We’re doing another cheese subscription service!
That’s right, just in time for Valentine’s Day. If you have a foodie sweetheart, friend, or someone close to you, cheese subscriptions can be fun gifts. Today, we’re taking a look at the Monthly Cheese Selection from Formaggio Kitchen, a formidable presence in the New England cheese scene that started in Cambridge, Massachusetts in 1978 and has since expanded to four locations. With such a long legacy, surely the cheese subscription is in good hands? Well, we shall see…
I am not affiliated with any of the companies, producers, or products in this review. I just like reviewing cheese.
What’s a Monthly Cheese Selection?
According to the website, Formaggio Kitchen’s Monthly Cheese Selection is “the perfect way to be introduced to new and exciting cheeses near and far.” The focus here is almost exclusively on these cheeses you get each month, with seasonal or regional themes.
Subscriptions arrive on the first Thursday or Friday of each month. I live in an apartment complex so it was a little frustrating having to constantly check for my package over the course of two days. Admittedly I also almost forgot when I was getting the first month’s package because I had no email reminders from the company this time. Remember to double check your dates and mark your calendars, folks!
What I Got in Each Selection
No lie, these selections felt starker compared to my previous experiences
Each month you receive a box with three kinds of cheese (about 1 ½ pounds total) exploring a variety of flavors and textures, as well as a short flyer explaining the cheeses and the cheesemongers’ choices. The first delivery also nets you a nice foldable carbon steel cheese knife and a cheese tasting journal to help you keep track of your experiences.
Before you ask, no, there’s no jams, crackers, meats, or any pairings that come with the cheeses. You’re on your own for that.
To give you an idea of the variety—or, honestly, lack thereof—in the boxes themselves, here’s what I received over the course of three months from July, August, and September in 2021.
Themed around French cheeses, my July box came with cheeses I already knew (and regularly sold in my days as a cheesemonger).
I received Brie Fermier by Ferme de la Tremblaye, a bloomy-rinded cow’s milk soft cheese with intense mushroom notes and a little bit of onion flavor. It’s on the strong side of bries but was a pretty popular selection at the shop I worked at. Personally I originally wasn’t a fan of the mushroom flavors in bries like this, but after having a slice with fruit preserves it actually changed my mind. Props to you, Brie Fermier! I like you slightly better now.
Next up was P’tit Basque, a cute little semi-firm sheep’s milk cheese with an ivory paste and nutty, lactic, and earthy notes almost reminiscent of a barnyard. Made in the Basque region of France, this is a fun little cheese from my old work days and I enjoyed its mild yet complex flavor. I’m a big fan of those kinds of sheep cheeses.
If you’ve wandered through my archives, you know I’m a lover of washed rind cheeses at all levels of stank. No surprise then that my favorite of this batch was the St. Nectaire by Xavier David, a semi-soft washed rind cheese made from cow’s milk with a creamy mouthfeel and intensely salty, savory, meaty, toasty flavors. St. Nectaire is a classic of the French cheese world and there’s a reason for it.
Maybe it’s because of my brief experience in the cheese industry, but this selection felt a little…boring. Safe. I know there’s lots of thoughts and cost calculations that go behind these types of subscriptions, but I wasn’t particularly wowed. It’s what you get if you think about typical “fancy French cheese” minus some kind of blue or goat. Not a bad start, but I hoped for something newer with the next round.
So my problems with this month’s selection have nothing to do with the idea of the theme, really, because there’s no way the folks behind this kit could have known. August was all about cheeses that pair with champagne, wine, and hard cider. This is actually a cute idea in theory!
The problem is I don’t really drink alcohol.
There’s no religious, moral, or medical reason, I’m just “meh” about the taste and don’t like how it makes me feel physically. I opted out of the alcohol pairings when trying the cheeses.
I started with the Langres, a soft, washed rind, cow’s milk cheese by Chalancey. It’s salty, mild, creamy, and buttery, and traditionally served with a little champagne poured over the concave top. I almost wished I had some kind of bubbly cider or ginger ale to try it with as a non-alcoholic alternative. Once again the washed rind cheese is my favorite.
Next up was Cabot Clothbound Cheddar by Cabot Creamery and Jasper Hill Farm. As the name suggests, it’s a bandaged, natural rind, cow’s milk cheese with a crumbly texture and complex aroma and flavor. Creamy and rich, grassy and sharp with toasty notes, it’s a cheese you’ll want to work in your mouth over and over again to find new flavors. It was mid-tier for me, but really shined with some sliced apples. Even some non-alchoholic cider would have been great with it.
My final cheese was Camembert Marie Harel, named after the inventor of Camembert. Made by Laiterie de Saint-Hilaire de Briouze, it’s another bloomy soft cow’s milk cheese with strong earthy, yogurt, and cabbage flavors that pair well with a Sauvignon Blanc wine. As a cabbage lover you think I’d enjoy this, right?
Nope. Straight up didn’t like this one. I have always found Camembert to be a little too sulfurous and this did not change my mind. Oh well.
This was when I finally realized that I was having a personality clash with this subscription service.The theme of the month was early autumn cheeses. A little broad, but suitable considering the time of the year.
Reader, I got Camembert for the second time in a row.
Mind you, this was called Camembert Fermier from the producer Ferme de Jouvence, so you could argue that there’d be some flavor nuance between the two.
I even tried baking it with some rosemary, olive oil, and garlic to see if I’d like it better that way.
Nope. Still couldn’t find it in me to like Camembert.
Obviously Formaggio Kitchen couldn’t know that I don’t like Camembert, but getting the same kind of cheese twice in a row just feels a little sloppy.
I received other wedges as well, such as the semi-firm cow’s milk blue cheese called Fourme d’Ambert from Auvergne, France. My feelings towards blue cheeses are mixed—I’m very picky about them—but this wasn’t bad. It’s sharp, salty, creamy, about medium strength for a blue, and excellent with a good dose of honey.
The final cheese was Monte Veronese di Malga, a hard cow’s milk cheese from the Lessinia region of Italy. It was probably the one I enjoyed the most; its taste and texture are like a moister, heavier Parmesan with a spicy tingle and tropical fruit notes. I almost wish I’d had some mortadella or some other charcuterie to pair with it.
Price of the Monthly Cheese Selection
The Monthly Cheese Selection can be bought for installments of three, six, or twelve months. The minimum three-month subscription is currently $225.00, with shipping included in the cost.
Considering they have national shipping, this is great if you live far from the Northeast but might seem a little expensive if you’re local or within pickup distance (yes you can pick this up at one of their stores).
The cost is much more expensive than what I paid for a previous subscription. You get larger pieces of cheese, but on the other hand the cheese is really all you get. I’m not sure my experience justified the cost.
Overall Final Thoughts on Monthly Cheese Selection
If you can’t tell, I wasn’t a fan of this subscription service.
A lot of labor can go into curating an experience for subscription members or even just artisan cheese tasting classes: you have to select the cheeses, balancing flavor, texture, type, and cost; if you’re doing pairings, you have to think of accompaniments and the ways they play off the cheese and each other; and you have to do the research behind the history of the cheeses.
I was expecting a lot for the price tag and felt like I got the bare minimum.
Obviously this is fine if you prefer having more control over your own cheese tasting and pairing experiences. In a larger household with a pretty diehard cheesehead who loves any type of curd, this would be a great gift.
Between the price tag and clashes in taste, I personally won’t be using this service again.
What do you guys think? Would you give this subscription service a try? Consider leaving a comment below or check out my take on Curdbox for more reviews!
We can’t spend all this time talking about food without talking about food justice.
Here in Massachusetts, Project Bread is drumming up support for An Act Relative to Universal School Meals (H.714/S.314), which would make every meal served through the National School Lunch Program or School Breakfast Program free for any Massachusetts student who wants or needs it.
This eliminates the stigma of the tiered-pay system while making sure low-income students are fed and helping children thrive academically, physically, and emotionally. It’s hard to learn when you’re worried about your next meal, but we as adults can help take care of that for kids at school.
Click here to contact your local Massachusetts legislators and ask them to support the bill! If you’re not in Massachusetts, I highly recommend either donating to a local food pantry or seeing if there’s any local free school meal policies you can advocate for. No child needs to go hungry.