Friday, February 17, 2012

"Not gay bars, Ma. Zabar's."*

Every so often, I have to go to the Zabar's cheese department. Forces beyond my control compel it. When it was something I theoretically had access to, as in, when I lived a bus or subway ride away from it, I don't think I properly appreciated it. Now, it's a quasi-religious pilgrimage, involving hours upon hours of transportation, and not really justifiable unless I'm in the city for some other reason. It's far enough from where I usually need/want to go in NY that it basically means throwing up my hands and accepting that I will be that woman carrying cheese across state lines, devoting an entire afternoon to figuring out how many jumbo containers of Amora mustard can be comfortably carried on the subway, two trains, and a 30-minute nature walk. (The answer, I've learned the hard way, is one, if I intend to carry - sorry, shlep - back anything else as well.)

On some level, I realize this is a waste of precious time in the city, and that even if I now live in the woods, there is a comparable establishment a mere 40-minute bike ride away. But the prices are significantly higher, and more to the point, there isn't that sense of infinite possibility, just a carefully-curated cheese selection and a bunch of relocated Europeans who can't believe their luck, finding this in a New Jersey strip mall. (There are, however, at both establishments, agitated local women several times my age and strength, prepared to shove.) For a place that's famous, touristy, and gourmet, the prices in the cheese section of Zabar's (if not the rest of the store) are startlingly low. A kid in a candy shop, except not a kid (in the frank words of my grandmother's cleaning woman earlier in the day, "28 is not young"), and while there is indeed candy just past the cheese, it just seems redundant.

I restrained myself, shopping-wise, insofar as I didn't get the $7.29 tiny piece of aged goat cheese (Chabichou, and it looked amazing), or didn't, in that I ended up with three different kinds of cheese, making that a grand total of eight varieties currently in the cheese drawer. Already had: Mozzarella (for pizza, doesn't count!), Pecorino, Ricotta Salata, the smallest possible but still embarrassingly pricey wedge of Humboldt Fog, Passendale. Now added: Valdeon (a Spanish blue cheese I'd never tried before), Camembert, and smoked mozzarella bocconcini. These, concerned reader(s), are not the entire contents of my kitchen. There are also fruits and vegetables (fresh, frozen, and in the case of more tomatoes than is reasonable, canned), as well as pantries full of pasta and dried legumes. But the cheese collection is by far the most impressive, so much so that it almost seems as if I should be hosting an academic reception, as opposed to merely stuffing my face. But it's a truly impressive array. Where's my Into The Gloss?

*Apologies to "The Nanny."

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