Monday, January 09, 2006

Local favorites

One of the great thrills of going back home was the chance to visit two of my old haunts in Cambridge. The first, Formaggio Kitchen, is the former employer of Jessica from Feed and Supply, and still the best cheese shop I know. Hi-Rise Bakery is a source of superior breads, pastries, and jams, and an employer of comically grumpy and disaffected art students.

I love Formaggio not just for its good looks and jaw-dropping selection. It's the cheese cave underneath the store, where all the little live things are allowed to come to their peak ripeness before they hit the floor. With that kind of care, you're always assured that the Abbaye de Belloc for which you shell out $22/lb. for will be so good, you'll only need to eat a little bit at a time. Thereby resolving your ambivalence about paying $22 for a hunk of cheese.

As for Hi-Rise, I love them for their brichoe, their jam, and their jam-filled brioche
. And the shrimp salad. The cookies and cakes and pies are also buttery and tender, but I save my calories for the jam and bread.

Hi-Rise's big downside, or charm, depending on how you look at is, lies in the subduction zone of the cash register, where cranky staff meets entitled customer. This is the great risk of doing business in places like Cambridge, and I'm not sure there's much to be done about it. The millionaire, NPR-listening, gluten-sensitive buyers believe they are each more special than the next. They struggle to share the big "family table" in the middle of the store. No room! Too many exceptional people! Meanwhile, the art students fail to conceal their contempt. And I silently project I'm not one of them, really while I order a jam-filled brioche, but with the apricot-lime jam, please, not the raspberry. No, not the apricot-lemon, the apricot-lime, 'cause I really like what the lime does to the...oh, uh, thank you.

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