"My Favorite Cracker is Salami"
Savour, a gourmet grocery and cheese shop in Lambertville is an epicure's dream and owner Shawn Robbins is the perfect spirit guide to everything from Appenzeller to Za’atar.
Robbins’ journey to cheese shop owner was kismet--starting with answering a want ad for a part-time job to being offered the opportunity to buy the business from then-owner Rita Ferrante. Robbins says her ability to make the purchase was a combination of some financial assistance from her parents, an abundance of her own hard work, scrimping, and saving, and the right timing, and structure of Ferrante’s offer. “I always give her credit for the bones of the store, the foundation,” Robbins says.
Robbins, who is a 4th generation Lambertvillian, always thought she would own her own business, though not necessarily in food. Robbins says she feels a sense of living in her great-grandmother’s legacy. “She owned a convenience store on Swan Street in the early 1900s—the same street that I grew up on,” says Robbins. “It gives me this kind of tingly feels when I think about being the kind of woman my great-grandmother was.”
One of the things Robbins appreciates about owning a cheese shop is the intersection of culture, science, and love that food provides. “Food is an amazing gift,” Robbins says. “People want consumables and experiences— and cheese is both, and you can share it,” she adds. She also finds great satisfaction in working with customers to help them find a cheese that they will love by asking a series of questions that hone in on selections that are just right for them. “A good cheesemonger can fine-tune to your tastes,” explains Robbins. “I ask questions like ‘what are you going to do with it? Are you going to cook with it or are you going to just cheese and cracker it?’”
“One of the best things about owning a food store is you never go hungry,” Robbins points out. “I eat at least an ounce a day of cheese,” she says. Robbins is also fortunate to have a multitude of condiments available to her daily. “I’ll take a spoon of everything that’s open in the fridge and try it on a piece of cheese to test pairings,” she explains. “I like to try weird things and then when those happy accidents work out you can pass them on to other people.” It’s how she discovered her favorite combination—banana jam with Gorgonzola. Robbins describes it as the perfect play of the creamy, silky, warm density of banana against the graininess of the blue cheese that just works—as unexpected as it might sound.
Robbins describes her inventory as diverse but specific. In addition to cheese, Savour has an abundance of jams, spreads, crackers, Moroccan, Thai, and Italian sauces, artisanal pasta, nut butters, fresh bread from Le Bus on weekends, and seasonally themed Tiny Town cookies. The shelves represent a global array of unique items like Italian pink rice, Urfa Biber (purple sun-dried pepper flakes from Turkey), Wild Mountain estate-grown capers, and locally made Fat Head peppers (hot cherry peppers stuffed with provolone) plus crackers of every shape, size, and flavor. Robbins, a self-described mustard fanatic, points out the disproportionately large selection of mustards stocked on the shelf that she affectionately refers to as the mustard tower.
When pressed, Robbins will admit to a favorite cheese—what she calls her “desert island cheese.” It’s Balarina, an aged goat milk Gouda, with earthy, mineral, and citrus notes. “It’s got all the things. . .” she says. Robbins lists multiple ways to enjoy it—“I’ll eat it with mustard, I’ll eat it with jam, you can eat it with olives. . .” Ultimately, though, Robbins says, “salami is my favorite cracker.”