In ten minutes I had a quick lesson on feta, olives, and smoked
sausage, starting with a single question.
One of my favorite local places to get charcuterie or appetizer type snack foods near work, is this tiny shop called Busy Bee’s Imported Foods. It doesn’t look like much from the outside, and it is a bit tucked away, so you kind of have to know it’s there to find it. I love finding places like this. They are a small mom and pop operation and carry a bit of everything including oils, spices, dried goods, and they have a small deli. The deli consists of a few cheeses, olives, cured meats, and even some ready-made food like Greek chicken and cold cut sandwiches made to order.
One day I went in after work, and found myself to be the only one in the store along with the employee behind the counter. Normally, I go in there and buy my usual things domestic feta, small kalamata olives, and maybe a loaf of fresh bread. Being the only one in the store, I felt compelled to ask the woman behind the counter more about their products (Normally I don’t do that). They have about five different types of feta: Domestic, Bulgarian, French, Greek, and an Israeli. I made the mistake of posing my first question as “Is there a big difference in the fetas that you carry?” She turned to me and asked if I was serious. I immediately thought oh crap, she probably thinks I’m a moron and not serious about wanting to know. I explained I didn’t mean it that way and that I have not tried the other cheeses, other than the domestic. She took her knife, cut a corner of the domestic feta and passed it to me and said try it. Knowing what it tastes like, I still did as she asked. She explained it’s the crappiest one they carry and mainly used inside dishes as a way to cut on costs. (Internal cringe) It’s salty, brinier, and dryer than the others. Then she cut a corner of the French and instructed me to try that one. Oh WOW WORLD of difference! It was mild, creamy, and still light. It’s silky texture and subtle flavors were enough to tell me how it was meant to be eaten and savored. She then had me try the Bulgarian and it was ok, better than the Domestic. I asked about the others, and she explained that they were similar to the Bulgarian just slight differences in saltiness and moistness, along with the price. But there was something about the French version that just hit me and I had to get it. Doing my own research I found that the French version is made with all sheep’s milk, while the Domestic version can be made with sheep, goat, or cow’s milk. And the rest are made with varying combinations of sheep and goat milk, explaining why they are so different.
Then I was feeling more confident in asking about my next buy, which were the olives. They are limited in what they carry, but still good products. When I asked about the Kalamata olives, she had me try the small and large and explained that the larger ones are meatier and have less of a bite than the small. Tasting them side by side really makes you understand how different they are. So of course I bought the larger olives. On to the cured meats… Keeping with my newfound mission, I asked about the dried sausages and was looking for a specific kind, Spanish Chorizo. There’s a dish I want to make with it. They didn’t have that in particular, but she gave me a great close substitute.
I was absolutely impressed with the service, product knowledge, and overall quality of goods they carry. These smaller shops are a great way to access that inside information that you may not find in a big chain store. There’s a certain level of comfort and approachability that builds a sense of trust and confidence in your visit, especially when you get honest feedback and information. If you’re looking for a great feta to eat by itself or with other morsels, I highly recommend the French Feta if you have the opportunity to come across it! And if you’re a bit reserved or reluctant to ask about things, I hope this helps!