- Consider Bardwell Manchester (VT)
- Consider Bardwell Dorset (VT)
- Willow Hill Butternut (VT)
- Cobb Hill Ascutney Mountain (VT)
- Woodcock Farm True Blue (VT)
- Dancing Cow Bouree (VT)
- Berkshire Blue (MA)
- Nettle Meadow Kunik (NY)
- Nettle Meadow Crane Mountain (NY)
- Fingerlakes Red Meck (NY)
- Harpersfield Tilsit (NY)
- Jasper Hill Constant Bliss (VT)
- Jasper Hill Bayley Hazen Blue (VT)
- Meadow Creek Grayson (VA)
- Westcombe Red (UK)
- Hawes Wensleydale (UK)
- Roquefort (France)
- Epoisse (France)
- Affine au Chablis (France)
- Fourme D'Ambert (France)
- Ami du Chambertin (France)
- Camembert au Calvados (France)
Thursday, April 30, 2009
Sunday, April 26, 2009
Managing the restaurant taught me a lot about the pitfalls of small business as well as a about food. Without that time learning under the owners of applewood I'd have no idea how to run a successful food business. Additionally I would have had no idea what the identity of said food business should be. That's what my restaurant experience with David and Laura Shea taught me--oh and it also taught me that I never want to work in the restaurant business ever again. I think they'd agree it would be for the best of all humanity.
Restaurant experience only translates so well into retail. We made a great number of mistakes in our first year at France 44. Some small, some major. Our ability to learn from those mistakes is what defines a business. I have no problems with our mistakes, we just needed to fix them.
About 6 months into the new shop I was already bugging the owners of France 44 about expanding to St Paul. I am originally from Massachusetts but I went to school at Macalester College in St Paul. My first exposure to Minnesota was in St Paul and I spent almost all of 4 years (save study abroad) in the vicinity of the Macalester campus. I wasn't even sure there was anything in Minneapolis besides First Ave.
St Paul does not have a stand alone cheese shop. I've been lamenting this fact in this blog for a long time. I am a firm believer in the old timey method of shopping. If I want meat I go to Clancey's in Linden Hills, I go to Coastal for my seafood, and I buy bread from a bakery. If you live in in St Paul and want cheese your only options are grocery stores and co-ops (with the exception of the wonderful store Golden Fig which sells a nice selection of local cheeses).
The owner of France 44 are not as familiar with the neighborhoods of St Paul as I am. So a couple of months ago I took Rick (3rd generation owner) on a little tour of some of the neighborhoods of St Paul. We visited a few of my favorite shops and scanned around for potential locations. On our way back towards Minneapolis we were driving down Grand Ave towards Snelling and we spied the FOR RENT sign at 1573 Grand Avenue. This wasn't really the location that I had imagined but I punched the digits into my phone anyway.
Not in my craziest cheese fueled dreams did I imagine that someday I would be managing a cheese shop across the street from my alma mater. When I left Macalester I didn't think that I would live in the twin cities again. I'm an east coaster and I thought I'd stay there.
St Paul Cheese Shop is not going to be a carbon copy of the France 44 Cheese Shop though a lot of the ideas will be transferred across the river. For those of you unfamiliar with our shop, or even for those of you who shop with us often, here is what you can expect from us:
- Cheese cut-to-order in any size piece you like. There is no minimum, we will shave you off 25 cents worth of cheese if that is what you'd like to buy
- We will have a focused selection of cheeses with an emphasis on farmstead cheeses, pasture based dairies, and raw milk cheeses. That being said, we will still carry a selection of cheeses for every taste
- Sandwiches using fresh ingredients and local products whenever possible.
- Products sold in our shop will never have hydrogenated oils (except where it occurs naturally) or artificial flavors or colors
- Our pates and charcuterie are made in-house using meat from local farms
Thursday, April 23, 2009
Keep checking back for progress reports.
Wednesday, April 22, 2009
These caves are turning out some pretty remarkable cheese thus far. The Cabot Clothbound cheddar aged at The Cellars at Jasper Hill is one of the finest domestic cheddars we've encountered. It is quickly becoming our best selling cheese.
So our pal Miya is up there in nowheresville Vermont busting her hump in the incredibly labor intensive cheese aging business. She's blogging about it and unlike some bloggers she has pretty cool pictures of what she's up to.
Stop procrastinating, go learn about affinage: http://2newyorkersinexile.blogspot.com/
Tuesday, April 21, 2009
Thursday, April 16, 2009
Last Friday I surprised my wife for her birthday, and along with our friends we started off the celebration at the France 44 Cheese Shop. Before our charcuterie and fromage, we tasted some fantastic wines in the Wine Shop and selected 2 bottles to share during our pre-dinner experience with Benjamin and the outstanding staff of the Cheese shop. All of our friends, and of course my wife, commented what a fun, approachable, yet elegant way this was to start her birthday. Without variation, the selections from Benjamin were outstanding and coupled with the Prosecco and St. Emilion wines we purchased really put the night off to a memorable start. If you haven’t considered the option for enjoying a glass of wine bought at France 44 to be paired with the best cheese options in Minnesota, please make plans to do it now!
My wife and friends thank all of you for a great night – we look forward to our next outing.
I totally didn't write any of this myself. I swear. But I figured what better advertising for events in our cheese shop. We love fun events like this--nothing makes us happier. We can comfortably accommodate groups up to ten people with a little bit of advance notice.
Thursday, April 9, 2009
More Tomme de Crayeuse in this week. Better get down here soon, it vanished in less than a day last time it was in the case.
We also have beautiful Easter chocolate from Michel Cluizel for the discriminating Easter basket. This is your chance to escape from the Cadbury Egg doldrums.
Oh and a fantastic new product from New Zealand. The fattest, softest, most flavorful licorice you've ever ever had. Super yum delicious. Come in black licorice flavor (what flavor is that?) and raspberry. Today I have eaten half a bag.
There's also a whole bunch of new cheese in the case: Comte, Fiscalini bandaged cheddar from Cali, Goat cheese puff balls, Cato Corner Brigid's Abbey, Red Hawks, Mt Tam, St Pat...
Friday, April 3, 2009
With that in mind I am going to make the ultimate sacrifice for you, the loyal blog reader: I am going to take specific cheeses and wines home and see if they are good together. Terrible job, I know, but someone has to do it. Currently we offer pairing suggestions on our cheese tags but we really wanted to hone in and be more specific. Chardonnay means a lot of different things to different people. Old world? New world? Oak? No oak?
That is why we are going to focus on one specific pairing. Something out of our cheese case that we really like that we will try to marry to a wine/beer/adult beverage.
Up first: Cabot Clothbound Cheddar. I've been talking about this cheese for the last month or so to anyone who will listen. It's a pretty special cheese and it has become my new addiction. This cheddar is made in the tradition of English farmhouse cheese. It's bandaged wrapped and aged for 12 months at Jasper Hill farm in Vermont. This cheese is a spectacular collaboration between one of the largest cheese makers in Vermont and a small, artisan producer.
Cheddar screams out beer and I am certain that this cheese would be wonderful with an English style ale. Except that I wanted it with white wine, that was my mood last night. A wine that I love and that I suspected would be a nice pairing is the Trevor Jones Virgin Chardonnay from Australia. This is an unoaked Chardonnay made from free run juice (the grapes are not pressed). So what comes out of the bottles is a fat, round, wine with a nice crisp finish. Just enough to stand up to the creaminess of the cheddar.
And indeed they were lovely together. To me a pairing works if the two things being paired don't have a fight in your mouth. One should not dominate the other or make the other less yummy. Best case scenario they actually enhance the other or create new (desirable) flavors. Make sense?
Oh, and in this case I added one more thing to the mix: honey. Totally an indulgence but we spread some Minnesota honey on our chunks of cheddar while we sipped on our white wine. I don't think dessert gets any better than that. And, yes, it will be good for final four watching this weekend.
Thursday, April 2, 2009
"product of the year 2008 france"
"happy shop france"
and, my favorite
"free best transex"
Oh how disappointed they must have been
Everyone who works here knows that our number one priority is to greet our customers and encourage them to try some cheese. Pretty simple sounding, right? Except that folks think we're trying to be pushy or trying to sell them something. It's not really about that. Of course we're in business to sell our products, but when we offer a sample of cheese it really is about introducing the customers to something delicious. I really am not bothered if I give a sample of some cheese and the customer doesn't buy it. I like standing behind the counter and chatting with folks about the cheese and engaging them in one way or another. That's fun for me.
It's fun for all of us here to pick out a perfect cheese that someone is going to take home and enjoy. We don't take ourselves too seriously--we're selling cheese after all. But in some small (often very small) way we hope that we bring our customers a little bit of happiness. Buying cheese is different than, say, buying an iphone or a new plasma TV. Anyone who has seen the movie Ratatouille knows that food can be quite evocative. That's what we're hoping for.
All of the folks who work with me in the cheese shop enjoy hospitality (or customer service, call it what you well). It's what makes us look forward to coming to work every day--that and all of the chocolate samples.
Wednesday, April 1, 2009
Our first new meat is the salami Nostrano from Fra'Mani out in California. This is some tasty salami with a delightful porkiness that makes you think of pigs. Yeah, pigs. The cure for this guy is straight-forward and so it yields a mild, sweet salami. Best served sliced thin with a little bit of melon or some other firm fleshed fruit.
Next new meat is culatello from Salumeria Biellese in New York City. Another wonderful cured meat from these long time artisans. Culatello is a prized ham from the haunch of the pig. Milder than proscuitto it is also a bit less salty. Maybe my new favorite ham for its soft texture and deep lingering flavors.
Oh, and new chocolate. Our latest addition is another domestic bean-to-bar producer called Askinosie. We love our chocolate and this one is especially fun. There is a lot to say about this chocolate maker and you're probably best off going to their website to read all of the great facts about the company. Their direct trade model is excellent and their commitment to sustainability is impressive.
What about the chocolate? Yum. We have their amazing white chocolate bars, dark milk chocolate with fleur de sel, and 70% dark El Salvador chocolate. Also we have a recession buster jar of $1 snack sized bars complete with pin up girl marketing tactic. What more could you ask for? They sent a few samples so come on down and I'll let you try some.