For a few weeks now, I’ve been sharing little tidbits and ideas on what to make for dinner from Eastern Market. Today as a friend (hi, Keira!) and I walked by and I tried to glean some inspiration from among the smells and the sights, I wondered out loud how easy it would be to compose a dinner mostly from things procured at Bowers Fancy Dairy Products. I honestly thought it would be challenging to come up with more than one meal idea from a place that sells nothing but cheese, but I was mistaken.
When I asked my friend what she thought, we ended up brainstorming a series of fun summer dinner suggestions: fondue; raclette paired with some locally-grown new potatoes; a cheese plate with fruit; bruschetta topped with goat cheese; and so on. Granted, a few of these are heavier winter suggestions, but with a little ingenuity you can be grilling cheese and having fancy savory s’mores over your grill in a matter of minutes.
Clearly, this column writes itself when you hang out with creative types.
Bowers Cheese Shop has been catering to cheese freaks on Capitol Hill for 45 years. They run a tidy and efficient operation near the southern end of the Market. They are one of the few vendors who accept only cash, so plan accordingly. They are always extremely generous with their samples: in fact, one could spend dangerous amounts of time just standing around and basking in the niceness of Tessa or any of the other people who work the counter; eat one’s weight in bits of cheese; and develop a huge crush on that enormous saw-like cheese knife that cuts even the toughest aged cheese with ease.
If you go, prepare to have your mind blown, dairywise. They claim to “specialize in Cheese from All Parts of the World!” and it’s no lie. When we approached the counter wondering about the Swiss cheeses for the fondue and the raclette, it took us longer to list the types of cheeses that go into a fondue pot than for Tessa to start pulling them all out and offering samples. For such a small operation, their assortment is pretty impressive and world-class.
Meanwhile, a short distance away from the Swiss goodness, tubs of different softer cheeses beckoned, looking delicious. These are the kinds of cheeses that you could spread on toasted bread and pair with little cherry tomatoes and a couple of chopped basil leaves picked from a neighbor’s garden; and when served cold, they are the right thing to dine on a hot summer night.
But if you think that only the foreign and the rare cheeses make the trip worthwhile, then you haven’t been offered an enormous slice of their sharp cheddar. It’s enough to want to chuck the European ambitions and realize that sometimes the best dinner you can ever have is a grilled cheese sandwich, maybe paired with a leafy, fresh green salad to help the arteries along. How about that for a good dinner suggestion?