Posts Tagged ‘Europe’

Innocent Dutch retailer welcome page?  


Or was someone enjoying reruns of Monty Python’s Flying Circus? 

You decide.


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            Michael and I like to joke that the residents in our section of New Haven like to pretend that they are living in a small, cosmopolitan European city (Michael thinks Copenhagen; I’m more inclined to think a small Northern Italian city like Turin) rather than in New England, given the sheer number of people who tend to loiter outside the local markets and coffee houses for hours on end, even during normal working hours during the week.  There are benefits to this mentality, however—since they want to feel that they’re in Europe, they want to consume like they are as well.

            What does this mean?  Well, not only do we have easy access to some wonderful coffee houses (but most cannot provide the delight of European coffee, ironically enough), gourmet markets and expensive housewares stores, but now there are entrepreneurs who are recreating the European grocery shopping experience through the fromagerie/charcuterie model—specifically, one particular store.

              Having taken over the space once occupied by a sushi restaurant, Caseus is clearly designed to evoke an Old World sensibility without sacrificing accessibility.  A bistro is upstairs, featuring small plates, cheese boards, and a small sampling of some classic, mostly French dishes, and the cheese shop sits below.  The primary selling area is not very big, and rather sparsely decorated—they rely on the labels that appear on their rounds of cheese, pasting them to the wall much in the way a wine store in the area keeps a growing collection of wine corks.  A small cold case is in front, with signs that note that other selections can be gotten from “the cave”—the primary storage area that’s hidden from easy view that perhaps I will be able to see after visiting the place a few more times.

            Once inside, an associate approaches you, offering a sample of cheese (for me, it was a Vermont cheddar that was dynamite) as they ask you what you may be looking for.  A mixture of curiosity and craving for Serrano ham led me to ask what kinds of cured hams they carried, and lo and behold, a gorgeous hock of meat was already on the slicer.  After a taste (which was sliced at the appropriate thickness—not too thick, and thin enough to nearly melt in your mouth) I ordered a half-pound without even asking or caring what the price was, and though more expensive than the $17/lb ham available at the market downstairs from our apartment, it still was fairly reasonable at $24.99/lb, particularly as a simple indulgence.

            And as good as the products are, the staff is even better—they love to talk about food with you, and it’s not merely about them waxing poetic about the differences between Roquefort and other bleu cheeses, either.  They want to know what you’re looking for, in what context is it for (i.e., a cheese party or as a luxurious ingredient), and hey—they even would like to know how it worked out in the end.  They see themselves as mongers, and to that end they know the importance of a rapport with their customers, because then it becomes a relationship built on trust.

            I was only there for all of fifteen minutes, but as I walked back up Whitney with my $15 in ham in tow, I could sense a whiff of Brie lingering on my coat, and I knew that I would be back soon.  At the very least, I know I must get a peek inside that cave.

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