Savor Savenor's Selection in Beacon Hill, Boston
My first, and most lasting impression of Savenor's Market in the Beacon Hill neighborhood of Boston, was their meat cooler. Yak steaks, ostrich burgers, rattlesnake - it's not the same selection of products found at say, Shaw's. And while its menagerie of meats might grab attention first, its cheese selection is not to be overlooked, and packs as many surprises.
On a wall before checkout, blocks of cheese stand like soldiers in tightly packed columns, marked by index cards penned by neat handwriting. This selection has been curated by Diana Deming, who is in her third year of cheesemongery at the market. Under Deming's tutelage, you will be hard pressed to find a Kraft Single or string cheese.
"I try to explain to them that I'm selling cheese that you can't usually get at a supermarket," Deming says of confused customers looking for nothing more than Monterey Jack.
Deming's choice to sell more artisanal, hard to find cheeses from small and local farms is both a matter of taste and business. Savenor's stands just a stone's throw from a Whole Foods. To compete, Deming is playing the advantage of a small, personal store: giving not only the customers want they want, but the producers too.
"They want to sell cheese to people such as myself, who are going to take proper care of their cheese, and display it and sell it properly, and they refuse to sell it to people like Whole Foods," Deming said of her sellers, who include small family owned farms in Massachusetts, Vermont, and other surrounding states.
When pressed to pick a favorite, Deming highlighted the recent arrival of Amantei Gado. Amantei Gado is a sheep's milk cheese produced in Portugal that is "extremely rare," in Deming's words. It is an unpasteurized sheep's milk cheese made with thistle rennet. This unusual choice of rennet makes it exceptional, and truly vegetarian. Rennet, an enzyme added to milk to coagulate it to cheese, typically comes from the stomach lining of animals. The fact that Amantei Gado's rennet comes from a flower and not the intestinal tract of ol' Bessie makes it a truly vegetarian cheese.
That thistle also contributes to the complex flavors of the cheese, that Deming described with a whole narrative of tastes.
"You start out and its very savory, brothy, yeasty, briny almost like a feta, but then as you continue in the finish you will have these nice, sweet fruity notes."
As Deming brings the tale of Amantei Gado to its happy ending, I think of all the shoppers in the dairy section of a big-box, chain supermarket. As they mill about, stuffing shopping carts in shiny, branded bliss, they don't know what they are missing at a local, neighborhood shop like Savenor's Market.