What to Pack: Choose Your Own Cheese Adventure This Season

The trustiest wedges to pack for outdoor adventures, from hikes in the redwoods to oysters by the coast.

A cheese board with soft, hard and fresh cheeses, with flowers and snap peas at edge of frame

Photo by Kyle Hittner

The Bi-Rite cheese department has a tried-and-tasted selection of 150 to 175 cheeses, sourced everywhere from the foggy coast of California to the green alps of Switzerland. Unlike other markets with an overwhelming array, cheese category manager Jon Fancey deliberately stays focused. You won’t find 40 types of Gouda, but rather hand-selected recommendations. “It truly is thoughtfully curated,” Fancey says. He prioritizes guests’ needs by carefully weighing affordability and availability. “We really want to present the most well made, best tasting example of any cheese.”

This time of year, what cheese lovers need is packing tips. As the weather warms up and people start planning outdoor adventures, many ask about the best cheese for travel. The team can happily suggest the trustiest wedges to go, whether you’re packing up a cooler to walk to the park, shouldering a backpack for a hike in the redwoods, or loading the car for a day of wine tasting or oyster slurping.

The essentials: Fancey recommends two to four cheeses for feeding up to eight people. This time of year, he includes crowd pleasers as well as lush goat cheese and grassy Comté. Round out the tote bag with seasonal produce such as sweet strawberries or peppery radishes, and tuck in a classic baguette or seedy crackers. Then grab a bottle of wine to wash it all down.

You can’t take a wrong turn. Here’s how to choose your own cheese adventure, with one of these fresh menus.

A jar and a plate of Meredith Dairy marinated goat cheese on a marble countertop

Meredith Dairy

Chill Cheeses for the Park & Beach

It’s a quintessential Bi-Rite experience to pack a picnic and walk it around the corner to Dolores Park or Alamo Square, and the same set of cheeses would happily go to the beach. If you’re carrying a cooler, “It’s sort of like take whatever you want,” Fancey says. And with options open, “People do love softer, gooier cheeses.”

Local goat cheese gets extra lush now that the goats are out of the barn and munching on fresh grass. A Comté hits those high notes from the alps, and marinated cubes come conveniently packed in olive oil and herbs. Snack on sweet strawberries and crunchy sugar snaps, and think outside of the box of crackers with fun potato chips. Plus all those fresh flavors call for a green bottle of Gruner, which costs less than 20 bucks.

A wedge of Quicke’s mature cheddar on a wooden plank


Sturdy Cheeses for Hiking & Camping

Cheese can totally come hiking or camping, even without any refrigeration. “Well yeah, you can enjoy cheese at room temperature,” Fancey reassures. “It’s okay if cheese is out of the fridge for a day. If you’re planning on eating it — that’s always the caveat.”

Go for a Gouda so firm and rich that you can almost taste the cows chomping wildflowers (Wilde Weida literally means “wild meadow” in Dutch). A proper clothbound Cheddar crumbles into sharp bites, while a young Manchego boasts big butterfat flavor. Forage for fruits and nuts with a handful of almonds, spoonful of inky black cherry jam, and seedy crackers. And a canned Zinfandel blend just might be the best thing to happen to camping since the invention of Gore-Tex.

Three squares of Point Reyes Toma cheese with honeycomb on top

Point Reyes

Local Cheeses for Wine Tasting & Oyster Slurping

What is a roadtrip to wine country without a cheese snack? “If the idea is that you’re enjoying another agricultural product of Northern California, in that sense, I’m going to suggest cheeses that are also from California,” Fancey says. And if you’re going to slurp oysters at Hog Island, Point Reyes creamery is only six miles away, so it’s worth getting a full taste of the bay.

You can never go wrong with crowd-pleasing triple-cream Mt Tam from Cowgirl Creamery. The Point Reyes Toma is so simple and striking it pairs beautifully with most tastings. And the Point Reyes Blue is a California original with big briny character and a smooth creaminess. In the back of the car, tuck in a classic baguette, a bag of local almonds, and some peppery radishes. You might not need to bring a bottle if you’re headed to a wine tasting, but it’s worth chasing little oysters with sudsy bubbles.

These cheeses and accompaniments are all available at Bi-Rite Markets. If you have any questions, don’t hesitate to ask the cheese team, who’d be happy to help you find a wedge to enjoy.

Becky Duffett is a food writer living and eating in San Francisco. Follow her on Instagram at @beckyduffett.