Brooklyn, New York
It's rare for a specialty food shop to really blow you away—especially in Brooklyn. We're (blissfully) saturated with fine food stores here. It's not tricky to find a spot with a well-curated selection of well-crafted cheeses, cured meats, honeys, chocolate, and the like. And so when one shop stands out from the rest, it's all the more special.
I did some perusing the other day at Campbell Cheese & Grocery in Williamsburg, Brooklyn. And blow me away it most certainly did. A few times over. I only wish it were located just a bit closer to my apartment.
Several things make Campbell Cheese & Grocery unique. Let's start with the cheese.
The selection hits every cheese style in spades. There are some you'd recognize, which is great for those of us who like to stick with the ol' favorites. But if you're into trying new things, Campbell Cheese is the spot. In addition to the typical cheese-making regions, for the purchase was cheese from Croatia, cheese from Missouri, and real-deal Danish Havarti from Denmark. Other notable offerings: a goat milk taleggio (Stracapra); legit, non-industrial Greek halloumi; a perfectly ripe washed rind sheep cheese from Meadowood Farm in Madison County, New York (Rippleton); and a Valencay-style goat milk cheese from Missouri's Baetje Farm (Bloomsdale).
The cheese signs are particularly likable, too. Rather than the oft-seen mini-paragraph in amusing— though sometimes overly-flowery— language, each sign boasts three words: two which describe its flavor, and one for its texture. The descriptors are meant to get the consumer excited about the cheese, and that they do. About their proprietary hand-selected wheels of Pleasant Ridge Reserve, they say, "smooth, brothy, buttered toast," while Rippleton is "bouncy, meat, umami."
Each cheese I sampled actually tasted of cheese, which can sometimes, sadly, be an anomaly, even in a cheese-focused store, since so often the flavor from a wheel's tight plastic wrapping overwhelms the cheese itself. The cheeses truly impressed, and I sampled a good number of them. I'd have purchased every one. And I'm not typically that easy a sell.
Two sisters, Alana and Erin (surname, Campbell, imagine that), own the shop, and it's clear that they care deeply about offering actually different and definitely cool things. They've lived in Williamsburg for over ten years and saw the neighborhood's need for a shop like this one. The buyer and manager, Elena Santogade, is devoted to sourcing obscure finds— whether it's cheese (she works with 14 different suppliers and small boutique importers), olives (they import them from a small Greek producer and each one tastes better than the next), beer (with over 50 offerings at any given time), dry goods (think local handmade pastas, nut butters, maple syrups, hot sauces, mustards, coffee, and a crazy selection of chocolate) or produce (all beautiful, all seasonal).
There's a prepared food section, too, and cheese-focused sandwiches that aim to impress. Their Ham & Cheese comes on a pretzel baguette with top-of-the-line ham and gruyere, and a mustard butter. And their so-called Grilled Cheese is made with raclette, bacon, scallion, and fig spread. Their full menu can be found on their website.
Campbell Cheese & Grocery is the kind of shop that keeps you coming back, because there's just so much to see that's new. You're pretty much guaranteed to return once you've been, since with their offerings, it's not hard to stay hungry.
Campbell Cheese & Grocery is located at 502 Lorimer Street in Williamsburg, Brooklyn.
(Images: Nora Singley)