Berkeley | The Cheese Board Collective.
On any given day, the classroom chalkboard at this worker-owned co-op in the Gourmet Ghetto lists 300 to 400 cheeses from all over the world. The best way to shop is to take advantage of the employees’ knowledge and let them surprise you with a kind you’ve never tasted before. Our pick: The in-house bakery’s sourdough cheese roll, so rich and savory that the staff nicknamed it the vegetarian pork chop. 1504 Shattuck Ave.; cheeseboardcollective.coop
Sonoma | The Epicurean Connection (pictured). A few steps from the Sonoma Square, this market/cafe run by cheesemaker Sheana Davis brims with her hand-chosen small-batch selections. It’s a task she’s well suited for, as Davis knows not only the local creamery owners but also the goats, cows, and sheep. Our pick: Davis’s own Crème de Fromage, drizzled in local honey and homemade raspberry–rose petal jam. 122 W. Napa St.; 707/935-7960.