Back in 2012, Doug and I discovered a gas station in Stuart, FL that housed a Middle Eastern grocery store and surprisingly terrific café. What a find!
Fast forward to a few weeks ago, May, 2019 in Indian Land, SC. As Doug and I were driving toward Charlotte, NC, we passed an Exxon gas station with a yellow and black sign which caught our attention: Eastern European Foods.
We stopped in to discover an array of food products from Russia, Georgia, the Ukraine – and – Armenia!
Besides the shelved groceries, there are refrigerated compartments with cheeses, perogies, cakes, sausages, and more.
The Armenian products included a variety of fruit nectars, jellies, preserves, and grape leaves – and, the best part, it’s only a 10 minute drive from our home. Naturally, we bought a bunch of things – Noyan grape leaves, Apricot Nectar, Eggplant Caviar, to name a few.
On a second visit recently, we noticed the largest package of lavash we’d ever seen, Armenian Lori cheese (actually, a product of Tbilisi, Georgia), and – drum roll, please – basterma (basturma)– in a gas station!
We bought the lavash and cheese; basterma purchase would have to wait for another visit.
I wasn’t familiar with Lori cheese, so I did some research. First, I went to the company’s website – you can read the findings below.
The following explanation about Lori cheese comes from the manufacturer’s website: ABOUT PRODUCT : Rennet cheese. Pulp of color from white to light yellow. Has a dense, brittle structure. Throughout the volume of the cheese body are small holes. Without a peel. Taste – milky, medium salty, sometimes with sourness.
Next, I reached for my copy of Irina Petrosian’s book, ‘Armenian Food: Fact Fiction and Folklore’ for more details.
Ms. Petrosian notes that Lori cheese, ‘a traditional Armenian cheese, has a short fermentation period, is aged in brine, is salty and not fully aged. Its firm texture is due to the curd being heated twice. Lori cheese has irregular holes formed from gases produced during the curing stage.’
After tasting a tiny piece of the cheese, it reminded me of a cross between a good Parmigiano-Reggiano and Feta cheese.
For cheese-lovers who like a rather tangy, salty cheese, it’s good on its own. When grated or crumbled, Lori cheese would be a lovely addition to soup, salad, pasta, or in a filling for cheese boregs. Serve it with fruit, fresh greens (scallions, fresh herbs), fresh tomatoes – but don’t forget lavash!
For cocktail hour, why not pair Lori cheese with wine? (Sorry, I can’t suggest a wine – not my department).
For those who prefer a less salty cheese, I have it on good authority from Sonia Tashjian, that Lori cheese can be cut into pieces then immersed in cold water to reduce the saltiness.
The next time you’re driving past a gas station, stop inside; you might be surprised at what you’ll find.
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