Combalou Fromagerie & Café
This location is closed
It's not really a cave. You hear "cave-aged cheese on Calvert Street," you picture, if not stalactites, at least an extra-dank Mount Vernon basement. So much for enchantment: It's a café, a handsome one, with deep yellow walls and a cheese counter in back. Further back is a dim, glassed-off room, where the cheeses repose in simulated cave conditions. But the walls have Lascaux-style cave paintings on them, with running, semiabstract animals. That's nice. The room is packed at lunchtime. While they wipe a just-cleared table, we spear some cheese samples--one goat-y, one creamy.
Coffee is dark and mellow. It settles gently on a coffee-scarred stomach, even though the waiter seems to be rationing the plastic tublets of half-and-half. Superb, and a bottomless cup at $1.25. Already, the lunchtime balance of power in the neighborhood is shifting.
The Combalou salad ($6.95) is greens with apples and pears, plus walnuts, figs, and Stilton cheese. Strong on the Stilton and walnuts, the salad-eater reports, but shy on the labaneh-and-cream dressing; the waiter brings some extra. Mine is the pâté and Comté sandwich ($7.95), which arrives on focaccia--not dispiriting chewy focaccia, but airy, almost sparkling focaccia. The pâté de Campagne, billed as "rustic," comes in thick burly slabs, overlaying and all but smothering the raw-milk cheese. Even the peppercorns struggle to cut through. But that's rusticity for you: a wholesome stink.