Do you want to see the world? Is your idea of fun visiting a new place and tasting the local cuisine? While your budget might not allow you to go touring the planet, you might at least get a hint of the flavors from another country not far from home. Capital District residents should consider stopping by The Cheese Traveler at 540 Delaware Avenue (between The Spectrum Theatre and the Bethlehem town line). Cheesemonger Eric Paul, who set up the cheese counter at Honest Weight Food Co-op, worked briefly at Formaggio Kitchen in Cambridge, Mass. His new shop is unique in the local area and has much to offer the frustrated, wannabe tourist.
Despite its name, this specialty shop is not just about cheese. All kinds of fine foods from close to home and the four corners of the world can be purchased at The Cheese Traveler. For one, Eric has partnered with Joanne and Dany Tilley of nearby Tilldale Farm which offers certified organic beef, pork, and dairy products. One also finds a wide array of cured meats (like prosciutto di Parma and saucisson d’Arles). Lining the shelves of the shop, there are delicious Marcona almonds from Spain, François Pralus’s chocolates made of cocoa beans from faraway places like Madagascar, foreign honey, jams, pasta, and the newly-arrived nougat from Montélimar in the South of France. You can get taste treats for yourself and pick up a few gifts for friends and family at the same time.
Naturally, the pièce de résistance in the shop is the cheese. Eric and his family are experts who will guide you in finding products that suit your taste. Artisanal American cheeses like Red Hawkfrom Cowgirl Creamery in California and several from Vermont’s Consider Bardwell Farm and Twig Farm (which I have written about on this blog before) are among the one hundred choices in the cheese case. During the “soft opening” over the past month, we have sampled and purchased several different cheeses. We bought a slice of a wonderfully creamy cow’s milk Stracchino from Italy. Two of our purchases have been from Switzerland: Chällerhocker (a silken new Alpine cheese from Saint-Gallen in the northeast) and Scharfe Maxx (a wonderfully sharp cheese from Lake Constance in the north). As Francophiles, we’ve tried several from France: two from Auvergne (a firm, earthy Saintalin and a semi-soft, nutty Saint-Nectaire), and two from the Loire Valley (a blue Fourme affinée au mœlleux and a good goat cheese called Galette du Cher). But our hands-down favorite so far was one we got last week: an aged goat’s milk Couronne de Touraine. From French maître affineur (specialist in aging cheese) Rodolphe le Meunier, this gray, moldy, crown-shaped “brainy rind” cheese wouldn’t be the first choice of the majority of Americans because of its appearance. But if you are in any way adventurous, I encourage you to try this! It is, as food writer Janet Fletcher from San Francisco put it, simply sublime.
Tomorrow November 18th is the grand opening of The Cheese Traveler. From 1:00 to 6:00 p.m. there will be a variety of activities to celebrate the official inaugural of the new shop: cooking demonstrations, speakers and poetry readings, food from Mingle restaurant next door, and, of course, cheese tastings. Check out the schedule and drop in! You won't regret it.