Review: StripCHEESE at Charnel House Goes Above and Brie-yond

Some of the delicious dairy delights on hand for StripCHEESE, a show put on by Erika Kubick of Cheese Sex Death featuring burlesque and beautiful cheeses.

Imagine that you really like cheese. Now, imagine you also enjoy burlesque shows and a nice cocktail or beer now and then. What if I told you that you can get everything you like in one fell swoop by heading over to a former funeral parlor cum performance space on Fullerton, for a devilishly delicious and certainly sinful meeting of a few deadly sins. Well, that happened. This past Friday, The Charnel House hosted Erika Kubick’s delightful brainchild, StripCHEESE, for two seatings full of the finest raclette, cheese plates and sultry entertainment imaginable.

If you’re familiar with Erika Kubick’s work, you’d have had insider information that the event would live up to expectations. Kubick is a self proclaimed cheese advocate and marketing consultant who puts her unique and satisfying spin on the world of bries, camemberts and chevres in her beautifully photographed, educational and salacious blog, Cheese Sex Death, where she offers recommendations on cheese, advice on how to build cheese plates (or even properly cut cheeses), interviews with cheesemongers and producers, recipes and more. She is absolutely someone who knows her cheeses, and her audience.

We waited out a lengthy line at the second sold out seating for StripCHEESE, but forgot any hunger-related frustration as soon as we took our first bites. Several tables and a large wooden coffin (in keeping with the theme, of course) were full to overflow with crumbly blues, blissful bries, chevre and all manner of amazing accompaniments, lovingly selected and presented by Cypress Grove and Emmi Roth. Two of the real standouts among the amazing selections had to have been Cypress Grove’s flagship, Humboldt Fog, a beautifully creamy, flavorful aged goat cheese that’s creamy and delicious on its own, and gorgeous with either sweet or savory pairings, and the absolutely golden, silky love that was Emmi Roth’s raclette.The pairings were perfection, too. One could stroll from start to finish, haphazardly loading up their plates, and not run into an olive, cherry, jam, mustard or cracker that didn’t make beautiful harmonies with the cheeses.

A beautiful raclette by Emmi Roth at StripCHEESE. Photo: Marielle Shaw

Get to the end of the line and that final table, and any number of “Cheese Sluts” in Erika’s cadre of cheese staff were waiting to show you the money shot. Silky, melty, stretchy raclette slowly spilling down over perfectly puffed and sublimely salty pretzel bites, with an incredible stone ground mustard to add into the mix whose tangy notes soared with the rest. The food was decadent–almost too much. And yet, so damn good that you’d gladly stand up and get in line again in full view, letting gluttony reign.

StripCHEESE at Charnel House. Photo: Marielle Shaw

It was half an hour into StripCHEESE and I already felt like I’d won. Truth be told, I also felt a bit naughty, having indulged in all the rich dairy delights, cold beer in hand. Time for burlesque. I confess to not have known what sort of burlesque I was in for. Perhaps, in the classic, dimly lit theater space I thought of feathers and fans and long strings of pearls. What happened instead was…more cheese? As it turned out, every single act on stage for the event was cheese-themed, from grindy mozzerella scenes to racy grating, elegant Cheetos opera, raunchy EZ Cheese numbers and far more than we’d have pictured possible in these colliding worlds.

StripCHEESE at Charnel House. Photo: Marielle Shaw

Emcee and native Chicago burlesque performer Florence of A’labia, a fellow cheese lover, was a great choice for host–funny, endearing and delightfully silly, and each of the acts were a delight. Performers really gave it their all, and cheese and garments flew. The performers themselves were extremely inventive with the cheesy theme, while still bringing the sultry self-confidence and skill burlesque is so well known for along with the laughs and surprises. If you’d come into the event thinking “What a weird combo,” you likely left thinking the same thing, but if you’re like us, with one addition–”but I REALLY like it.”

StripCHEESE is definitely not for the faint of heart, or those who can’t handle pasties and parmesan, for that matter. But if you’re someone who can navigate fantastic cheese and bawdy burlesque all at once, then you’ll be happy to know that this isn’t the last you’ll see of this unusual event. While Kubick has taken off for France for a well-earned vacation, she and her cheeseloving crew will be working on what’s next before too long. If you want to stay informed and get a bite of the good stuff next time around, make sure to head to Cheese Sex Death for updates, or watch our calendar. And, if you’re interested in knowing more about Erika, her blog and her mission in life, don’t miss our interview with her.

Marielle Bokor
Marielle Bokor