The Brooklyn Heights corridor of Atlantic Avenue has become quite the mecca for specialty foods. There’s Sahadi’s, of course, revered for its for exotic spices, dried fruits and nuts; Damascus Bakery, which focuses on fluffy pockets of pita and flaky wheels of lavash; and Dellapietras, which peddles prime dry-aged meat, kurobuto pork and free range organic pasture raised chicken—and all are anchored by Trader Joe’s at the corner, where you can generally find reduced-price packages of all of the above.
And then there’s the neighborhood’s newest tenant, PAIR, which is a veritable temple of funky, floral, yeasty, grassy cheese. It would be a shame to just hightail it home after procuring a wedge of compté, though, because—as the name would suggest—the tasting room/retail counter is equally committed to wine, showcasing curated couplings of dairy and vino, overseen by owner (and Artisanal’s former maître fromager) Chung Park.
And while its hard to go wrong with wine and cheese in any combination (witness the typical—and not entirely unenjoyable—reception repast of tooth-picked squares of cheddar and plastic tumblers of Yellow Tail Shiraz), Chung’s selections are truly something special—a meticulous balancing act of acid and fat, sugar and salt, terroir and terroir. Take the Selles-sur-Cher, a delicately chalky, salty disc of herbaceous goat cheese, shipped fresh from France’s Loire Valley and then aged in-house, which, when experienced alongside a regional Sauvignon Blanc such as Domaine du Carrou’s Sancerre, simply explodes with profound minerality and citrusy zestiness.
Other notable options include the distinctively footy Ouleout, a washed rind, raw cows milk cheese made by Jos Vulto in Walton, NY. Although it’s capable of standing up to the most aggressively macho of reds, Chung uses a light-on-its feet, cherry-forward Fattoria Corzano e Paterno Chianti, to plumb nuanced, briny, roasty and toasty flavors from the fudgy, reblochen-esque cheese. And in lieu of a dessert course, Chung serves a soft Jersey Blue with an especially viscous Standing Stone Riesling, offsetting the ice wine’s honeyed sweetness with the cheese’s pronounced salinity. Allow them to melt, merge, and tickle the taste buds on the front of your tongue, and you’ll swear that you’re sucking on a salted caramel, instead of gumming a mold-veined wad of artfully fermented milk.
To round out the menu, chef Katelyn Reid celebrates cheese’s culinary malleability, by turning out nutty gruyère tarts; smoky croque madame sandwiches; milky, house-pulled mozzarella antipasti; and bubbling crocks of creamy, molten fondue for two. There’s even a traditional raclette service (only $5 during happy hour!), which buys a plate of pickled vegetables, a tin of sliced bread, and a personal votive-lit burner brought right to your table, along with a duo of wooden paddles, meant for scraping off servings of the pungent, melted cheese. Pity you can’t sneak one of those nifty contraptions into a basket, along with other gourmet goodies culled from Atlantic Avenue, for a locally sourced, fancy pants picnic in nearby Brooklyn Bridge Park.
140 Atlantic Avenue, Brooklyn Heights