Tucked in the southern end of town, between railroad tracks and the old turkey plant, Paris isn’t really what the industrial side of Longmont calls to mind. Yet there it is. Or, there it is recreated in an uncanny way within the walls of The Cheese Importers. Everyday, their bustling cafe offers fresh Parisian dishes—from macaroons to artisan sandwiches, and so, when Chef Seth Colter accepted our challenge, we made it our own task to choose an ingredient that isn’t a staple of French cuisine (snails were out). Rhubarb, very becoming of warm-month dishes, fit the bill.
In typical French fashion Chef Colter, who trained at Le Cordon Bleu in Paris, prepared multiple courses. After a starter of bread with olive oil he sent out the first: rhubarb lemonade and a colorful beet salad.
The pink drink included a sugar-dipped piece of rhubarb stalk, a nice contrast of sour with sweet. Fennel, fresh rhubarb and mandarin orange slices were spread intermittently throughout the salad, which was comprised of yellow and purple beets from the local McCauley Family Farm. Adding a tart bite, queso de cabra (Spanish goat cheese) topped off the springtime salad.
The star of lunch, though, was a buttery duck confit. A novice to duck, I was made a fan of the dark and tender meat mostly because of the wine-colored rhubarb lingonberry sauce bordering it on the plate. The lingonberries (from Sweden), paired with tender chunks of warm rhubarb, made for a pleasantly sharp taste—or as the French would say, piquant.
At this point, j’etais plein (I was stuffed)—we’d been eating delicious food for over an hour and I was beginning to fear how my waistline might handle a trip to the actual Paris. But somehow I soldiered on to dessert.
For a strong finish, Chef Colter came up with a lingonberry rhubarb crostata—liken to an Italian tart. As a hidden treat, he baked aged white cheddar from Vermont into the dough, just like his dad used to do. The cheese added a warm richness, and offset the savory flavor from the berries without suffocating it. “Happy” is really the best word to describe this dessert, and the whole rhubarb-centered meal. It supplied all the feelings you hope for in good food—like never wanting it to end. Bon appétit!
Cheese Importers is located at 103 Main St., Longmont, cheeseimporters.com