April 13, 2022 By Marisa Olsen
Walking into the Bloomy Rind is like being transported to Europe. It’s a quaint shop, painted in yellow, and decorated like a tucked-away cheese shop in Southern France. There are collectible roosters and pigs on shelves, colorful artwork, and stenciled words on the walls that portray helpful ways to describe your favorite cheeses: garlicky, ashy, stinky, bloomy, herbed, mild, aged, and tangy. Rustic, antique consoles are scattered throughout, akin to cabinets of curiosity, and filled to the gills with spices, honeys, mustards, and wine. Fresh, gourmet foods are on display, including pastas, colorful dips and spreads, and flatbreads. A variety of cheeses is proudly displayed in glass cases, featuring delicacies from near and far, all while Julia Child (whom Chef had met twice) plays in black and white on a small television set. But one of the best parts of the Bloomy Rind is Chef Bailey and Mary, the proprietors and owners of this downtown Hingham institution. The two are the heart of the award-winning operation alongside a dedicated team, who help create a lasting and memorable Bloomy Rind experience whether you are a turophile or simply an appreciator of homemade gourmet foods.
The food is all created from scratch; unfussy, with layers of flavors, and a focus on Mediterranean and peasant fare. There is no set menu, besides several long-standing sandwiches. The menu is created in Chef’s head, and is often influenced by travel or even the weather, which has been known to spark a certain culinary direction for Chef on that particular morning. “We are an apothecary of food; a prescription for what you need,” chimes in Mary. Red onion jams, umami tapenade, creamy carrot hummus, roasted meats; it’s all made right in house. And with offerings of unique, small-produced wines, Chef and Mary think of the Bloomy Rind almost as a purveyor or concierge service, creating a custom experience for each customer, tailoring thoughtful food and wine pairings depending on your needs or mood.
Chef Bailey shares, “We started this business to make good food in the best way we know. We have no freezer, no microwave and we buy everything as fresh as possible. I am proud to say this hasn’t changed since Day One. We roast our own Angus beef for the roast beef sandwich, roast our own pork loin, and our own corned beef for six hours. Everything else is made fresh by me, including pastas and vegetable dishes according to season. There is no official menu, I change it every day to use the freshest ingredients. We of course have our “favorites” that we usually have day-to-day, like our carrot hummus, but half the fun of cooking and of eating is trying something new.”
Also, Mary and I have always believed in treating everyone that enters our door as friends of the shop. We have made many connections over the years and have seen a lot of kids grow up into young adults. It’s a really great feeling to have built relationships with our neighbors like that.”
During our meeting, a warm and effusive Mary ushers me in like we are family. Mary and Chef promptly offer me a delicious homemade lentil and ham hock soup, full of salty chunks of ham, plump lentils, and an aromatic broth. I also tried the Mediterranean sandwich, filled with roasted eggplant and squash, and a briny, salty feta inside a delicate, crispy flat bread. I also couldn't resist taking home a huge bag of goodies, including a crisp French Chardonnay, cheeses hand-selected by Mary, an array of dips, and several quarter-pound chocolate chip cookies, which are famous, and have been served at weddings and even shipped to Italy!
The two share a love for travel, especially Italy and France, Newport, RI, and of course, Hingham. They also love music, and enjoy playing festive music within the shop, particularly, Cuban, Latino, and jazz. And of course, they are proud of their bevy of awards, including being awarded Best Appetizer by Taste of Hingham nine years in a row, as well as Best Sandwich from Travel + Leisure, and listed as one of the top 10 cheese shops in Canada and the US, and many, many more honors.
We had the pleasure of sitting down with Chef Bailey and Mary to learn a bit more about the Bloomy Rind.
Hingham Anchor (HA): Can you please tell us a little bit about your background - where you grew up, what you studied, first jobs, etc.?
Chef Bailey: I grew up in Rhode Island and Massachusetts, I attended Bentley University in Waltham, MA, and graduated with a BS in Finance and Associate’s degree in Management. During college I met the love of my life, Mary, at Bartending school. I worked at Ken's Steak House, which was really my first exposure to the restaurant business. After graduating, Mary and I got the travel bug and moved to San Diego and lived there for a number of years. Then we moved back so I could attend the Culinary Institute of America. Afterwards, I worked at the Boston Harbor Hotel and after that, at L'espalier for three years. I opened a small cafe in San Diego, for three years. Then I moved back to work for Todd English for 10 years. I traveled and worked in so many places–too numerous to name. After working for Eva Longoria in L.A., I took a year off and we opened Bloomy Rind.
Mary: I grew up in Dorchester in a very Irish family where home was open to all of your loved ones and neighbors. As a child I was a finicky eater… but if you put cheese on something, I would eat it. Cheese has always been a gateway to new experiences for me. I studied music in college and pursued a performance degree. Music is a fantastic way to connect to other people and cultures, very much like how food is. That ability to connect with others has always been so important to me. My experience in the front of house of our shop comes from my sales background. My working for other small business owners gave me a lot of insight into opening our shop, from paying attention to the smallest details to the importance of building connections with clients in a matter of moments.
(HA): When did the Bloomy Rind first open its doors? How did it come to be? What made you choose Hingham and the location?
Mary: Bloomy Rind opened almost 12 years ago in May 2010. Our first day was actually the same as the Taste of Hingham that year so it was quite the introduction of ourselves and our wares to the town. We loved Hingham and had lived here for about 10 years when we decided the community really needed an artisanal cheese shop/specialty food store… but also a culinary cafe and from-scratch kitchen. I’ve always been a cheerleader for Chef’s incredible food and creativity, and we felt there was an appetite in Hingham for a shop like ours where Chef can share new recipes and build menus from weekly inspiration, whether that’s a great crop of spring pea guacamole or a ramen with home brewed broth and a jammy egg.
We named Bloomy Rind for a family of cheeses that develop a literal “bloomy rind” as part of the aging process. Think of everyone's beloved bries or camemberts. We took a lot of inspiration from our travels to European open markets and the experience of trying great, local foods over the counter. We love to have new customers walk in for the first time and try our carrot hummus… and then have a regular come in and try something brand new that Chef just created. And I love introducing people to their new favorite cheese! To us, it’s all about sharing the love through food.
(HA): Where do you source your cheeses?
Chef Bailey: When we first opened, we traveled all over New England to make contacts and source real artisanal cheeses of America. We had a lot of fun and we have many memories of trying cheeses on a picnic table on a farm, with the cows, sheep and goats that they came from standing nearby. We still receive some of our cheese that way but many farmers have fortunately grown and found distributors, so we get plenty of cheeses that way from New York, Boston, and Vermont.
Mary: We also aim to carry a wide variety of cheese that appeal to our customers. I love to build rapport with customers and make suggestions of what they should try next, or get notes on that really funky blue cheese that they tried last week. And if you have a favorite cheese that you can’t find anywhere, let us know and we can find it!
(HA): What is your favorite cheese and why?
Chef Bailey: I love sooo many cheeses, it's hard to pick one. It really depends on the season and mood. On a desert island with no hope of getting off, the cheese I want with me is truffle cheddar. It’s the kind of cheese that goes well on anything, but is also delicious on its own. Yes…
Mary: Oh that’s like having to choose a favorite child! Not possible. BUT… I really like Rochetta. It’s a super buttery blend of cow, goat, and sheep’s milk from the Piedmont region of Italy. Molto bene.
(HA): What is the most popular sandwich?
Chef Bailey: I have to say, picking a favorite sandwich is also tough. They go in cycles, but people say we have the best Cubano outside of Miami. We fresh-roast our pork loins and slice to order, and serve with our house-made aiolis, pickles, ham, and gouda – yes, controversial, we use gouda not swiss – on fresh Nashoba Valley Sourdough bread. Need I say more?
Mary: Most popular sandwich really does depend on the day. Some days it’s the lightly sweet Texas Toast (ham and cheese with dolce de leche and apples), some days it’s a classic Robusto Roast Beef, and a cult classic for our vegetarians is our Mediterranean with za’atar seasoned roasted eggplant and squash, and feta. The Cubano is a heavy hitter. But personally, as a cheesemonger, I love the Truffle Pressed Fromage – aka the most indulgent grilled cheese around.
(HA): What do you love about being in the Hingham Community?
Chef Bailey: Well, we have lived here for over twenty years. We love being close to the water and love the free spirit of the community. There always seems to be good energy flowing through our store. I feel as a town, we all seem to have a shared responsibility to keep Hingham strong and a place to safely commune and care for our neighbors. Hingham is a special place, and even when we travel to beautiful places around the world, it always feels good to come home.
Mary: We’re so appreciative of the community’s willingness to support small local businesses. There’s a distinct small town feeling where people look after one another. We’re so appreciative of all of our customers who checked in on us throughout Covid and adapted to how day-to-day business changed. One benefit is we were able to start our weekly menu Bloomy@Home ordering that we’re continuing now! Being a part of the Hingham community as both business owners and residents has always been rewarding, but seeing how we came together and helped each other was incredibly moving.
(HA): Any future events or news you’d like to share?
Chef Bailey: Since Covid, sometimes it feels like just surviving is an accomplishment! We are currently looking at ways to expand our brand and we will be producing a cookbook soon.
Mary: We’re looking forward to some spring favorites on the horizon (get ready for pea guac season!) and being a part of your lives and celebrations. We love making cheese slates for birthdays, graduations, anniversaries, and we’re hopeful the warm weather will be a great reason to gather together again! Looking into the future, we’re pursuing some “mobile ventures” with cheese and exploring ways to get some of our most popular recipes out to a wider audience.
For those who love making their own cheese boards, Mary suggests, “Picking cheeses that move in a succession throughout a palate; you don’t want cheese fighting or clashing. It’s important to marry cheese together. Also, adding a few aesthetic things, such as herbs, jams, honey, and homemade condiments go a long way. You got to show people how you love them and every morsel counts.” And luckily the residents and visitors of Hingham, have Chef and Mary, to show them how much this community is loved … bite by bite.
The Bloomy Rind
21 Main St, Hingham, MA 02043