The newest addition to the trendy and growing list of food shops, this one solely dedicated to the culture of cheese, is the French Cheese Board located in Nolita on a corner where, surprisingly, a whiff of bohemia still exists.
The first concept store of its kind in the U.S, the shop is a delight; narrow, airy, a place to explore the process of making cheese through interactive tools and educational walls, and to commune with friends. There is a hosting table and kitchen at the far end for events, discussion and tastings.
An endeavor initiated by CNIEL, the French Dairy Interbranch Organization that promotes milk and diary products, the company aims to broaden American awareness on how to incorporate the variety of cheeses into their recipes and into the larger sphere of one’s lifestyle. I met with Helena Ichbiah one-half of the design duo of Ich&Kar, who were engaged by the company to realize their concept.
“We wanted to keep the space fluid and create a user-friendly tool box and since I am interested in history, we decided to combine these two objectives by showing the process from the moment you enter the store.” Pointing to a regional map of France dotted with various brands, Helena described the importance of geography.
“Where cheese is initially sourced is critical. The quality of the soil, weather conditions, the diversity of the cattle are all intertwined to create a certain flavor and establish a brand name.”
We moved on to the movable diagrams on the magnetic black wall where a user can take down pieces and in rearranging them learn how to properly slice cheese. “Each piece is cut according to a pattern and always cut so that the core and rind are included since the taste is not consistent throughout.”
Along with these features, there is a small wall library on all things cheese, a gallery of photographs displaying dazzling cheese sculptures, bespoke furniture, and a back wall showing the production process from cow to dining.
There is a design shop for an exclusive selection of tableware and accessories. Cheeses are rotated so new selections are always available.
All this is designed to instill a new appreciation of one of France’s best exports and, of course, to experience the French Art de Vivre.
French Cheese Board, 41 Spring Street, frenchcheeseboard.com, 212-302-3390
Photos: Pascal Perich