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Maadi, Cairo, Egypt.
La Fromagerie: French Cheese Stands Alone in Cairo
Located on a quiet street corner in Degla, La Fromagerie brings high-end quality cheeses to Egypt, boutique-style. The shop is Cairo's nod to Parisian fromageries and Saturday farmers' markets, and a veritable heaven for those craving a gourmet European selection.
While the atmosphere is not as quaint as we had imagined, it is thankfully highly air-conditioned. The small shop boasts a deli counter laden with a reasonable stock of soft Camembert, hard parmegiano reggianos and pungent blue cheeses of varying size and shape. From genuine Emmental to crumbling Chevre, all genres of dairy delicacies are on display in chic stainless steel and glass cases, each carefully presented on a bed of delicate greens and decorated with tantalising red grapes.
The atmosphere is cool, clean and elegant; we almost felt as if we were browsing a jewellery display case instead of a refrigerated deli counter. We could barely keep from swooning over the array of rustic artisan soft cheeses, herbed and spiced goat cheese, potent Roquefort (around 300LE per kilo!) an array of Emmental, Gruyère and Munster, brie, Camembert and creamy Capris de Dieu (around 100LE per kilo).
Of course, such distinct French offerings have a catch: the merchandise starts at about 50LE for the tiniest sliver of a light Brie and goes up to several hundred LE for a substantial wheel. Remember; you’re not only paying for your coveted purchase, but for its journey to Egypt and the elegant atmosphere that it enjoys before making its way to your pantry. Be prepared to pay around 400LE for a modest assorted platter.
A basket-lined corner of the delicatessen offers rustic loaves of French bread. The dough is reportedly flown in regularly from the motherland and baked in-house daily. The loaves pair exquisitely with a soft-shelled Brie, and for 30LE for a hearty baguette; you’d do well to splurge on a chic Euro snack.
Pre-packaged cheeses include well-known brands such as Boursin and President, which you can find in supermarkets such as Metro and Seoudi, but are available here in larger sizes. Two high tabletops sit in the front window, where you can wait for your order to be packaged or wrapped.
La Fromagerie may not be the place to pick up your basic sandwich fillers; but it’s ideal for dinner parties, gourmet cooking and a taste of la France .
We believe that no matter how strict one’s diet is, there will always be a room for a snack. And though the broad sense of the word suggests many deliciously sinful choices, some of them can be equally delicious and healthy; like nuts.
With ‘Leb we Soudany’ being Cairenes’ all-time favourites, a local roastery can be found at every corner. While many of them have a decent range, only a few take it to the next level in offering more than just the basic form of roasted nuts. One of those few places is Abu Auf, which not only offers nuts in all shapes, forms and flavours, but also has a variety of sweets and health-conscious food products.
Over a year ago, we paid the place a visit in Brazil Street branch; despite being impressed by the quality and the quantity of Abu Auf’s products, we couldn’t help but notice how inconveniently small the branch was. So when we came across the other branch that was recently opened in Taha Hussein Street, we weren’t able to resist getting in to see how it looks from inside.
Once we walked in, we noticed how daylight coming from the two large windows complemented the already-delightful interior, with its white walls and wooden shelves. Well-organised, the shop is divided into two compartments.
The first comprises a fridge for raw nuts, and a display for the roasted selection. Four or five pounds more expensive than the raw nuts, Abu Auf boasts a variety of salted and flavoured roasted nuts, from which we opted for BBQ-flavoured almonds (26LE for 100gm), which were fresh, crisp and full of flavour. Not entirely satisfied by the salted pecans (42LE for 100gm), fresh as they were, they were too salty for our liking.
The other compartment had a variety of health-conscious products, Lebanese sweets and a coffee station. In addition to sage tea (17LE per pack), we found different brands of green coffee -ranging from 25LE to 120LE- which is believed to be a supplement for weight loss. And for those who like to replace rice with quinoa, Abu Auf has both red and white quinoa starting from 56LE per pack.
Moving to the shop’s considerably less healthy items; we couldn’t resist trying Abu Auf’s Lebanese sweets. The pistachio malban was outstanding; pleasantly chewy, with a crunch of pistachio here and there. Equally delicious, we found the marzipan exquisite, especially that they added cardamom to it. The only thing we were not big fans of was their costly price, which is 240LE per Kilo, though you can still buy per piece (10LE).
Saving the best for last, we stood in awe in front of the coffee station, where we asked for some medium roast coffee with spices. The shop assistant suggested their best seller, Gold coffee beans (174LE per kilo), whose powerful aroma enticed us to try it as soon as we got home. We can easily say that Abu Auf has the best coffee in town; spicy, dense and refreshing. Now we know where to turn to when we want freshly-ground coffee -in other words, we acquired another expensive habit.
With prices being the only disadvantage of Abu Auf, we fell for Abu Auf’s plan to empty our pockets with its delicious product – we only wanted to see what the new place looked like.