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Cheese Culture

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Photo by Peter Frank Edwards

The orange fondue pot bought on eBay arrives on the porch in a plain box. My next find is a handful of long-handled fondue forks at an antique shop in Searsport. All we need now is cheese—wedges, hunks, and gobs of the stuff.

That’s how this quest starts, inspired by a vintage pot with chipped enamel. (I imagine decades of past fondue parties.) I’m also spurred on by basic cheese curiosity. We keep seeing artisanal cheese displays at markets and on menus in Maine—goat, cow, and sometimes sheep’s milk varieties. Even some of Maine’s small towns have Euro-style cheese shops. As a starter, I climb the spiral stairs to one of those—Eat More Cheese, tucked away on the back side of a Main Street building in Belfast that’s within a few hundred yards of the bayfront’s boatyards and brewery. Inside the tiny shop with cheddar orange walls, I step up to the counter and find myself eye-to-cheese with a half-wheel of Saenkanter. Natalia Rose, one of the owners, is working behind the counter, and she encourages me to grab a toothpick and try one of the sample cubes cut from the impressive, golden-orange round from Holland.

I stab a square from the arrangement on a slab of granite, and I can taste cream, salt, and caramel. It’s my first melt-in-the-mouth discovery of the day, and between customers who stop in for Gouda and cheddar, I ask Natalia about other varieties in the glass case and on the wooden shelves around us. She shows me a traditional, heart-shaped Coeur de Bray (from Normandy), and a Langres that, she notes, is best served with Champagne poured over the concave top of the baseball-sized round (produced in the Champagne region). There are several Maine-made cheeses, including bloomy rounds from Lakin’s Gorges in Rockport and hefty, rustic wedges of Eleanor Buttercup from Hahn’s End in Phippsburg. Other European, New England, and West Coast cheeses are in the mix, too—a mini-tour of the world’s cheeses arrayed daily for a town of about 6,000.

via Cheese Culture.

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