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Prepared Foods from the Big Cheese in Rosendale


My friend John G. lives in Manhattan half the week, where his local takeout joint happens to be Epicerie Boulud, celebrity chef Daniel Boulud’s prepared foods market — a place that sends even spoiled New Yorkers into raptures. Every once in a while, John will bring me merguez sausages from Epicerie Boulud, one reason I value his friendship so highly. Anyway, this is by way of explaining that his standards for takeout are high.

So imagine my surprise when I was at his country place for lunch last weekend and he announced that the delicious merguez-esque sausages, scrumptious gigande beans flecked with cilantro and pimento, tangy kale salad and other tasty bites we were tucking into were not, in fact, from that swanky Manhattan emporium, but from The Big Cheese, a little shop in Rosendale.

Wait. The Big Cheese? I’ve often bought cheese there (and wrote about it a while back), but I rarely buy prepared foods, and had somehow remained blinkered to theirs. Silly me.

Yuval Sterer, who is from Israel, owns the shop with his wife, Lisa, and makes those sausages himself. They’re a mix of lamb and beef, seasoned with “a secret blend” of spices — or so said Liz, the friendly woman manning the store when I dropped in. But she let me have a sniff of the big jar containing the secret blend: cumin was easy to detect, and there’s probably paprika, and Liz said it has some purple sumac. Hmmm. Anyway, these sausages give Boulud’s a run for their money, if you ask me. There’s a chicken version, too.

The Sterers are into healthy food with a Mediterranean bent, and get all their meats from Fleisher’s, the Kingston butcher that deals only in grass-fed, humanely raised animals and poultry. That means prices can be on the higher side — the lamb and beef sausages are about $16 a pound, for example — but you can get a sausage wrap along with baba ganoush and hummus for a mere $7.75.

Another treat at lunch that had me all atwitter was the bean salad made with gigandes, the giant white beans you find in Greece, and which rarely turn up here. At The Big Cheese, the salad is labeled Chilean Fava Beans, and although Sterer isn’t saying where he gets them, one guesses it might be Chile. I doubt they’re favas, though — they’re more like overgrown limas. Anyway, they’re a true delicacy for bean lovers.

You’ll also find sandwiches, wraps, panini, soups and other tasty comestibles to take away or eat at one of the few tables. And the cheeses, of course: all kinds from all over the world, and the prices are more than fair.

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