When I first came to Cambridge/MA in 2009 it was for a seminar on reading old cookbooks as historic sources, given by the amazing food scholar Barbara Ketcham Wheaton (she is doing another one in June this year – go by all means!!) at the Schlesinger Library. It was an intense, studious week which has left all kinds of lasting impressions on me, not the least very good friends and a home away from home at the end of beautiful, posh Brattle Street. Each morning I walked along the imposing mansions where the well endowed intelligentsia of Cambridge used to live (and still lives) and admired the well tended gardens. But serendipity had even more on offer for me: a mere five minutes detour introduced me to one of the very best cheese places this side of the Atlantic, Formaggio Kitchen.
The joys and temptations at the cramped premises on Huron Avenue are immense, as the very impressive selection of cheeses from all over the world comes with all kinds of other goodies in serious variety, great wine, prepared take away dishes as well as gorgeous flowers. It took me a while to summon my courage and meet the man behind all these wonders, but a few days ago I finally did… Ihsan Gurdal stems from Istanbul and came to the US in the late 1970s. As with so many of us in the food business, his original plans were slightly different: west coast, university, engineering…
As he puts it so well: „Cheese surprised me, I didn’t realize there was so much, and I caught the bug.“ The small sandwich shop he started to work in 1982 has long developed into a small emporium (but thankfully not a chain). Standing in the prep space behind the store on Huron Avenue, surrounded by busy hands working on pâtés, salads and cakes, he told me, the business had really started to flourish when he decided to structure it more democratically, with everybody involved having a say – and that’s exactly what you sense when Tripp (responsible for American cheeses) recommends anything from his selection, or Jessica (wine) discusses bottles with you. Ihsan then took me down to the cave to talk and taste cheese. That Haut Béarn sheep wheel from the Basque country – wow. Those little cabbage leaf wrapped beauties from Piedmont – yes please. In fact: whatever you find here, chances are you’ll like it.
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