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Shop Talk: La Montañita Co-Op in Albuquerque, N.M.

Meg Creaturo of La Montañita

La Montañita translates to “little hill,” but this New Mexican co-op is having a big impact on area food producers. It started 40 years ago in a small storage space on the corner of Central and Girard in Albuquerque, where 30 families came to buy fruits and vegetables. La Montañita then moved to new digs on Nob Hill. Today, that flagship and five other locations in Albuquerque, Gallup, and Santa Fe specialize in all things local—with a few select imports mixed in—and strive to make healthy and environmentally friendly food accessible and affordable. (La Montañita Co-op also owns the Cooperative Distribution Center in Albuquerque, a warehouse that sources produce from farmers within a 300-mile radius and distributes it to wholesale markets across the state.)

Meg Creaturo helms the meat and cheese department at La Montañita’s Westside outpost and works with local farmers and foreign markets to fill the store’s six-foot glass cheese case and cheese “island,” a cooler with a 360-degree display. “I don’t think you have to look that far to find an amazing product,” Creaturo says.

culture: What’s your favorite local dairy product to recommend to people?
Meg Creaturo: You’re going to make me pick? We have a lot of great chèvre in New Mexico. If I had to name my absolute favorite, I would probably say the one from Old Windmill Dairy. They’re located in Estancia, and they mix flavors into their original chèvre. Their Chili & Hot Chèvre is made with New Mexico green chilies. It’s one of my favorites. It just tastes so good with the cool chèvre and the hot chilies—and it’s all local.

culture: What’s the best part of working in the cheese department?
MC: My favorite thing is when somebody will come in from—for example—Sweden looking for a certain kind of cheese . . . and I find it for him or her. I think that’s one of my favorite parts of working at the co-op, just being there to talk to the customers and help them find exactly what they’re looking for, especially when I get to help somebody find something they haven’t had in a long time.

culture: Any unusual pairings you’ve tried that really work?
MC: We get these great Colorado peaches every year, and peaches and blue cheese is one of my all-time favorite pairings. You take a nice tangy blue cheese to go with the sweet, delicious juiciness of the peach. It’s killer every time.

La Montañita
3601 Old Airport Ave. N.W.
Albuquerque, N.M.
505.503.2550; and other locations

Mon.–Sun. 7 a.m.–10 p.m.

Tori Bilcik

Tori is a senior journalism major at Emerson College and a firm believer that a handful (or three) of cheese can instantly improve any dish. When she’s not scouring the artisan cheese aisle at Roche Brothers for wheels and wedges she can’t afford, she’s probably drinking tea, eating cheap pizza, or listening to sad emo punk music.

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