On a recent visit home, a childhood friend’s mother was making breakfast for me, an Israeli omelet.
“Should I add feta?,” she asked, brightly. Without thinking, my nose crinkled in disgust. Let’s just say, my sentiments on feta are similar to a blogger's I recently spotted, who describes the cheese as tasting “like cubed vomit.”
“That’s okay,” I demurred, “I don’t like feta.” The other family members, who had been jovially chatting away immediately went dead silent and turned to stare.
“Feta? Really?,” my friend asked as though she questioned not just my taste in food but perhaps our entire friendship.
Unaccustomed to getting such looks of astonishment, I wondered about my longtime disgust with feta. Sure, I had only tried store-bought, packaged feta. Maybe there was something I was missing?
The feta cheeses at Bill's Imported Foods includes Egyptian, Bulgarian, and French.
I decided to go to Bill’s Imported Foods and find out. Located in the Lyn-Lake area, Bill’s is already a popular spot for people buying big cans of olive oil, dried fruits and nuts in bulk, or checking out their amazing olive bar. Bill’s also has a wide selection of feta, and who better to educate me on the subject than owner (and Greek), Kiki Kirokomos. Standing before a display case containing seven different tubs of fresh feta soaking in watery brine, she begins pointing.
“All is sheep’s milk,” she tells me. “Except,” she says, pointing to a tub in the middle, “the domestic – that is cow”.
Each of the cheese has a slightly different texture. According to Kirokomos, the Egyptian feta is the creamiest, with the Turkish not far behind. Some people, Kirokomos says, buy these and spread them on bread or use them in a dip. I taste the Egyptian feta and sure enough, it has a mild flavor but a texture similar to cream cheese. Kirokomos moves on to the French feta, which she describes as tasting sweet and sour together. Pointing to the back right of the case, is the Bulgarian feta, which she says is saltier and drier. “Good in salads,” she adds. “So is Domestic,” she mentions, before quickly moving on to the ones she’s most excited about, the two fetas from Greece -- one labeled ‘Greek,’ the other, ‘Village,’. The Village feta is Kirokomos’s favorite because of its strong flavor, she says and then clarifies, “And not because I’m Greek!”.
The Greek and Village fetas are two of Kirokomos's favorites. The Greek is the milder of the two.
When I try the cheeses, I have to agree with her assessment. The Village feta is delicious; it is immensely flavorful, rather than just being salty or sharp. As for feta dishes, Kirokomos’s favorites are simple -- a platter of feta, olives, oregano, and tomatoes drizzled with olive oil sounds good to her, or even a simple pasta – cooked macaroni with olives, basil, oregano, feta, and olive oil.
Kirokomos soon dashes back to register, calculating the price of walnuts and dried apricots for customers she clearly knows and loves well. The store has been around for 29 years, and though it does not take credit cards, shoppers are more than willing to bring out the checks or cash for some of her store’s delicious goods.
I eye a few of these provocative food items before heading to the cash register myself. Bags of key limes, boxes of quince, pomegranates, and black radishes could be an additional treat to go along with my Village feta purchase. In the end though, I decide that this time, the cheese stands alone.