It’s All About Cheese has recently returned from a short, work-based sojourn in Boston, USA. In Europe at least, America is not widely known for its cheese, so we got in touch with Formaggio Kitchen in Boston’s South End, and arranged a visit in order find out just what, if anything, we’re all missing. Whilst it could be argued that our ‘Cheese Party’ will have less lasting historical significance than our forebears Tea Party, at least we can say we didn’t waste any by throwing it into Boston harbour.
As cheese shops go, Formaggio Kitchen is one of my all time favourites. It’s an Aladdins Cave of cheesy delights from chutneys to cheese knives – all manner of delicacies we could have taken away with us given a more relaxed approach at customs. You can tell when a place really cares about what it’s selling, the care and detail that has gone into the hand-written descriptions of each cheese (and wine, and everything else) shows the time and energy spent in an effort to engage the customer. Sarah, the resident cheese buyer was only too happy to take us Brits under her wing (I had dragged a friend along for the experience) and introduce us to some of the best the US has to offer.
We probably tried about six or seven different local artisan cheese from New Hampshire, Vermont and New Jersey, but sadly we could only take a meager three away with us, due primarily to having to eat them all at Logan International airport check in!
First up was Twig Farm Tomme, a goats cheese from Cornwall, Vermont. Twig Farm produce a few different cheeses from their herd of 25 mainly Alpine goats, but this was the one that really caught our attention. Aged for around 80 days with a natural rind that reminded me of Silver Birch bark, it’s a semi-hard cheese that looks as good as it tastes. I’m going to use Formaggio Kitchens own description here. It’s a ‘Dense, goats’ milk Tomme. Sweet and herbal with a lovely minerality. Old World style from a New World cheese maker’ We can’t say we tasted the ‘minerality’ (a great adjective now firmly part of our vernacular), but I can taste what they mean, it certainly has a subtle earthiness to it.
Next on our list was a washed rind sheeps cheese by Meadowood Farms called ‘Lorenzo’. ‘Soft and Stinky’ is a good description of this one, a golden rind giving way to a fantastically unctuous and creamy soft cheese. It’s listed in Formaggio’s own style as being ‘made by our friend Veronica’. Having spent a good 15 minutes nodding heads, smacking lips and waxing lyrical about it, we claimed Veronica as our friend too. She certainly knows how to make great cheese!
Last on our top three from Boston was the brilliantly named Ellie’s Cloudy Down, from the equally brilliantly named Ruggles Hill Creamery and a cheesemaker called Tricia. There is actually a picture of the Ellie (the goat) on their website, how more in touch with your producers can you get than this?! This interesting cheese comes in a small pyramid, and is aged for a month, giving it a slightly grey/blue bloomy rind. It’s a very pretty cheese indeed, with an almost perfectly white centre that turns suddenly to an almond colour closer to the rind. I found it to be slightly stronger than expected, and being quite dense, would suggest a slightly less ambitious portion than that chosen by me..
I could have stayed at Formaggio Kitchen all day. There were, I’m sure, well over 100 different cheeses I could’ve sampled, and if you’re ever in Boston (or New York for that matter) you simply must pay them a visit. I challenge you to let me know of a more welcoming, enthused staff than the folks here. I come away wondering if I can find any of these fabulous cheeses in the UK, my euro-centric view of the cheese map distinctly refreshed. My Boston Cheese Party it seems, highlights the beginnings of a very different American Revolution.