I recently had to go on a business trip to the state capital, Albany. In my 10 years up here, I’d yet to visit it. New York is a moderately sized state; it’s pretty big compared to the tiny territories of New England, yet it’s no Alaska or Texas. The hotel where I stayed was an amusing hybrid of late 80s/early 90s Laura Ashley style decor mixed with Colonial Williamsburg! I kid you not.
The luncheon served there as part of my conference was deplorable, most especially because they only served one option to the vegetarians and vegans, which meant there was no cheese, not even on the side, and actually there was no real protein at all.
Thus, on my way back south, the pit stop I planned was all the more important. Of course, being a certified turophile, I had researched (hello, Yelp!) cheese-friendly establishments in the greater Albany area. I immediately fell for the name of the shop because I would indeed be travelling to get to their cheese! Visiting here also meant that I could neatly skirt around Friday afternoon traffic by slightly delaying my departure.
The Cheese Traveler is located in DelSo, a neighborhood-in-transition southwest of the downtown. Regentrification was a mild scent in the air, but there was still an edgy feel to the area. I’m sure if I come back in 5 or 10 years, I won’t recognize it, though perhaps this shop and café will have taken over the space of the local supermarket by then!
The shop sells more than just cheese, though that’s obviously its main fare. They have local bread and meat, as well as lots of fancy condiments to go along, and an ample selection of craft beers and other sundry items. A couple of different samples are generally on offer and the cheesemonger is happy to offer individual tastes as well.
Since I had a 2-3 hour drive before me, I had to skip the beer and I also hadn’t thought to bring an insulated carrier, so I decided to just try one of their gourmet grilled cheese options. If Jarlsberg had been my travelling companion, I’m sure she would’ve selected the Traditional as it featured her beloved Comté. While it was tempting, I decided to try the Farmer’s with Dubliner’s Cheddar, chutney, and red onion (which I don’t usually like, but it was finely chopped, so perfectly tolerable).
I wish I could say it was the most amazing grilled cheese I’d ever had, but unfortunately, it was just the wrong side of the fine line between extra crispy and burnt. I guess the chatty cheesemonger forgot about it for five seconds too long. It wasn’t terrible, but the burnt flavor overwhelmed the sandwich, in spite of its ooey-gooey middle (see above).
In spite of this experience, I would go back and next time, I’d just hope, perhaps request, that they not leave my sammie in the press overlong. The shop also had some delightful French sea salt caramels that had been soaked in wine, I think; they were subtle at first taste, but then really packed a deliciously boozy punch towards the end. I’d definitely get those again.. they alone were worth the 5 hour journey there and back! So, Cheese Traveler, perhaps I will be travelling back to Albany sooner than later to visit you for cheese & more.