If you need any proof of American exceptionalism as we approach the 4th, look no further than the cheese fry. In other, less American parts of the world, the cheese fries that you find would be relegated to quick, cheap snack food. You wouldn't find them drizzled with truffle oil and taking up menu space next to scalllop gnocchi or roasted duck. But hey, this is the land of the free, so why not upscale cheese fries onto a bistro menu? That's what I tried earlier this week at Kingston Station, a Boston restaurant where I work as a host. And because we're also the land of the brave, I topped off the experience with the new cheese fries from Wendy's across the corner, to nestle back into the fast food lowbrow.
How did they compare?
"I opened during the worst part of the recession," Laura Downey says with a chuckle as a coda. Such a statement of entrepreneurial horror isn't often followed with a gentle laugh, but Downey has earned that right. For her, the recession isn't an excuse for a failed business, but something that she has succeeded in spite of. She is the co-owner with Chris Palumbo of the thriving Fairfield Cheese Company in Fairfield, Connecticut, a shop bringing the best in artisan and locally produced cheeses to the Connecticut suburb.
My first, and most lasting impression of Savenor's Market in the Beacon Hill neighborhood of Boston, was their meat cooler. Yak steaks, ostrich burgers, rattlesnake - it's not the same selection of products found at say, Shaw's. And while its menagerie of meats might grab attention first, its cheese selection is not to be overlooked, and packs as many surprises.
On a wall before checkout, blocks of cheese stand like soldiers in tightly packed columns, marked by index cards penned by neat handwriting. This selection has been curated by Diana Deming, who is in her third year of cheesemongery at the market. Under Deming's tutelage, you will be hard pressed to find a Kraft Single or string cheese.
"I try to explain to them that I'm selling cheese that you can't usually get at a supermarket," Deming says of confused customers looking for nothing more than Monterey Jack.
How would you describe the flavor of cheese?
It's an impossible question. You can certainly elaborate on the tastes of cheese varieties, the sharpness of a blue vein, spicy kick of jalapeno, or flavor of an ale wash. But trying to define the basic taste of cheese itself is impossible, no easier than trying to tell you what red looks like.
Cheese's' avoidance of being captured by words or trapped by sentences can make writing about cheese difficult, but I'm viewing that as a challenge as I began writing and blogging here at Culture. As a budding writer and foodie, I hope to learn how to better capture food through language, and learn more about what makes cheese such a unique, undefinable treat.
I hope that you will join me.