Yesterday, I was in dreamland. I was at Formaggio Kitchen in Cambridge, a much-loved cheese shop of culture staff and Boston foodies. Walk 20 minutes outside of bustling Harvard Square and you’ll find a temple of gourmet food. Chocolate, jams, and jellies line the walls alongside wooden crates of locally sourced fruits and veggies. And then there’s the cheese. What a sight! I felt immediately transported back to Paris, where I spent four months on a semester abroad. One sample of Brillat Savarin and I was back to the City of Light.
Places like Formaggio Kitchen are a hard find in the U.S, but throw a stone anywhere in Paris and you’re bound to hit one. While in Paris, I was lucky enough to live 15 minutes away from one of the best fromageries in Paris, Fromagerie Quatrehomme. Entering through the dark green façade was like entering the most elusive cheese club. I was intimidated at first, not knowing much about cheese or confident in my French. On my first visit, I chose a small wedge of Brie de Melun, thinking that was a safe choice since brie is generally on the mild side. Yet while there, my eyes didn’t know where to look. They darted from cheese to cheese–there was their famous St. Marcellin and pungent Roquefort. Everyone seemed to know what they wanted as they ordered. I needed to grab a chair and sit in front of the cheese case for a good half hour to decide. On subsequent visits, I decided it was best to know what cheese to chose beforehand. On one occasion, I picked up a fat slice of Reblochon to make Tartiflette. The aforementioned Brillat Savarin remains one of my favorite cheeses while in Paris. It’s like the best cream cheese you’ve ever tasted.
Since I’ve been back in the U.S., I have been more aware of cheese and high-quality food. (And interning at a cheese magazine certaintly helps). In the U.S., I think we’re in the midst of experiencing a renaissance of European-style shops. Whether it be cheese or coffee or fancy cocktails, people care more about their food and where it comes from. And it’s great for the people behind the counter, too. Being a cheesemonger or a butcher are cool jobs, and I’ve seen more young people in those positions.
I miss the outdoor markets and specialty shops in Paris. I also miss market streets like Rue Mouffetard and Rue des Martyrs, where you’ll find tantalizing food just waiting to be scooped up for an impromptu picnic. But with places like Formaggio Kitchen, I feel closer to Paris.