This has been a good year for cheese at Formaggio Kitchen. We were lucky enough to visit several producers — both old friends and new acquaintances — who are sending us some incredible cheeses. Throughout the holidays, as family and friends come to town, or as you pack for a trip of your own, be sure to have a good selection of cheese on hand for simple snacking or to create an elegant cheese course. For help finding just the right cheese, here are a few highlights from our recent trips.
New Cheeses of the Pyrénées
When Ihsan, Valerie and Julie left for the Pyrénées in October, everyone was optimistic they would make new connections with producers of traditional Basque sheep’s milk cheeses. When they returned and unwrapped their cheese samples, our eyes opened wide as we gazed upon the treasure trove they discovered. Traveling the mountainous terrain between Pau and San Sebastián, they met with producers who work with only 15-20 shepherds. These shepherds still practice transhumance with their animals — the tradition of bringing sheep to graze at higher elevations during spring and summer. This winter, our first shipment of producer-direct sheep, cow and goat’s milk cheeses arrived. By working directly with producers, we control every aspect of transport and storage as the cheeses make their way to our stores. This control ensures the clear, complex flavors of these cheeses are as evident in our stores as they were on our table in France.
Comté from Affineur Marcel Petite
Twice a year, we trek to Marcel Petite’s Fort St. Antoine, a cheese aging facility high in the Jura Mountains of France, to select our wheels of this special cow’s milk cheese. This fall, Kurt, Mary and David made the trip. In what is always an educational, but surprisingly arduous experience, they walked the aisles of towering cheese, tasting wheel after wheel, detecting the complex flavors in each sample. The lengthy aging process is carefully controlled and monitored by Claude, their head affineur and our indefatigable guide. The cheeses range from young and pliant with flavors of grass and herbs to dense and crunchy with notes of chocolate and onion. For full descriptions of our different Comté cheeses, click here.
Savoring the Savoie
On the same trip, Kurt, David and Mary visited the Paccard family, agers of various farmhouse cheeses from the Savoie. Our cheesemongers tasted several classic cheeses including the earthy Tomme de Savoie and Tomme Crayeuse, firm and nutty Abondance, and a few new cheeses made in the classic Reblochon style. All cheeses aged by the Paccards are “fermier,” meaning they are made in small batches on the same farms where the animals are raised and milked. Visit the travelogue section of our website to see David’s account of their trip.