I went to Nickel City Cheese & Mercantile a few days ago intending to sample some of the shop’s lunch fare. Many times before then, I had walked past the small Elmwood shop on my way home from work, tempted by a curbside sandwich board advertising its sweet and savory prepared foods but thwarted in my attempts to visit by bad timing. Either the store was about to close (6 p.m., Monday through Saturday) or I wasn’t particularly hungry—a phenomenon that has been known to happen, albeit rarely.
Sure, I had been before to buy cheese and provisions, like Rancho Gordo beans. But this time was different. I wanted to tuck into something fresh and delicious that I didn’t have to cook myself, all with an eye toward reporting my findings to Buffalo Rising’s fine readership.
But it wasn’t meant to be, at least not this time around. Apparently, the shop had been slammed over the weekend, which left them running low on multiple ingredients the Monday I happened by. Though staff had spent the morning prepping, they hadn’t yet caught up by noon, so certain menu items just weren’t available. That meant no macaroni and cheese for me, and no turkey-bacon sandwich, either. It’s defining condiment—a spreadable, spicy goat cheese—had been 86’d, along with the former’s requisite cheddar béchamel.
But I didn’t leave disappointed. After all, I did manage to get my hands on a sandwich—oil-cured tuna with tomatoes and white bean spread—that satisfied. But more importantly, no macaroni meant more room for dessert. In this case, three macarons, skillfully executed by local supplier Sarah Walley.
For those not familiar, macarons (not to be confused with American macaroons) are French, meringue-based confections that eat like dainty cookies. They have smooth domed tops and fillings of buttercream, ganache, or jam, and come in a range of flavors limited only by pastry chefs’ imaginations. They are also notoriously difficult to make to exacting French standards. High humidity, overbeating the egg whites, or too warm of an oven are just a few of the factors that can wreak havoc on a batch of a macarons. Fortunately for patrons of Nickel City Cheese, Ms. Walley seems to have mastered all variables.
I tried three of the four flavors available: brown sugar stuffed with chocolate chip cookie dough, mint stuffed with cookies and cream crumble, and strawberry stuffed with pretzel. Because they had been chilled, I let them come to room temperature to optimize the taste and texture of their buttercream fillings (and recommend you do the same). All three were spot on—that is, sweet enough to count as an occasional treat, but far from cloying, with crackly, shell-like exteriors that shattered as I bit into them, giving way to moist and chewy middles. That they were described as “stuffed” was no misnomer. The brown sugar variety encapsulated a nugget of real cookie dough; the mint, a pocket of Oreo-ish crumbles; and the strawberry, a tiny pretzel knot. They were a delightful mix of French execution and American ingenuity. The best of both worlds, if you will.
Hopefully soon I will have sampled enough of Nickel City’s menu to share with you the highs (and lows, if necessary). In the meantime, I urge you to go for the macarons.