When a new friend invited me a couple of months ago to meet her for lunch at the Cheese Importers in Longmont, CO, about 25 minutes northeast of Boulder, I expected to have a quick meal in a local restaurant and then get a driving tour of up and coming Longmont, which I had been wanting to check out since I had moved to Boulder back in September of last year. Well, I enjoyed a lovely Quiche Lorraine and salad, and later, the tour, but I never expected to be captivated by the establishment itself.
The Cheese Importers Marketplace and Bistro is set in a large parking lot in an industrial area, a location where you would more likely see auto parts yards and manufacturing facilities, but not so much a very charming restaurant and store. From the outside, the colorful and whimsical outdoor furnishings, bright orange and green front doors and mosaic of decorations beckon you inside, and only hint at the blaze of color which envelops you when you walk in.
There is a counter laden with French pastries, graced, on that day, by Natalie, whose warmth and friendly professionalism instantly made me feel welcomed. Although this second visit was for photographing, it was hard to resist the freshly baked almond croissants and rainbow of macarons, which were quietly beckoning to me.
It was mid-afternoon, so the lunch rush was over and the dining area was almost empty, but when I had dined there before, the place was packed. It was obvious that this treasure was no secret. My friend had to drag me through all of the different corners of the store, as I was attempting to register all of the enticing goods the place was stocked with. The strong emphasis on products from France ignited my romantic and culinary proclivities, and I took a quick inventory of the gems I might purchase upon future visits.
Off to one side of the marketplace is a huge refrigerated room, stocked with cheeses, charcuterie, crackers and olives from around the world. It is manned by a cheese monger, Heidi, who helped me select a soft wedge of black truffle brie to take home with me.
If you venture upstairs, there are more tables for diners, and a few different rooms filled with unusual treasures. One room is stocked with books and toys for kids, including a puppet theater. The main room is filled with gifts from Paris, but my favorite is the salmon pink room, which looks like a boudoir, at the center of which is an antique organza tutu on a wire armature, sewn with sequins and topped off with a brightly dyed orange-pink fur stole. The room is ringed with French soaps and toiletries, assorted costumes and baubles, and is crowned with a glass chandelier so colorful and glistening, it looks like candy.
Once again downstairs on the main level, I was very pleased to make the acquaintances of Rose and Jeanette, who warmly told me a little bit about the store’s owners and history. I kept returning to their registers with different treats I could not live without, like my favorite violet and rose flavored pastilles, and salted caramels.
Finally, I did another quick walk-through to be sure I didn’t miss anything, making a mental note to return and acquire embossed glasses, napkins and tablecloths in delicious colors to stage my food photos for this blog and my future cookbooks.
And since I had purchased the truffle brie, I needed some French wine and baguette to accompany it, of course, so I headed to Whole Foods on the way home to pick them up for my dinner. It was the perfect way to end the day, imagining I was at a Parisian bistro on the Left Bank, watching the beautiful, slender and sophisticated passers-by and listening longingly to their seductive language.
I can’t wait to go back to Paris and explore more of beautiful France, but in the meantime, I can simply visit the Cheese Importers in unlikely Longmont, and let my French fantasies carry me away…
…and that’s amrita’s table…