” she said. “I have a whole library of cheese books.”

Right now she has cheese from the United States (including four made in Oregon), Croatia, Italy, Spain, France, Germany and Holland.

The wheel of Parmesan- Reggiano, for instance, came from Parma, Italy, where the raw milk is made from dairies located within five miles of the creamery.

Each cheese in the case is accompanied by a label with its name, origin, the type of rennet used, the milk, and pairing/tasting notes. Milk sources are cow, goat, sheep and water buffalo.

One cheese she currently stocked called Fourmage is made with all four of those milks.

Cook is happy to let customers sample cheeses before buying, and then she wraps up purchases in a special paper made in Quebec, Canada.

“It’s microporous paper that allows oxygen to come and go without trapping moisture,” she said. “It’s basically giving it a protective rind.”

At home, she recommends storing cheese, in that special paper, in the crisper drawer of the refrigerator.

Since opening, the top three customer favorites have been Buttermilk Blue, Prima Donna (a gouda/parmesan cross), and Campo de Montalban made in La Mancha, Spain.

“Blue cheese is a big seller for me,” she said.

In addition to slicing chunks for home use, Cook offers cheese plates to be eaten at the shop (she said many are enjoyed with a glass of Copper Belt wine). She can also create cheese platters for parties and plans to offer gift boxes and baskets for the holidays.

She’ll be rotating cheeses through her shop, too. One she hopes to bring in soon is called Kokonos, a gouda made with cow’s milk and coconut milk.

The Cheese Fairy is open from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday, and noon to 5 p.m. Sunday. The shop is closed on Mondays.

For more information, find her page on Facebook (The Cheese Fairy - cheese shop). A website is also in the works.