Wednesday Nights are for Raclette at OTR’s The Rhined
The Rhined is a little slice of cheese heaven located across from Findlay Market. The artisan shop stocks a collection of the best hand-selected domestic cheeses; you’ll find farmhouse cheddar, Humboldt fog, Brie, blue and more from Austin, Ky.’s Kenny’s Farmhouse Cheese, California’s Cypress Grove Creamery, Indianapolis’ Tulip Tree Creamery and others, plus wine, beer, nuts, olives and jams to accompany the dairy of your dreams.
On top of their excellent selection of cheese, which you can grab to go by weight or eat inside on a curated cheese board, they also offer sandwiches, adult "lunchables" and specialty nights like Raclette Night, where on Wednesday nights from 5-7 p.m. they heat and scrape raclette cheese (a type of Swiss) onto a selection of goodies like potatoes, veggies and charcuterie.
We emailed with The Rhined's co-owner and cheesemonger Stephanie Webster about the inspiration for starting Raclette Night and why more things aren't just entirely covered in melted cheese at all times.
CityBeat: What inspired you guys to start doing a Raclette Night?
Stephanie Webster: The satisfaction of seeing (and eating) a huge hunk of melted cheese scraped right off of a bubbling wheel, for sure. Our first Raclette Night was actually a pop-up held at Rhinegeist long before we opened the shop, where we found out how the smell of raclette can really permeate a room (sorry 'bout that, Rhinegeist). I love raclette because it is such a simple food — cheese on boiled potatoes — but it's so warm and comforting on a cold winter night. We wanted to bring the Swiss Alps to Cincinnati!
CB: Can you explain what raclette is? Or where the concept came from? Is it a French thing? New York thing?
SW: Raclette is a Swiss/French Alp tradition. Everything in raclette is called raclette: the cheese, the dish, the knife, the warmer, the tradition. Raclette comes from the French word "racler" which means "scrape." This cheese is literally made to heat over an open fire and scrape on potatoes. And so after a long day of skiing in the Alps, people sit together and enjoy melty cheese.
CB: How does the actual melting process work? What is that cool heat machine at the end of the bar?
SW: Since we can't have an open fire in our shop, we picked up a raclette machine from France. We stick a 10 pound half wheel of cheese on it and let it melt to perfection.
CB: What all can people melt 'dat cheese on top of? Is it the same selection every week?
SW: We honor the simplicity of the dish and serve it in a very traditional way. Potatoes, ham and some of our house mustard and pickles. You can opt for a veggie version without the ham.
CB: Also, your pickled veggies were awesome. You pickle those yourself?
SW: My husband is going to be so happy to hear this! He has been pickling things for years so he was stoked to be tasked with pickling for the shop. We do a pickled mix of veggies for raclette that includes red peppers, cauliflower, carrots and Dave's brine, the recipe of which he keeps super secret. We also serve our house pickles on our cheese flights and boards.
CB: There are some specific suggested wines on the info sheet at the cash register. Are those selected to complement the cheese? We ended up getting three bottles of that French white. Very, very good.
SW: In Switzerland, you have to drink wine with raclette. The cheese is so high in fat and at that altitude your blood will congeal, so you have to drink wine to thin the blood. Our wines we selected complement the dish — we went with a Savoie white from a little town at the base of the Alps and a funky French Bourgogne Rouge. The white wine pairing is our favorite though. It's so refreshing and the acidity really cuts through all of that rich cheese. Glad you loved it!
CB: Have you guys been selling out? Or like any recommendations for people to get there early to get a seat?
SW: We do occasionally sell out. We prep a limited amount of potatoes, so once they are gone, we are done. It's always good to get there early. We have a tiny cheese shop so it only seats about 16 people. They turn over quickly, though.
CB: Unrelated, but tell me about your sandwich of the week offerings. It looked liked pimento is always available for veg-heads, but how do you decide on what the other rotating sandwich offerings are?
SW: During the week, we have a rotating sandwich for lunch. Ideas for the sandwich come from seasonal availability of ingredients, what we are loving in the (cheese) case right then and classics. We make them all with cheeses and meats from our case, so all the ingredients are really high quality and delicious! I post the sandwich of the week offering on Instagram every Tuesday morning and it runs through Friday.
CB: Anything else readers should know about raclette or The Rhined?
SW: We do Raclette Night and sandwiches, but first and foremost, we are a place to come explore cheese and wine. Our case is always full of very, very cool cheeses and we also double as a wine shop. The cheeses we choose to put in our case come from small producers who have natural and ethical husbandry practices — those cows, goats, sheep and water buffalo are happy and healthy. The wine we put on our shelf comes from family-run wineries with biodynamic farming practices. While we take our sourcing practices very seriously, we don't get snobby about cheese. We just love it.
The Rhined is located at 1737 Elm St., Over-the-Rhine. More info: facebook.com/therhined.| Photos by Hailey Bollinger