Shop Localista: Fab Gift for Foodie Friends
Looking to delight an epicurean friend? Say "Cheese"- they'll be sure to smile!
Rich and creamy, tart and tangy, mild or pungent, cheese runs the gamut in taste, textures and variations. Much like wine, it also comes in an international array of regional offerings, artisan interpretations and incites a wide range of intriguing pairings. In short, it's an ideal gift for any gourmand on your gift-giving list.
Daniel Epstein, the wonderfully informed and helpful cheesemonger behind Eden Gourmet's extremely impressive array, is quick to slice directly into exactly what makes this dairy offering so divine. "I like to say that cheese is a 'gateway food' for foodies," he says with a smile. "It opens up a whole world of options and mystery. You can stay safe, tried and true or branch out into some really wild, inspiring and fascinating flavors."
Epstein's also eager to point out just why cheese makes a perfect gift. "Food is such an extremely sensual thing," he says. "When one considers cheese there are layers of aroma, flavors and textures that offer the opportunity to discover a new experience. It also stimulates conversation and appetite- it's very heady." It's also presents a present you can personalize to fit the interests and taste of your intended giftee.
Daniel cultivated his interest in cheese while traveling through Europe in his 20s. While in Norway, France, England, Scotland and Hungary his appetite for knowledge about the differing cheese flavor he was discovering began to grow. That culinary curiosity would eventually lead him to the kitchens of some of the most celebrated chefs in New York City and to Dean & Deluca where he would find himself surrounded by a sea of gourmet and artisanal cheese.
Luckily for South Orange, Daniel has brought all this fromage expertise to Eden Gourmet, much to the joy of cheesephiles who make the trip a destination his stellar selections and advice."He is a very cultured person and exceptional source of information," commented one customer as she passed by with her cart. "He doesn't push his choices- he shares them- very, very rare. He's a treasure."
What better person to seek for gourmet gift? Daniel is ready and willing to put together a selection of custom cut artisanal cheeses at most any volume and price point. He was also happy to oblige my request for sharing his top five picks for fabulous cheeses:
Adellegar- "Intensely nutty Alpine-style cheese from Bavaria with a slight lactic tang."
Fourme Rochefore-Montagne- "Raw cow milk designer cheese aged by Jean d'Alos- buttery, lactic and earthy."
Pecorino Di Fossa*- "Sheep milk cheese that from Italy with a remarkable personality that elicits storytelling and comes with a story and a unique aging process steeped in local tradition. (*Ask Daniel to share the history behind why the cheese is wrapped in burlap and buried in the ground for months!)
Valdeon- "A Sycamore leaf wrapped blue cheese from Leon, Spain comprised of cow and goat milk with a blue and white veining. Complex, powerful and memorable."
Ossau-Iraty-Brebis- "A Sheep's milk cheese from the French Basque region- it has a dense, supple paste that houses lots of flavors that are beautifully balanced, sweet, nutty and olive-y. It goes wonderfully with a variety of foods."
While most reach for wine, crackers and fresh fruit as acidic foils for the rich, flavorful fat of cheese, Daniel likes to offer some unexpected suggestions outside your basic bottle or box:
Why not forego crackers for a French sour-dough like Francesca bread? Or a Multigrain Pan loaf from Balthazar? As for washing it down that Pecorino Di Fossa, how about some cold Vodka? Instead of the predictable apple or pear, why not pair that Adellegar with a slice of saucisson sec aux noix (un Mondo)?
The Fourme Rochefore-Montagne would be a revelation with a confiture of quince with vanilla and cinnamon! Alfonso olives and a touch of Harissa would go wonderfully well with the Pecorino Di Fossa, while that Valdeon would sing with a dribble of Acacia Honey.
Oh- and think cherry when you pick a pairing for the Ossau-Iraty-Brebis; fresh, dried or as a confiture with Thyme…
In fact you will long run out of people to buy presents for before Daniel runs out of delectable ideas and gift suggestions.
Pop in and pay Daniel a visit at Eden Gourmet to quench your culinary curiosities or fulfill even the most finiscky foodie gift on your list. He'll undoubtedly will point you in the right direction and you're sure to leave with a smile- and some delicious cheese!
Garden of Eden Gourmet Market: 1-7 South Orange Avenue, 973-762-5200