While every grocery store sells cheese, and many sell good, quality cheese, true cheese lovers know that to get the very best they have to go to what the French call a Fromagerie – a shop that not only carries the best cheese, but where the people behind the counter know, can talk about and recommend that special yummy treat that goes best with wine, crackers, fruit or meat. Here are five places in Connecticut where every day is Cheese Lovers Day.
34 Shunpike Road
Cromwell, CT 06416
With more than 100 cheeses from nearly a score of (mostly European) countries to choose from, customers who walk into the real or virtual online store known as The Wild Raspberry will find themselves in cheese heaven. The shop carries well-known favorites such as Canadian Black Diamond Cheddar and Italian Aged Asiago, as well as the more exotic and less familiar treats that are England’s Fruited Stilton Mango Ginger and Germany’s King Ludwig Beer Cheese. This Cromwell store, however, also supports local cheese makers, notably Connecticut’s own Cato Corner Farm and New York’s Harperfield Cheeses. For something fun and different, try the former’s Womanchego (a delightfully meltable cheese with hints of fruit and nuts) and the latter’s simply lovely Lap Sang Souchong “Green Tea Cheese.” The Wild Raspberry specializes in gift baskets and national cheese samplers whose titles “The Best of Italy,” “Cheddar is Better” and “Eweful Bliss” among many others speak for themselves. There is also a Cheese of the Month Club which, for $35, gets you a pound and a half of cheeses along with crackers, salami or other accompaniments deemed appropriate for the selection.
93 Whitney Ave.
New Haven, CT 06510
“Every cheese has a story” is the motto of this New Haven treasure, a cheesemongery and bistro par excellence that not only promotes local artisans but also offers classes in cheese appreciation – including courses on what beers, wines or sweets pair best with certain cheeses. “We can mold any class to meet your personal specifications,” Caseus proclaims (while apologizing for the pun about mold, which in both its material and organic forms are the key to making the curded delight). Over 100 cheese varieties are always available, and include offerings from local small producers as well as the finest cheese makers from around the world. Can’t make up your mind about which cheese to buy? Caseus prides itself on maintaining that most cherished of all cheesemonger tradition: the taste test.
33 Main St.
Centerbrook, CT 06409
Paul Partica has spent 45 years in the cheese business, and as his very loyal customers will tell you, not a moment of that has been wasted. Paul and Sue Partica’s shop in Centerbrook is a heavenly palace where Fontina Val D’Aosta, Dutch Beemster Goat Cheese, German Cambozola and Spanish Raw Milk Manchego all sing in angelic harmony. It is a place where French Bleu d’Avergne, Swiss Gruyere and Vermont Cheddar are lovingly displayed, along with the wonderful crackers, preserves, pates and smoked salmon the Partica’s recommend for pairings. Best of all, the Partica’s understand that buying a new, often pricey cheese can be intimidating – and so they offer not only a “try before you buy” policy, but also provide what they call a “relaxed atmosphere” in which to sample their products.
2090 Post Road
Fairfield, CT 06824
Chris and Laura Palumbo don’t just sell cheese – they run a “Cheese School” out of their shop in Fairfield. The Fairfield Cheese Company’s owners admit – and admit with pride – that they are not only “cheesemongers” but also “foodies,” and are passionate about offering products that “come from the heart as well as the hands.” The Palumbos have plaques on the wall that attest to their being “Certified Cheese Professionals,” as well as members of numerous American cheese societies. These last are especially fitting, as American and especially New England cheeses are their specialty. They excel in selecting and offering what they describe as “small-batch, unique” products, and will happily provide not only a taste of those wares but also will tell you the often colorful tale behind how that cheese is made.
27 Coogan Blvd.
Mystic, CT 06355
Billed as both a cheese shop AND a bakery, the Bleu Squid is definitely “not your typical” bakery. This best-of-both-worlds shop offers more than 30 varieties of local and international cheeses along with many more types of pastries and baked goods – many of which are meant to be enjoyed with selected cheeses. It also offers a marvelous selection of grilled cheese sandwiches from the section marked as, what else, the “Take Out Grilled Cheese Café.” The pride of this part of the store is the “Original Grown-up Grilled Cheese,” a sandwich made with fontina, harvati, muenster and extra sharp cheddar, and the “Lobster Grilled Cheese,” which includes chunks of lobster in an “original” (their quotes) cheese blend on extra-thick white bread.
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