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Friday, March 2, 2012

Inside Formaggio Kitchen's Cheese Cave

When fellow foodie and swapper Marissa Lowman invited me on a tour of the cheese cave at Formaggio Kitchen in Cambridge, I assumed it wasn't literally a cave. Rhode Island isn’t actually an island, after all.

Au contraire, my cheese-loving friends.

As manager and cheese buyer Ihsan Gurdal leads us down the stairs and into the basement, I curse myself for wearing ballet flats instead of waterproof boots. In this simulation of a mountain cave, puddles dot the concrete floors to help keep the cheese moist (97 percent humidity, in fact).

Formaggio Kitchen moves thousands of kilos of European artisanal cheeses, and each year the staff visits Europe to meet the shepherds (they buy direct from the shepherds instead of through cheese collectors) and choose the inventory for the year. Shelves lining the tiny dark "cave" hold wheels of Stilton and Pecorino, which Gurdal pierces with a cheese corer. We sniff each one before sampling, comparing the nutty or smoky or fruity notes of each selection.

Gurdal tells us that because of strict import/expert laws between the French and United States some of the cheeses have been secured through a barter rather than exchange of money.

Later, he guides us upstairs to the kitchen where we sample a quartet of four other cheeses, bread, two types of honey, and a subtly sweet wine from H&M Hofer. (Formaggio Kitchen also carries a variety of organic and biodynamic wines, we learn.)

I'd recommend taking the cave tour yourself so you can experience the tastes and aromas first-hand, but this video of Ihsan is the next best thing.

NOTE: Marissa invited me to attend this complimentary tour, which she'd won at an event last year. You can read her account of the cheese tour on Boston.com.

Photos courtesy of Melissa Pocek

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