I love cheese. I love good cheese. In fact, what I really love is the smelly unpasteurized type of cheese that transports me to the streets of Paris where the scent literally wafts onto the street. In fact, you know you are a foodie when you think the best Valentine's Day present you ever received was a gift certificate to Wasik's in Wellesley or my other favorite cheese store, Formaggio in Huron Village in North Cambridge.
I like Wasik's, but at heart, I really am an urban girl and Cambridge still feels like home.
Heading to Formaggio's for me is a true experience. But it is definitely not the place that I would bring my toddler. He may enjoy jab chae, but he isn't quite at the point of appreciating the texture of a Chevrot. Instead, it is where I go to escape. It is where I can meander trying their delicious samples of many of their phenomenal cheeses. I always check out their incredible chocolates, olive oils, meats, jams, jellies, honey, spices, and more. Each item is hand selected by the owners. I even get caught up admiring the artwork on the jars and the stories that the owners write up about many of the products.
Almost everything is artisanly made. And, quite honestly, the prices usually match. So, between my worry that my sons would knock down the bottles of wine and what it would cost me, I tend to visit this place contentedly alone.
However, 2 restaurants nearby are good for kids and parents, too. Full Moon is one of the few restaurants I know that has high quality food that both parents and children will like, as well as a dollhouse and train table in the back. It invites parents to bring their kids, unlike other restaurants where families can feel like an intrusion. It can be a bit snobby and it is definitely not cheap, but it is nice to be able to relax and eat while the kids play. Across the street is a book shop and Henry Bear's Park, an independent toy store that I love for its diverse selection of arts supplies, building activities and creative toys.
On my most recent visit, though, I went to the Hi-Rise Bread Company. Everything is made by hand with great ingredients. This is the type of place that offers baguettes with Plugra butter and Valrhona chocolate. Order a "bread basket" and you will be handed 6 thick slices of semolina, brioche and rye bread, along with maple butter, more Plugra butter (I could eat this plain!) and creamed maple syrup. I will warn you: it costs $10.00 but it is enough food for at least 2 people.
The baked goods are decadent and range from beautiful little pies to homemade Oreos to gingerbread muffins that are full of fresh and candied ginger. Somehow they don't quite capture me like those of Flour in the South End, but they are still good and they are certainly rich. They have a kids' menu, too, and the best entertainment: an open kitchen so that children can watch breads rising, being formed and baked. It can be crowded and the competition for limited seating sometimes makes it easier to just take out. But on weekdays it can be a pleasant (and calorie-laden!) spot to spend time catching up with a friend.
Finally, the Huron Village area itself is beautiful and easily walkable with a few parks scattered throughout. Until I can afford the trip back to Paris, this is a much more viable option!