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Posts Tagged ‘travel’

Extremadura, Spain

I recently had the opportunity to attend a small festival of food producers in the Extremadura region of Spain with fellow food buyers representing small shops as well as large distributors from around the world. I had never been to Spain before and was thrilled to be able to visit a country with such a rich and diverse culinary history – and to be able to discover new and delicious products for our stores. (more…)

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Women's Shoes in Bra, Italy

Whenever I attend ‘Cheese,’ the biennial cheese festival in Bra, Italy – or the VinItaly wine festival in Verona – I always marvel at the ability of the Italian women to walk in high heels on ancient cobblestone streets.   (more…)

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Tripp and Andrew at Fromageries Marcel Petite

At Fromageries Marcel Petite

Landing in Geneva, our first day began auspiciously with 65°F blue skies and a new convertible (our reserved sedan was unavailable) to drive us west into the Jura. Tripp (domestic cheese buyer for our Cambridge shop), and Sarah (Tripp’s counterpart at the South End), and I marveled at the snow-capped mountains in the eastern distance and how the yellow brilliance of patched rapeseed fields rested calmly in their spaces. The three of us were in France to visit with cheesemakers and food producers, checking in with old friends and making new ones. Climbing up into the hills, we arrived at our first destination, Fromageries Marcel Petite at Fort St. Antoine. (more…)

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Santuario di San Magno in Castelmagno

Santuario di San Magno in Castelmagno

One of the most memorable trips my wife, Valerie, and I have taken in pursuit of new cheeses was in 1993. We traveled to Castelmagno, home to the famous Italian cheese of the same name. Located on the very northwest fringes of Italy, Castelmagno is a small commune or municipality, consisting of several hamlets. We were invited to visit the region by our friend and mentor, Matteo Ascheri. The hamlet we visited had only one albergo (inn) and a total population of 56. Eleven of those inhabitants made Castelmagno. (more…)

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Scenes in India

Staff members here at Formaggio Kitchen regularly travel the world to seek out the unique products that we carry. While our trips have tended to focus on Europe, my colleague Tim and I recently had the opportunity to travel to India (a first for both of us!).  We were able to make the trip thanks largely to a small business grant from British Airways that gave us 10 round-trip tickets for use this year.

The primary motivation for our trip was to visit tea country. Initially, we looked into visiting the region of Assam – flat and plains-like, it is well-known for its tea. However, eventually we decided to explore the region of Darjeeling – mountainous, cool and verdant, it is nestled in the skinny part of India that sits between Nepal and Bangladesh. (more…)

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We love cheese at Formaggio Kitchen, but we also love our beer.

You’ll catch a lot of us on the staff stopping by local beer tastings, seeking out new and hard-to-find bottles, and regularly checking out (and sampling) the rotating taps at our favorite Boston-area bars. A few of us also brew our own beer – recent undertakings have included a clone of Stone Ruination IPA, and a beer brewed with fresh cranberries that somehow ended up measuring a whopping 2% ABV (we lovingly call this one “Granny Cran”).

Whenever we can, we also visit breweries to see beer-making in action. It’s fascinating to see beer brewed on a large scale (though many of the craft breweries we like are still considered small players in a giant market), and it’s enlightening to talk to brewers about what goes in to making certain beers and why they taste the way they do. We’ve previously field-tripped it to Sixpoint, Ommegang and Brooklyn Brewery (see related post), all located in New York. Last month, I stopped by Dogfish Head Brewery in Milton, Delaware, and last week, a group of us headed to Portland, Maine, to visit Allagash Brewing Company. (more…)

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Here at Formaggio Kitchen – despite our obvious allegiance to the Italian word “formaggio” – our dedication to French cheeses and other produits du terroir is the foundation for our entire selection. So, visiting France and meeting the folks who make the dozens of different products we regularly import is a special experience – kind of like when you visit a college friend at home and meet their parents, see their neighborhood.

Every two years, France hosts a huge fair in Paris, Salon de l’Agriculture, to celebrate the people and products that make up the country’s agricultural scene. Imagine eight convention centers, each with a different theme — one hall full of wine, another full of olive oil, and even one full of animals. It’s a giant country fair, complete with medals and honors – Paris-style.

We attended earlier this year specifically for the cheese show, Salon du Fromage. This particular salon is open only to industry professionals and is an opportunity for cheesemakers, affineurs and distributors to display their products and chat with clients. Cheese industry folks from all over the world crowd the hall to see what’s new and catch up with associates. We bounce from appointment to appointment: discussing packaging options for a new large-format Epoisses, for instance, then meeting with a cheesemaker from the Pyrénées to taste sheep cheese and learn about the new co-operative dairy they are building to support area shepherds.

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For cheesemongers, spring not only means longer days and warm weather, but also the start of a new season of cheesemaking. Some of the first spring-milk cheeses we see are from goat farms, which have been welcoming flocks of baby goats over the past couple of months.

Kids at Consider Bardwell

After giving their milk to their new, absurdly cute babies for a couple of weeks, the does will be able to give their milk to cheesemakers such as Michael Lee of Twig Farm in Vermont. From his herd of about 40 goats, Lee began making this year’s cheeses a few weeks ago — after proper ripening, we’ll probably see these new wheels (perennial favorites at Formaggio Kitchen) sometime in June.

Last week, a couple of us mongers went up to visit another local goat farm, Consider Bardwell in Pawlet, Vermont, where on an amazing spring afternoon we saw the herd of ladies-in-waiting — about 40 does who were due to give birth in the next day or so. The photo above shows two kids who were born the morning we arrived.

The cheesemakers at Consider Bardwell will also start using the new milk to make cheeses such as Manchester, an aged goat cheese that we like for its fresh, floral flavors and firmer texture. It’s the perfect match for a crisp white wine from the Loire Valley, or even a dry rosé.

Manchester cheese from Consider Bardwell

Here’s to spring!

For more on our trip to Consider Bardwell Farm, check out our travelogue.

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In northern Italy, the olive harvest happens late in the growing year, usually during December and January. We’ve recently gotten in the first bottles of the new-harvest olive oil from our friends the Cottas, who live in the hills outside of Imperia in the Liguria region of Italy. Giuseppe and his twin daughters, Simona and Monica, live in an apartment above their frantoio, the traditional mill they use to press their oils.

Their “Inprimis” oil is pressed from Taggiasca olives that are harvested a little earlier in the season. The slightly underripe green olives produce an oil with a bit of a peppery finish, similar to oils from further south in Italy.

Extra Virgin Olive Oil from the Cotta family in Liguria

Cotta Organic Olive Oil

A beautiful oil with balanced flavors at once ripe Taggiasca and green grass

Cotta Inprimis Olive Oil

The Cottas traditional organic olive oil comes from darker, riper olives. It is mildly sweet and fruity — more characteristic of oils from Liguria and the south of France. Both are organic, and both are great for finishing pasta or fish (staples of Ligurian cuisine), or a plate of fresh greens.

For more on our visit last year to the Cottas’ estate, visit our travelogue page.

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We cracked a gorgeous wheel of this cheese yesterday. Creamy with mild piquancy, this classic blue is lovely on its own or smeared on a slice of whole wheat bread.

That’s how I tasted it when I visited Eros, the Italian cheesemonger who supplies us with our Gorgonzola Dolce and several other of our favorite cheeses. Eros and his family have a small, beautiful shop on Lago Maggiore in the Piedmont region of Italy.

Just about one year ago, we spent an afternoon meeting Eros’ charming family, seeing his cheese caves and wine cellars, tasting cheese and wine, and walking around the lovely town of Verbania. It’s a taste of the sweet life I always think back on when I taste this cheese.

For more on our visits to Verbania, visit our travelogue page.

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