Reporting from Bra, Italy: 2013, The Year of American Cheese | culture: the word on cheese
☰ menu   

Reporting from Bra, Italy: 2013, The Year of American Cheese

A picture perfect moment: new world cheese in very much an old world setting. When Ihsan and I first visited Bra, the show was very much for Italian and European cheeses. How times have changed! We are so proud to see our friends from the United States showing off how far we have come as cheese makers and how much we have learned from traditional cheesemaking, and have reinvented tradition to create delicious handmade cheese with an American twist.  An example of this that is close to the heart of the Formaggio Kitchen Family- in the early 2000s when Michael Lee of Twig Farm was our cheese buyer, we sent him to Bra. There, he took advantage of the cheesemaking classes- and look at what he makes now!

In recent years we have had various friends with cheese stores in Europe ask how they can get American cheeses to Europe so they can sell them. To me this speaks volumes about how far American cheeses have come.

It is with great pride I have been watching the movement here in the US as more and more people are producing high quality products- not just cheese but coffee, bean to bar chocolate, charcuterie to rival any in Europe, pickles, jams in small batches.

What a small world it is: To be in the shop in Boston and have the cheese of our European friends on the counter, and to be in Bra, and have the cheese made by Andy Hatch in Wisconsin nearby showcasing his raw-milk Alpine style Pleasant Ridge.  Even though his Vacherin-style Rush Creek will not be available those in the know eagerly await its arrival.

Also here are our friends from Jasper Hill and Vermont Butter and Cheese. The West Coast contingents are Cowgirl Creamery and Rogue Creamery.

The response to our cheeses, that is, American cheeses, has been tremendous, but it is easy to be boastful when describing the American contingency at the show.  Very little is sold in Europe, mostly due to the high cost.  Martin from Neal’s Yard Dairy told me they do a nice volume of Rogue Creamery during the Holiday season. Laurent Dubois in Paris occasionally sells some American cheeses and our good friend Pascal Trotté in the Marais, before he sold his shop, loved to have some Cabot cheddar in house.

It is this intimacy with the producer and the food that makes the industry and this juxtaposition of distance and familiarity that show us how special our connection is with these producers of artisanal food products. These small relationships helps to make our world feel just a little bit friendlier, and a little smaller, which makes me feel a little more connected to it all.

Valerie Gurdal

Valerie was born and raised in Miami, Fla. In 1980 Valerie spent six months living in Madrid with her aunt and uncle. While living in Madrid Valerie developed a love for the daily market experience each morning she visited her local cheesemonger, baker, meat purveyor and the various fruit and vegetable stands. After this trip, Valerie moved to the Boston area to pursue a college education and decided that she wanted to create a European style shopping market back in Miami after she finished college. Instead, while attending Boston College, she discovered Formaggio Kitchen and met her future husband, Ihsan. To hone her skills in the kitchen, Valerie worked at the well-known Chez Nous in Cambridge and for the catering company Currier and Chives before returning to Formaggio Kitchen. Since then Ihsan and Valerie have worked together to share the "market experience" that inspired their mutual love of food with neighborhoods and communities surrounding their stores.

Leave a Reply