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Reporting from Bra, Italy: Marcel Petite Comte

The first time that we visited the Fort Saint Antoine and tasted Comte was in 1999. Jason Hinds introduced Ihsan and I to Claude and Phillipe- who we have worked with since, via another friend Pascal Trotte from Paris. Tasting with Claude and Phillipe was a very intimidating first experience, and we certainly had to be approved- we had to show we knew what we were talking about and were serious about representing and selling the cheese. Shortly after getting this approval, we began to import Marcel Petite Comte.

Watching the Marcel Petite table and Phillipe, Claude and Company swarmed with old and new customers tasting and explaining the different nuances between the Les Gourmandise and the Fort St Antoine is such a pleasure. Even though we’ve heard it before you always learn something new.

Since we know that their booth will be three people deep the entire show we usually begin our European journey with our first stop at the ‘Fort’.  There we have plenty of time to enjoy ourselves and taste the cheeses at our leisure with Claude make our choices for the upcoming Holiday season.  We finish the day with an incredible meal of ham, sausages, freshly dug garden potatoes a crisp salad, lots of comte, maybe a vacherin if we are lucky, and lots of local white wine- Phillipe has an incredible palate and vast knowledge.

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.

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