An icy mid-fall breeze whipped outside our office windows and, as one does when they work at Food52, I was daydreaming about food. Today, what with the advent of colder weather, my mind was on cheese. So imagine my surprise—and delight!—when our Shop called me over to meet the Cheese Grotto, their newest product. It may sound mythical, and that’s because it kind of is.
The grotto functions like a humidor for cheese. It’s a contained environment with preserved and sustained humidity levels, thanks to a clay brick that you soak in water and rest on the bottom of the box. There are also vents in the back that open and close to allow the space (and your cheeses!) to breathe.
The grotto was developed and designed by Jessica Sennett, who, after years working in cheese, ventured off on her own to develop the best method for keeping the food she loves in her home, without sacrificing quality. And not only is it functional, the handsome box would look perfectly in place on any kitchen counter or inside a fridge. Where you keep it depends on how soft or hard you like to enjoy your cheese.
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Given my own grotto to test, I immediately filled it with a variety of cheeses from the test kitchen. Thinking back on my days working in a cheese shop, I grabbed a hunk of Dutch Gouda, a craggy slice of Parmigiano-Reggiano from Italy, and a soft round of Camembert. I wanted to make sure I had a spectrum of textures and flavors to see how they would fare together in this bespoke cheese motel.
Personally, the coolest thing about the grotto is that you can store cheeses inside of it without having to wrap them. This way, not only are they easily accessible, but you can check on their firmness and coloring without having to wrap and unwrap them each time. Plus, cheeses just look so much prettier when they're not covered in bulky plastic.
Each day, every few hours, I peeked into my grotto to check on its contents. I tested the smell (or stink) and feel of each cheese. I tasted them to see if they were retaining their own flavor or absorbing that of their neighbors. The Gouda held on to its nutty smoothness. Over time it softened a little, which only made it all the easier to shave. Meanwhile, the Parmigiano stayed salty and continued to grate easily over my lunchtime salads. I was most curious, however, to see how the Camembert would fare. I wanted to see if its bloomy rind would hold up when kept in such close quarters to other cheeses—and without staying wrapped. After a few days, I noticed that its trademark white furry outside hadn't gotten funky or moldy. Instead, it looked almost identical to when I put it in the grotto, albeit a little softer. I like my Camembert with a little give anyway.
The grotto presents a stylish alternative to the refrigerator cheese drawer. It's definitely a lot more aesthetically pleasing, but the benefits extend beyond looks. Being able to keep your high quality cheeses in a contained, but controlled, environment is for sure a luxury. But this product makes that possible. I could feel the thought that went to every detail—the pullout drawers, the tiny internal thermometer, the windows that allow you to check on your cheese without disturbing its environment. I felt like I was not only treating myself, but treating my cheese. Scratch what I said about a cheese motel, this was a luxury cheese suite.
Before giving back the grotto, I called over my coworkers. They were curious to see how the cheeses had fared and I was excited to show them. We loaded up on crackers and jams, crusty bread and honey. Together, we spread and cut and drizzled and munched. Pretty soon the cheeses were gone and the grotto was empty and it was time to fill it up with a new batch.
How big of a cheesehead are you? Let us know if you'd use the Cheese Grotto to store your own favorites!