What does a cheesemonger do on Christmas vacation? If that holiday involves traveling to Boston, then it means paying a first-time visit to South End Formaggio. In my estimation, South End Formaggio and its parent store Formaggio Kitchen (in Cambridge, Mass.) are among the finest purveyors of cheese, wine, charcuterie, condiments, and the like in New England. They know their stuff, and the carefully stocked shelves prove it.
The range of cheeses they offer is vast, including the usual (e.g. English cheddars, camembert and boucheron, to name a few), as well as cheeses previously unfamiliar to me, such as Hafod and Romadur.
And these cheeses come directly from the producers, rather than a middleman distributor. Translation: South End takes great pride in sourcing, tasting, and buying what they eventually sell to the rest of us. As if that's not enough, they even make their own charcuterie. Upon hearing all of this from my brother, a local Bostonian, I placed South End Formaggio at the top of my itinerary; and its products at the top of my Christmas list.
Undeterred by the massive blizzard that slammed Boston and the entire Eastern seaboard, I trekked in my ill-equipped, traction-less boots to South End Formaggio on a very snowy Boxing Day. To my surprise, I found a swarm of customers at the cheese counter at 11am, huddled in tortoise formation. One-by-one they ordered large quantities of prosciutto and expensive hunks of cheese as if preparing to hibernate for the rest of winter.
This entire scene proved to me that Bostonians love their cheese enough to risk hypothermia. They must love it as much as I do.
For 30 minutes I scoured the shop to discover not only a staggering number of cheeses, but also many fantastic non-dairy delights, too. Like an old school delicatessen, this store was chockablock with Old World specialties and staples that ranged from Sant’Eustachio coffee (where the well-to-do caffeinate in Rome) to nice table wines like Les Hérétiques from France.
I also managed to contain my sheer giddiness at the sight of the overstocked cheese counter, filled with domestic artisan cheeses and European classics, long enough to spot the shop’s own “Cheese Paper” newsletter. Inside this slim holiday issue were articles about the various flavors of Comté, the virtue of the Italian Christmas panettone, and other tidbits for the gourmand.
Limited by the reality that I had to transport all purchases back to Washington in an already-full backpack, I selected a few choice items. Among them were a package of Rancho Gordo’s Moro beans, a bottle of Edmond Briottet’s decadent and unparalleled crème de cassis, a bell-shaped Charollais sheep’s milk cheese, and the delectable Tronchetto di Capra Carbone (which I'll be writing about in my next post).
Massachusetts may be home to Dunkin’ Donuts (not to mention the nation’s worst drivers) but I can still hold it in regard thanks to South End Formaggio (and the Red Sox, of course). And for anyone (like myself) who resides outside of Boston, Formaggio Kitchen has an outpost in NYC’s Essex Market, as well as online shop. They will ship many of their products, including cheeses. And neither rain, nor sleet, nor SNOW will prevent their delivery and consumption.