Tucked away in the heart of the old Gothic Quarter in Barcelona’s downtown district is a tiny cheese shop by the name of Formatgeria la Seu, run by, surprisingly, a Scot by the name of Katherine McLaughlin. Established in 2000 on the site of Barcelona’s first butter-making factory, McLaughlin has created a tiny gem of a place with the intimacy of a home setting. Here, she receives and stores a range of Spanish farmhouse cheeses in her custom designed cool room where the temperature and humidity is controlled to a constant ‘soft’ 8° and 12° C – here customers can walk right in, make their selection and try before they buy.McLaughlin stocks about 20 hand picked cheeses that are made in limited quantities from small independent producers that she has sourced throughout rural Spain over many years. All McLaughlin’s cheeses are made from unpasteurised milk – she does not vacuum pack nor does she wax coat her cheeses. McLaughlin runs a tight ship and woe betide any who defie her requests of ‘no photography’ – this is her place, and this feisty Scot is quite up front about how one behaves here. It took Brunyfire about three or four visits to gain entry, admittedly it was just after the August break and her producers weren’t supplying her quite fast enough. But by gentle perseverance, Brunyfire finally made it to the inner sanctum of the back room for a tasting.Written in chocolate, McLaughlin presented a platter with 5 different cheese samples ranging in texture and density, served up with fruit, quince paste, jam and a robust house red that she bottles with her own label. That’s Katherine on the lable on the far left with her other siblings. McLaughlin presents a unique marketing take – with her choice of just a few top producers; the intimate scale of her shop and her quirky marketing. The back part of the shop has been designed with small parties in mind – people can book for a breakfast tasting session for example. But down at the front there is a mini counter where one can taste standing up. Here McLaughlin presents the cheeses on a terracotta plate, rather like a painter’s palete designed to be held in one hand leaving the other free for that other great Spanish habit of smoking.McLaughlin’s dour humour is reflected in one of her packaging ideas – a first aid kit of some of the best cheeses around……….
One of the many culinary highlights of this Barcleona sojourn.