Cheese Importers warehouse expands to offer more than cheese

Cuisine review

Seerver Audrey Aguilar Vasquez shows a few items on the menu at Bistrot de Artistes

Cheese Importers’ warehouse was a huge hit from the beginning, because, well, cheese. But the bulk of the 35 years it’s been in business were spent in a literal warehouse in Longmont. It was a wonderland of cheese, though not as warm and inviting an environment as their new location in the historic power station located at 103 Main St. In this new location, they’ve added Bistrot des Artistes — a French bistro — to their market space and cheese cave, making it an eating and shopping destination experience overflowing with discovery and delight.

Themed shops and restaurants — whether French, Mexican, Southwestern or others — can either go very right, as in tasteful, or very wrong, as in tacky. Bistrot des Artistes has been done tastefully, in every sense of the word.

The Bistrot takes up a third of the main floor of the building, and just inside the back door, you enter what looks like a deli and the first thing you see is all of the beautiful pastries. Eclairs, pies and macarons, oh my! Then there are the quiches. Each day there’s both a meat and a vegetable offering, plus standards of Lorraine and salmon. The charcuterie and cheese plates beg to be ordered, with their varied offerings of high-quality meats and cheeses from around the world. The menu is extensive and is a tour through all the sweet and savory French favorites in this more casual style of dining.

You order and pay at the counter, are then given a number to take to your table, and your food is brought to you there. The tables themselves are charming bistro style, with a mix of eclectic chairs and French-themed accessories throughout. Most of the floor is made of hexagon tiles, evoking the feel of old bistros of Paris. There’s a bar in the center of the space, for show, not for cocktails (though they do serve beer and wine; order at the counter). And they’ve thoughtfully stacked glasses and pitchers of water there, so you can just help yourself.

I ordered an apple, brie and arugula panini ($7.95), a slice of quiche Lorraine ($5.50), two macarons — if macarons are available anywhere I go, they always get ordered — and a glass of Prosecco. The sandwich and quiche were both generously sized, but neither come with anything on the side. I always feel including even a small mixed green salad, simply dressed, is gracious. But you can get a combo — a house salad with the quiche for $9.95 or a half-sandwich and salad for the same price. I was with a group of friends for Sunday brunch, with a new friend to our group joining us, so I felt a celebratory Prosecco was in order. But it’s true that I would have ordered Prosecco on an average weekday too. For just $5 a glass, they made that an even easier choice.

A friend did a kindness by ordering a cheese and cured meats platter for the table to share, featuring three meats and two cheeses, a sliced fig in syrup, sliced pepperoncini, sugared and spiced walnuts, and the hit of the platter: tear-shaped sweet red peppers called Sweety Drop that are native to the highlands of Peru. Each of us loved them so much we took some home. They’re available by the pound at the olive and pepper bar in the walk-in cooler — affectionately known as the Cheese Cave — and also in jars, for a shelf-stable option. It’s discoveries like this that make dining out so much fun.

If you’re going to go to Bistrot des Artistes, plan a couple of hours, at least, to eat and then visit their adjoining Market Europa, filled with a high-quality selection of specialty foods, housewares, cookbooks and more. And obviously the Cheese Cave — larger than the first floor of my home — is a don’t-miss. Luckily, you can’t miss it. It’s just that big.