My trek to the Upper East Side to my favorite of all favorites, “
Ideal Cheese Shop“. Now I know it looks like a lame bodega, with an unimpressive awning. I also know the name “ideal cheese shop” is somewhat boring. However, once you pass this deceiving storefront, you meet a wonderful store of great gems, most of which are goodies imported from France, Switzerland, and Italy. You can find specialty jams, drinks, flatbreads, and most importantly…CHEESE!
The cheese wheels of the storefront give a slight hint to what awaits you. The smell of the store is, to say the least, unbecoming. Do not browse inside if you are meeting a date later on in the night, he will not call you back.
In any case, here are some of my fruitful attempts of capturing some jewels in this store. Lurpak butter is one of my favorites, hard to find even at whole foods.
Rieme Sparkling fruit drinks. I love these because they are #1–french products, and #2–they are not too sweet. I pick up the grapefruit flavor and drink a bit before I pay the cheese monger.
Uruguay air dried beef..I cannot say how much I love this stuff. It is great as a meat flavored base for pasta sauces instead of using Pancetta. It doesn’t have that porky kickback flavor, and its also good just to slice over cheese and bread. So salty.
Gorgeous salami. If your boyfriend likes cellulite, eat lots of this as surely the combination of salt and fats will turn your thighs into the texture of Cottage Cheese.
Your dreams of looking like Kate Moss in the early 90′s are compromised; the uncontrollable urge to slice this ball of fat straight into your mouth is a lot stronger than starvation.
Assorted Cheeses, there was a whole section in the store devoted to bleu cheese, but I didn’t want to scare the Cheese monger with my paparazzi tactics. My hair is sufficiently doused with the stench of Pecorino Romano, and I wonder why I am single….
One of the cheeses I brought home from the store was a 1/4 wheel of the Raclette, which is an aged cow’s milk with lots of salt and skim milk. You can buy the whole milk variety but I like the lighter flavor. It’s a semi-firm cheese with great melting capabilities. In the good old days this cheese was used around campfires, melted into absolute heaven and placed over bread- sort of like S’MORES but way better. It is mainly a Swiss tradition but many French people enjoy this as well. Raclette starts the origins of Fondue, but with Fondue you add wine or other alcoholic varieties. The aging time for the cheese itself is about 3-6 months…
“Raclette cheese originated in the French speaking areas in the Alpine regions of the Valais canton in Switzerland. While the process of melting cheese has been around since ancient times, according to legends – local farmers or herdsmen in the valleys of the Swiss Alps set up camp for the night and the cheese that was laying around on stones at meal time, melted near the open fire and some farmer scraped it off the rock (not wanting to waste any of it of course), he then tasted it and thought it tasted divine. The idea quickly caught on amongst the group and this novel idea quickly spread throughout the valley and so the cheese became well known as the most ideal to melt. Other ingredients would accompany the meal like gherkins (pickled cucumber) and small onions and to drink; kirsch (cherry liqueur), herbal tea or Fendant (local white wine).
It was a filling meal and enjoyed for its great simplicity and heartiness. The concept was simple and the melting of the raclette cheese was to become a popular way to eat it. It was comfort food at its best and the tradition eventually spread to other countries beyond the Alps from visitors travelling from afar to enjoy the famous ski resorts in the Valais region.”
Cheese is placed onto the “Raclette Machine”. Yes there is a cheese heating machine especially made for this specific type of cheese. The cheese melts very slowly and my greedy eyes are ready to fall out of my head. A wheel of fortune if I ever saw one!
I prepare potatoes, fingerling and waxy yellow. I like to steam these in order to not interrupt the flavor of the Raclette. Restaurants in France serve it like this as well. Other sides you can use are bread and dried meats of course. Its better to keep the ingredients simple so you don’t miss out on the flavor of the cheese
Bubbling cheese. At this point, it is normal to scrape the melting cheese onto a dish to place on top of bread, potatoes and etc. Raclette in french means “to scrape”.
So instead of having to scrape it, I like to just let it fall naturally onto a plate.
It is truly an enjoyable process, because the cheese continues to melt and people will just sit around, drink, and talk for hours. I’d say that this Raclette cheese is very inducive to socializing. A quarter wheel will feed about 5-6 people.
Steamed potatoes and broccoli. Very easy. Simple.
Last touch– Since I am trying to drink less, I decide to drink some of this non alcoholic beverage. This drink is very good to balance out the salty kickback flavor of the cheese. Grapefruit is my favorite.
So I am ready to eat, but not quite just yet…..
Now, I am ready!