Food lovers can find the world’s great cheeses in Paris, Rome, New York – and now in Lowell, Massachusetts. That’s the vision of business owner Beth Falk.
Mill City Cheesemongers, a specialty shop featuring artisan cheese, charcuterie and condiments, has opened in Lowell’s innovative arts and shopping venue, Mill No. 5. The cheese shop joins Red & White Market and Coffee & Cotton as part of the Mill’s increasing focus on local food.
Shop owner Beth Falk began her career as a monger at the Cheese Shop of Concord, MA, and is the current Executive Director of the Massachusetts Cheese Guild. “New Englanders care deeply about local food,” says Falk, “and working with artisan cheesemakers here in Massachusetts has taught me how important it is to support small-scale producers. My goal in the shop is to introduce customers to great domestic cheese – as good and often better than the European cheeses they’ve tasted – and to find ways to make that cheese affordable for everyone.”
Mill City’s “CSC” (Community Supported Cheese) program does just that. The CSC borrows from a traditional CSA model to provide subscribers with monthly “tasting shares” for as little as $25/month. Falk explains the CSC: “Every month, I select three cheeses from small producers who may not be widely known in the marketplace. This way, my subscribers taste something new, and I can support cheesemakers as their businesses grow.”
Mill City Cheesemongers distinguishes itself from other Boston-area cheese shops with its focus on domestic producers. About 35 of the 40 cheeses available during any given week at Mill City come from small-scale United States cheesemakers, most of them in the Northeast. “There are plenty of shops in New England where you can buy a wonderful Gruyere that’s known the world over,” says Falk, “but in this little space, I can offer my customers new domestic cheeses that only a handful of people have had a chance to taste. By cultivating relationships with producers, I can tell people that I know where their food comes from – that I’ve met the cheesemakers, seen the farms and the animals, and that I know they can feel good about what they’re eating. The fact that some of these cheeses happen to taste terrific is the final flourish.” Mill City Cheesemongers also offers accompaniments for cheese, including products like a New York-produced spicy honey, unusual jams and mostardas, and pickled vegetables to balance the richness of soft-ripened cheeses.
Lowell’s diverse population, along with the city’s strong arts and culture, has provided tremendous opportunity for specialty food, says Falk, noting that “in a community with so much diversity, people are open to all sorts of culinary experiences. Very few of my customers, even the “rookies,” are reluctant to taste a stinky cheese. That’s a lot of fun for me.” Falk also offers classes and tastings at the shop, and her Cheese 101 program, which includes wine pairings, has a loyal following.
Mill City Cheesemongers is currently open during the Mill’s open shop hours, on Thursday and Friday evenings from 5-8 pm, and from 12-8 pm on Saturday and 11-5 pm on Sunday. Mill No. 5’s weekly Sunday Farm Market provides a steady stream of locavores access to fresh produce, eggs, meats and specialty food from other local producers, and market goers have responded well to Falk’s cheese selections. As the fall and winter holidays approach, says Falk, the shop’s hours will likely expand to accommodate requests for gift baskets and party platters.
For more information about Mill City Cheesemongers, visit the shop’s website at www.millcitycheese.com