If you have ever felt that you just needed to be in France, or Italy, or Spain instead of in Brooklyn, New York, but you couldn’t afford the airfare or you have no vacation time left–then look no further, denizens of Park Slope, Greenwood Heights and surrounding neighborhoods. All you have to do is walk into Grab, the specialty cheese and beer store on 7th Avenue between 14th and 15th Streets in the South Slope, and run a longing eye over the cheese counter. Think–will it be Spain today, with a piece of Manchego; or France, with so many choices one doesn’t know where to start; or Italy perhaps. Then before you have even decided, one of the young assistants will ask you, “Would you like to taste something?” “Yes,” you say, “could I try the Livarot?”
He cuts you a sliver of the soft creamy cheese with the thick rind. You place it in your mouth, and immediately you are in a farmyard in Normandy. The long low farmhouse is half timbered, you can hear chickens cackling behind you, the apple trees are heavy with fruit, and the cows in the knobby pasture are lowing, asking to be milked. A craggy faced farmer with a stick is herding them down the road toward the milking parlor…
Your moment of escape is over as the salty nectar slips down your throat, but you can try more, and then take some home for more instantaneous vacations, alone or with friends.
In fact, for a foolproof and no-fusscheese and wine party, you cannot beat the following formula: (adjust quantities according to number of guests.) Buy half a wheel of Grab’s Fromage d’Affinois, a wonderfully buttery brie-like cheese; add some goat cheese, a little bleu d’Auvergne and a quantity of a hard cheese of your choice; throw a few packets of crackers and loaves of bread into the bag, some olives too if you like; then go next door and buy a case of assorted “cheap and tasty” wines from the lovely people at Slope Cellars. Voila. Your shopping is done in these two contiguous stores and you will have a table fit for a king. I can almost guarantee you that one of your guests will abandon all dignity and lick the plate that held the soft cheese.
Grab’s artisanal cheeses are not the store’s only attraction. You might also want to experiment with the suggested cheese and beer pairings. Grab stocks craft beers such as Stone, Captain Lawrence and Bear Republic, which you can carry home in a growler, as well as many bottled varieties not commonly seen. The charcuterie counter is notable but not my thing; and if you have a lust for a Jacques Torres chocolate but don’t want to head down to DUMBO, then Grab will satisfy your cravings.
For a taste of terroir right down the block, head to Grab. You will not regret it.