Saturday, January 16, 2010


Lina's is one of my favorite places in Calgary. It is a little Italian market that is stuffed full of tasty meats, delicious olives, fresh pastas, yummy little desserts, fresh produce, a wide array of olive oils and balsamic vinegars. As I wander up and down the aisles I am drawn to a new kind of biscuit, a tasty chocolate sauce or the aroma from the warm focaccia breads.

The majority of my dinner parties involve a stop at Lina's as I know that I will find something different whether it be a cookie to serve with my chocolate mousse, chocolate sauces to drizzle over whipping cream for the latte's, little chocolates from Europe to put at each person's place or maybe a little hostess gift in the household section.

However, my absolute favorite part of Lina's is the cheese section. So many varieties and flavors across three big coolers stocked full of cheese. By shopping at Lina's all these years I have developed various traditions. And Jimmy can certainly vouch for the fact that these traditions are as special to me as Lina's is. As you will soon find out, the majority of the traditions are around that cheese cooler.

Today I was bringing a cheese plate to Lincoln's little baby shower and so of course I needed to swing by Lina's. It was extra busy on such a beautiful Saturday but I lucked into a close parking spot. As I walked through the entrance into the store, my eyes automatically glanced to the left . . . YES!! . . . the new City Palate was out and it is the January/February Cheap Eats edition. As I am still on the condo plan, it's the perfect edition.

As I walked into the store and grabbed a basket every aisle looked jammed. My heart sank as I knew I was on a tight timeline. I weaved my way over to the breads. Elbowed through a couple people to get a bag and managed to find a fresh focaccia. By the time I grabbed a second bag, a whole new group of people had stopped in front of the breads. Curses . . . don't they realize that I need some time in the cheese section.

I made my way to the olives cooler and already had my choices made before the lady was ready to help me - a large mixed olives and a small sundried olives.

Next up, cheeses!!!

I patiently waited while the remaining customers were being served. I had to look at all the cheeses anyways so I knew which ones I wanted to try first. A nice young gentleman kindly asked if I had been helped yet. I felt my heart lift just a little from the anxious pit and smiled sweetly while responding, "No."

Sarah is a maple and berry lover so I decided that the maple cheddar was the perfect start. And this is where the tradition starts. You can't just buy a cheese there; it may not be what you are looking for. Regardless of how many times I have bought a cheese, it still needs to be tasted. So of course I had to ask for a quick taste. He found the maple cheddar, cut off a small bite and handed it to me. Yummy, just the right maple flavor.

Next I wanted to try a stilton . . . this week Lina's had quite the variety of stilton’s: apricot, cranberry, ginger mango and so I thought the ginger mango could be either quite tasty or the wrong mix of flavors. One bite and I knew that it was totally the wrong mix of flavors.

Nicole has declared her love for chevre fromage so of course I couldn't leave her without a lovely cheese. By the time I told him I was looking for a goat cheese, the gentleman had caught onto my game. He suggested a couple and gave me samples of each. They were both delicious but I quickly chose one.

Now onto another hard cheese, three samples were passed my way and after some thoughtful deliberation I made my choice. The anxiety I had felt as I drove to Lina's had completely melted away.

I needed a soft cheese and a blue cheese. For the soft I had spotted St. Andre which I have had a few times with Jimmy's cousins so I thought that would be a nice balance of flavors and my new found cheese friend was quickly unwrapping the blues for me to try. It didn't take long to choose a nice creamy blue with a rich sharpness to it.

As I put the last cheese in my basket I could hear a father beside me speaking to his son who was about 4 or 5. . . "Now that we are in the cheese area, we try a few cheeses before we make our choice. Shopping at Lina's isn't done until you have bought a cheese!" As the lady passed over a sample, the dad split it in two and handed half of it to his son.

The corners of my mouth turned up as a huge smile crossed my face. As I walked away I was so excited that someone else was passing Lina shopping traditions onto others.

1 comment:

Mom said...

Oh-Oh did you make my mouth water!!! Not for the cheeses but for those delicious delicasies! The pastry is phenomenal. We can't make a trip to Calgary without a stop there for sure.