Neighborhood Anchor & Gateway to European Gourmet Goodies

Issue One Recipe Corrections

“In the chicken soup recipe, we neglect to mention that you should cover the vegetable nage ingredients with water before simmering. Don’t try to simmer without any water. Also, you only need 8 C of water for the broth, not 10.

And apologies to Harold McGee and to all of you who tried to make alkaline noodles with 4 tablespoons of baked soda. Please only use 4 teaspoons.”

– Lucky Peach, the quarterly journal of food and writing, published by McSweeney’s

The “bread and butter” of this blog involves acting as a resource. Part of that mission includes helping people find good deals on great food. The concept sprung to life one afternoon as I ran down my list of favorite food stores with Nadira, an acquaintance new to the area. Most of my friends knew these places. But Cambridge receives an enormous influx of fresh faces every year, and many of them fail to discover these stores until halfway through their residency – or not at all.

My favorites may not always be the cheapest, but they’re worth the price and represent the best value. And I hope when you find a better value, or the same items selling for substantially less elsewhere, you’ll tell us about it. Occasionally, as with farmers markets or a co-op, I believe it’s worth spending a bit more to get better quality and help local growers at the same time.

Here’s the first of the brief profiles planned on local stores. We hope to cover these stores in more depth when warranted. Meanwhile, watch for the CambridgeCooks shopping list, which will compile favorites from the area. If you’d like to contribute to the list, please get in touch at cambridgecooks [at]

A tiny store, packed to the gills with hard-to-find treats from Europe and the U.S.

FORMAGGIO KITCHEN – Rarely does a store anchor a neighborhood the way Formaggio does. This tiny store, packed to the gills with hard-to-find treats from Europe and the U.S., deserves its reputation as a gourmet destination well beyond Huron Village. Naturally, quality goods like these do not come cheap, but there is much to recommend.

Cheese is the star here, and there are rarely fewer than six on display to sample. The folks behind the counter are knowledgeable and always ready to suggest something if you give them a clue of what you like. As the 125+ responses to this chowhound thread demonstrated earlier this year, the store has a large and loyal following.

Typical of the remarks: “As always, the staff at the cheese counter was friendly, enthusiastic, and very patient with me as I tasted at least 10 different cheeses.”

For a fine photo display of the store’s interior, hop over to:

'We believe in the one-herd farmer in Corsica and the fifth-generation olive grower in Andalusia.'

In addition to the cheeses, there are plenty of jams, honeys, crackers and chocolates, and a heart-stopping collection of oils and vinegars (arguably the best collection in the area). You can easily spend upwards of $30 for 500-750ml for some outasight olive oils from Greece, Spain, France and California. Or you can ask about the big urns of delicious private label oil for half the price. As for vinegars, if you shop carefully, you can pay nearly the same price as the supermarket and get twice the quality. Its collection of cured meat is first-rate, and we haven’t even mentioned the baked goods, starting with the cinnamon brioche bread.

Owner Ihsan Gurdal stakes much of his success on establishing and maintaining relationships with farmers and food folks who produce limited quantities. Many of them never reach the food fairs of Europe. As he explains: “We believe in the one-herd farmer in Corsica, the tiny storefront baker in Tuscany and the fifth-generation olive grower in Andalusia.”

Ihsan flies his buyers and selected staff all over the continent in search of these products. We’ll have lots more to say on this place.


Meanwhile, bear in mind their impressive list of classes and events.

This Saturday, December 10, finds an all-star sampling lineup, beginning with smoked fish and patés from Dave’s Cape Cod Smokehouse (11:30 am-2:30 pm); artisan preserves from Grace & I
(11:30 am-2:30 pm); and  Rhone reds from Vineyard Road (12:30-3 pm).

Sharpening Events: You’re invited to bring in your knives, as well as dull edges of all sorts (scissors, garden tools, husbands/boyfriends) to have them sharpened up on the spot. Sunday, December 18, 11am-2pm. Also Sunday, January 15, 11am-2pm.

Next up on the education front is their most popular class: Cheese 101. (Wednesday, December 14, 6:30pm: $45 per person.
Repeated Sunday, January 8, 5:30pm.)

Handmade Pasta Secrets. This is a hands-on class that will show how to make and fill ravioli, as well as demonstrate other pasta varieties. (Saturday, January 14, 4pm: with Nella Pasta, $45 per person. )


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One Response to Neighborhood Anchor & Gateway to European Gourmet Goodies

  1. We are blushing! Thank you for the lovely write-up – we are glad to hear you have had a positive experience in the shop and look forward to welcoming you back!

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