Falling for the first time…Olsson’s Fine Foods in Princeton

A new fromagerie-a slice of cheesy heaven-has opened in Palmer Square in Princeton.

The policy of the store is try before you buy, which is how I fell for a Stilton, making this a romance story of how the food blogger fell for a stinky cheese.

A Stilton! And I don’t even like any members of the stinky blue cheese family! They have a wonderful mild, non-stinky white Stilton with apricots in it. I was pretty skeptical about this cheese, but really surprised and fell in love at first bite. The sweet bits of apricot balance the creaminess and strong flavor of the cheese.

I did try a true blue cheese, but still can’t bear the strong flavor and aroma. The shop owner, Rudi, swears it will grow on me. The Smits, from Hopewell, have owned Olsson’s Fine Foods since 2007.  Their world travels and Rudi’s Dutch roots influence what appears on the shelves in the shop.

Out of the more than 250 cheeses offered at Olsson’s, I have some definite favorites so far.

My favorite cheese is the Australian Parmesan. It is sweeter and a bit creamier than a traditional Italian Parmesan and is wonderful with everything. My favorite use, besides any kind of pasta, is on a grilled head of Romaine lettuce that has been cut in half lengthwise and brushed with good olive oil, salted and peppered and placed on the grill for a few minutes until the leaves char slightly. When it comes off the heat, squeeze fresh lemon over the cut side and grate fresh Parmesan over top.

The cheese also makes a divine fetuccine Alfredo.

My second favorite cheese is a triple creme. It’s creamy, tangy and fabulous and worth every creamy calorie. Paired with a sliced of fresh strawberry on a cracker, it really shines and becomes an essential ingredient in any cheese plate.

The girls behind the counter are fabulous, encourage you to expand your palate (hence a Stilton crush) and can talk for hours about cheese and ways to use cheese.

The shop also has tasty non-cheese items too. My favorites are the strawberry chutney in the case and the softest dried figs with a lovely, deep brown sugar flavor that are kept in glass apothecary jars behind the counter with several other kinds of dried fruits.

And the pièce de résistance–homemade watermelon rind pickles! These delicious, sweet, spicy old-fashioned treats are a taste of my childhood. My mom used to get them occasionally in a jar-probably from Delicious Orchards in Colts Neck-and I would eat the whole jar on her, usually in one sitting.  Boy, would she be hopping mad to discover only one or two pieces left in the bottom.

Don’t remember the names of your favorite cheeses? No worries. The shop has an informal tracking system-you put your name on a green index card, write down your cheese soul mates and stick it in the drawer on the counter for next time.

If you are really into cheese, you can learn how to make your own, as the owners offer workshops in mozzarella making, pairing cheese and wine plus more. Call the shop 609-924-2210 or email them at jsmit@olssonsfinefoods.com for more information.

The shop had been located for more than 25 years in the Trenton Farmers Market, which was only open on weekends. Seeking to serve their customers all week long, they moved to Palmer Square.

Their location happens to be conveniently located two doors down from the Bent Spoon Ice Cream Shop (see ice cream post) and several doors away from Carter & Cavero, a wonderful store that sells olive oils and balsamic vinegars. Princeton also has several excellent wine and spirit shops in the downtown, so shopping for a gastronomic gathering is easy peasy.

Victoria Hurley-Schubert, Regional Editor Ocean County, is a true Jersey girl. Raised in Marlboro, Vikki  has lived in the area her whole life. She loves to experiment in the kitchen and is happiest when feeding a houseful of friends and family. A journalist for 10 years, she now serves on the staff of the Princeton Packet. Vikki is happiest on the road, so it should be no Surprise she is a travel agent specializing in Disney destinations.   Follow her on Twitter @vikkihs.