I can pinpoint my delicious downward spiral into fromage addiction to the Cheese 101 class I took (and wrote about) a few months back at Forward Foods (123 E. Main in Norman; 321- 0007 and 5123 N. Western; 879-9937). Cheese with honey and preserved walnuts? Dear God, how had no one told me about these combinations before?

Gourmet foods can give some people the shakes (kind of like me if I go too long without some piave vecchio or garrotxa cheeses), but there’s really no reason to be nervous. For the most part, the employees working behind the counter are helpful, nice and wonderfully nonjudgmental. That garrotxa, for example: The lovely people at Forward Foods include a phonetic spelling on the identification card. And although I still screw it up, they don’t seem to mind.

The Gourmet Gallery (1532 S.

Boulevard; 715-3663 in Edmond and 2820 N.W. 122nd; 751-7700) has two locations, both following the same mission: unique, specialty products with a healthy focus on Made in Oklahoma.

From making cocktails to buying cookies, Gourmet Gallery have a wonderful selection, including olive oils, sauces, chocolates and cheeses. It does gift baskets (made in store and available online) and has a membership club that, for a small monthly fee, will have you in gourmet food all year long.

I can pinpoint my delicious downward spiral into fromage addiction.

Also in Edmond, Epicurean’s Pantry (1333 N. Santa Fe; 471-5777) focuses on artisan products and fare from local companies and growers.

It runs foodie classes (last week was a cheese-and-beer pairing with Super Bowl appetizers) and has a Cheese of the Month club. Yes! With two different packages, the club includes tasting notes, pairing suggestions, exclusive cheeses (ooh, like a cheese VIP area) and a discount in the store.

In Norman, I can’t leave off The International Pantry (1618 W. Lindsey; 360-0765), which has been putting out gourmet food and kitchenware since 1978. The shop has a large online store — looking for copper cleaner or a spaghetti measure? The Pantry has it — and also runs cooking classes. Upcoming ones include dim sum and Spanish tapas.

Back at Forward Foods in OKC, I love the big metal drums of oils — look for EVOO, as well as grapeseed oil and even pure vanilla extract — with two sizes of containers to fill. And the food bar? Heaven. There’s always different types of olives and other treats (like roasted garlic cloves). When I visited, options included green olives stuffed with bleu cheese, a pitted olive Greek mix and dolma.

Forward Foods has an eye on healthy, so it’s a great place to go for some bulk grains and nuts, like organic quinoa and rolled oats. But it’s not all granola. I’ve been slowly making my way through the specialty sodas and chocolates for the past few months. So far, the Chocolove bars have my heart — mmm, Toffee & Almonds — as do the 100-percent-natural Grown-up Soda (GuS) and the classic San Pellegrino.

And now, I’m hungry.

Jenny Coon Peterson

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