Everyone’s A Winner At The Vermont Cheesemakers Festival

Stephanie Butler was the grand prize winner of our Facebook contest for a trip to Vermont to attend the VT Cheesemakers Festival. She was gracious enough to contribute this blog post about her experience on the trip. Thank you, Stephanie – we’re glad you had such a great time!

If you’ve never eaten a half-pound of cheese on a tour bus in a McDonald’s parking lot in Nowheresville, Massachusetts, then obviously you’ve never gone on a trip with the Murray’s Cheese crew. I was lucky enough to win two tickets to the Vermont Whey-cation, and my boyfriend and I spent a whirlwind 40 hours tasting cheese, smelling cheese – by Sunday night I think we were even exuding the stuff through our pores.

Aging facility at Spring Brook Farm

Our trip started with a tour of Spring Brook Farm’s Cheese House. Lead cheese maker Jeremy Stephenson took the time to guide us through each aspect of the 18-month-long process it takes to create one wheel of their tasty Tarentaise. Their cheese caves were something to see: twelve rows of wooden shelves with hundreds of cheeses waiting their turn to be washed and rotated. After the tour we got some time to sightsee around the beautiful grounds, where I met and fell in love with a sweet Jersey named Daisy.

Stephanie at the farm!

On to dinner at Bluebird Tavern, where we were treated to a feast of Vermont’s finest foods. Allison Hooper, the founder of the Vermont Butter and Cheese Creamery, joined us for the meal, where each dish included one of her cheeses as an ingredient. My favorite had to be the whole roast pig on grilled bread with baked goat cheese and pickled blueberries, but the heirloom tomatoes with basil and mascarpone were certainly a close second. I washed everything down with pints of Hill Farmstead Brewery’s Edward, an American Pale Ale I can’t wait to try to track down here in Brooklyn. Add some banana pudding with whipped goat cheese in individual jelly jars for dessert, and I slept that night like a bump on a Vermont log.

Approaching Shelbourne Farm

We awoke the next morning eager to truck off to our ultimate destination: the Vermont Cheesemakers’ Festival at Shelburne Farms. I expected the festival grounds to be gorgeous (it was originally a summer home for the Vanderbilts), but I really didn’t have any idea just how beautiful it would be. Right on the shores of Lake Champlain, with the hazy Adirondacks across the water, I was ready to make plans to move to Burlington right then and there. The festival more than lived up to the setting, with cheese makers sampling their wares next to truffle makers, beer brewers, picklers, and bakers. Non-cheese highlights for me were the Vermont Smoke and Cure booth,  which gave away generous samples of delicious pepperoni (available at Murray’s!), Red Hen Baking Company’s yummy wholegrain loaf (we bought the last one), and the kind ladies at the Vermont Maple Foundation booth who gave us tastes of maple cheesecake. As for cheeses, I loved the creamy ricotta from Narragansett Creamery, Vermont Shepherd’s rich and tangy sheep cheeses (ed. note: Vermont Shepherd cheeses will be available this fall), and just about everything from the Cellars at Jasper Hill.

So much cheese!

After taking in the festival barn, we adjoined to the huge waterfront lawn, where fellow picnickers had set up blankets, wine buckets, and hiking chairs. It was an idyllic scene, for sure, with barefoot children running around, 4-H teenagers showing off their baby goats, and a gentle breeze floating over our heads. I lunched on some Vermont pizza while my boyfriend chowed on a grass fed hamburger, and we toasted our sample wine glasses full of local rosé. “To the good life!” we said, and, for two days in Vermont, it certainly was.

Beth Ann from Murray’s Wholesale department makes friends with a goat.

To stay up to date on the latest news from Murray’s Cheese and hear about contests like the Vermont Wheycation Giveaway that Stephanie won, be sure to like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter!


baby cow!

Who You Callin’ A Hooligan?

by Anuradha Jayakrishnan, Head Cheesemonger at Murray’s Cheese in Grand Central Terminal

Have you ever wanted to get your hands on a Hooligan? No, I don’t mean one of us cheesemongers behind the counter, I mean a REAL Hooligan, like the ones we made at Cato Corner Farm on a recent Thursday.  If you love cheese as much as we do at Murray’s, you’ve got to know a cheese’s ins and outs, its story, it’s SOURCE. So, sinking our hands right into the cheesemaking process was, in fact, wonderfully appropriate.

The Murray’s crew and I departed Bleecker Street and headed across state lines to farm country, also known as Connecticut. We arrived at Cato Corner Farm just after noon that Bloomsday and a small gang of friendly but boisterous dogs heralded our arrival. As we poured out of the mini-van, the smell of hay, barn and warm sunshine welcomed us without words; it was going to be a good day.

The cows at Cato Corner gave a warm welcome.

Liz, owner of the farm, greeted us with a grin, and a laugh, “You must be from Murray’s.” I was sure my Ray Bans, beat-up Beatles t-shirt, and red cut-offs would make me look farm chic, but alas, I fear my oversized flower tote containing bronzer and sunscreen gave me away. We freshened up and then met Mark, Liz’s son who oversees the farm’s cheesemaking. He took us underground to see affinage at work in their aging facility, which was not unlike the cheese caves beneath our Bleecker Street store. I was amazed by the sheer number of cheeses being aged at one time in the small farm’s complex. Shelves of old and young wheels formed passageways that towered over us like halls of an antique library (and the smell wasn’t that dissimilar either). Incredibly enough, the thick, dull brown rinds on the large wheels and the (almost cute) furry blue and grey rinds on the smaller wheels were derived from ambient molds that occur naturally in the caves themselves (local mold makes local gold! Ha!).

Yours truly, in good company!

Next up on the docket was cheesemaking. Now, if you’re as big of a cheese nerd as I am, you’d understand why I was giggling through the whole sanitizing process. There I was, every appendage covered in plastic yet I couldn’t help but clap with joy in a ruffled frenzy at the thought of molding curd with my own fingers. We surrounded the enormous bath tub (at least it look like one) filled half way with what looked like an untouched layer of plain yogurt. Having added the rennet an hour before, Mark said, the milk  should be firm enough to cut by now – and with that, he pierced the creamy film, and to my amazement, it didn’t blob into a soft creamy mess, but yielded to the knife like a limber slice of tofu. The curd was ready. He began slicing the curd into half inch pieces using a large wire cutter. Then we took turns dipping our hands into the vat and milling the curds into finer, more even bits. The curd itself tasted like sweet, warm milk Jell-o, but in the best way. After draining the whey, we scooped the curds into baskets, piling the milled bits into heaping snow cone-esque forms for further drainage and shaping. Minutes later, we popped the curds out of the molds and voila – curds in their perfect form, ready to join their comrades in the aging room, but with the added touch of Murray’s handiwork; hooligans indeed.

Stirring the curd that will later be molded into Hooligan.

We concluded our cheese-making escapade with a picnic lunch outside where we all enjoyed sandwiches, charcuterie, pickles, farm fresh fruits and veggies, and of course, cheese. We tried a very special cheese only available at the farm, the 1 year aged Anniversary Bloomsday, made a year ago to the day! It was nutty and sharp with crystalline pops of sweetness and a pale, custard yellow paste that sang of summer sun and happy cows.  Naturally, we also sampled Hooligan, a large muffin shaped cheese with a dense, flaky center and mildly pungent rind. We finished with Misty Morning, a creamy, earthy blue that was lovely with bites of freshly picked strawberries.

The finished product, after aging: Funky funky hooligan

After touring the farm and thanking the cows for their generous bounties, we climbed back into the mini-van, ripe Hooligans in tow (think ripe plus hot cramped car… serious funky town), and headed back to the West Village. Great cheese and great people; I could not have asked for a better Bloomsday.

James Is Not A Chef: Spicy BBQ Shrimp Quesadillas

James Stahl is a cheesemonger, a melt-master and an all-around crazy dude in the kitchen. This blog invites you to take a peek at his most recent creations and dares you to try this at home.

Important Disclaimer: While I assume that this will be readily apparent, I am not a professional chef. I am simply someone who loves to cook. My desire is to expand my ability to create amazing dishes and, with access to the best quality ingredients in New York City courtesy of Murray’s Cheese (not to mention a pretty sweet discount), I intend to share that experience with you.  Okay, that was far too serious. It won’t happen again, pinky swear. On to the food!

Spicy Barbecue Shrimp Quesadillas

Note: The recipe shown is how I executed the dish that is pictured, not necessarily how I conceived of the dish or how I would make it again.

Ingredients:

1 pound uncooked large shrimp, cleaned
3/4 cup sherry vinegar
1/2 cup spicy ketchup
1/4 cup Dijon mustard
3/4 cup chicken broth
1/4 cup dark beer
1/2 cup shredded jalapeno jack
1/2 red onion, chopped
5 garlic cloves, minced
5 tablespoons butter
1/2 tablespoon cumin
1 teaspoon cayenne pepper
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
2 large flour tortillas

In a large skillet under medium-low heat melt 3 tablespoons of the butter. Add garlic, cook until browned. Add onions, sauté until soft and translucent, about 5-6 minutes.

Pour in vinegar, beer and chicken broth, raise heat to a boil. Add ketchup, mustard, cumin and cayenne pepper. Stir until fully mixed. Lower heat and simmer for 10 minutes or until reduced by about a quarter.

In a separate pan, heat up olive oil until just before smoking and add shrimp. Sear each side a nice golden brown, just over a minute each side, so pay close attention.

Heat tortillas in a microwave for about 30 seconds, add half of the shrimp on each tortilla, cover with sauce and half of the cheese. Fold tortilla on top of itself.

On a grill pan, over medium high heat, melt a tablespoon of butter, place quesadilla on pan and brown each side, a couple minutes for each side. Cut in half and serve with sour cream.

What Went Well

The Sauce. Hot damn that sauce turned out great. I was aiming for a pulled pork vinegar-style and I think I nailed it. The chicken broth balanced everything out nicely despite the fact that I hadn’t originally planned on using any. The importance of good chicken broth cannot be understated.

Could it have been spicier? I think it was plenty hot for a mixed crowd, but I wouldn’t turn down the option of chopping up a serrano pepper and cooking it with the onions.

The Shrimp. I had tossed around the idea of using a pre-roasted chicken and shredding the breast into the sauce and letting it simmer for a good long time, but shrimp really turned out to be the better option. The chicken would’ve gotten lost in the sauce while the texture of the shrimp really stood out.

What Went Less Well

My Impending Senility. So the plan was to finely chop up some chorizo, fry it crisply and add to the sauce. I bought it. It was in the fridge and everything, but I just flat out forgot about it.

The Tortillas. The large tortillas were rather unwieldy and it was difficult to get an even browning on my fry pan. I would definitely use smaller tortillas next time.

The Definition of “Cleaned” Shrimp. Apparently mine is different than the seafood shop’s. De-veining the shrimp wasn’t nearly as difficult as I had imagined, but it wasn’t particularly fun either.

That’s What She Said

The Girlfriend: “Pretty awesome but perhaps a tad too saucy, the tortillas ended up a bit soggy as a result. But I’d definitely eat that again.”

The Verdict

I definitely give it a thumbs up, but hopefully I’ll remember the chorizo next time. The smokiness and crunch from the crisp chorizo will be a killer addition to the sauce.

Favorite Song Internet Radio Played While Cooking

Dominion/Mother Russia by The Sisters of Mercy. Thank God the internet didn’t really exist back during my high school goth phase. Nobody needs to relive that. Seriously.

Run, Cheese Boy, Run!

By Steve Millard

As the Store Director of our Greenwich Village shop, I get asked lots of questions every day.  Questions like “Do you have any raw milk cheeses?” or “I am having five people over and need to get 5 cheeses – can you help me?”  The other question I get, not as frequently, is “Why are you so thin?”  Fact: I do eat a lot of cheese.  But I also work a lot of hours on my feet and if you’re here on a busy Saturday, you’ll see that I’m burning a lot of calories along with my staff.

The truth is that I run.  I run a lot.  About two years ago, I decided I needed to lose weight and wanted to run a marathon before I turned 41.  So I started running, and watching what I ate.  The end result two-plus years later is that I lost 60 pounds, went from a 2XL to a large and saw my waist shrink from a tight 38 to a comfy 34.

I know what you’re thinking – another born-again thin dude who runs all the time.  But I promise to stick to what I know:  dairy!

While training for what was to be my first marathon (in Honolulu!) three years ago, I suffered a stress fracture when I ran my first 20-miler.  Any chance of running in Hawaii vanished, and I had plenty of time to figure out why that had happened.  A quick look at my diet revealed a key piece missing.  Any guesses?  It was dairy!  The only dairy I consumed was half-and-half in my coffee.  I had cut out cheese, ice cream and yogurt under the guise of my diet and cutting out fat.  (The lack of dairy was not the only culprit – I was also over-training and not following the key running mantra of no more than 10% further or faster than what I did in the previous week).

Fast forward two years – I’ve added lots and lots of dairy to my diet, maintained my weight, and have become a fairly good ultra marathon distance runner (with a half-marathon, marathon, 50-miler and a 50K under my belt).  Not a single day goes by where I don’t eat dairy of some sort.  By eliminating dairy I was eliminating calcium and short changing my body of protein and fat.

Here are a couple of things that get me through the day (not including bites of cheese).  I’ll be contributing more blog posts in the future, so check back for other tips, whether you’re interested in increasing your exercise regimen or you’re just curious about the diet of a cheesemonger/runner.

Strained Yogurt: My day begins with a strained yogurt every morning.  I vary it up: either Fage Total 2%, a Greek style low fat yogurt that packs a whopping 20 grams of protein and 6% GV of fat, topped with Bee Raw Star Thistle honey.  I also like Siggi’s Skyr, an Icelandic style yogurt  – it’s incredibly tasty and full of protein.   These strained yogurts have a lot of the whey removed — leaving a deliciously thick, protein- packed punch that gets me going in the morning.

Mid-Day Snack: We all have that mid-day snack attack when you need to get some life back into your limbs and your brain.  In the past, I would turn to something sugary or a cup of coffee, but my new pick lately is a White Cow Dairy Tonic.  What the heck is a whey tonic and why is it so good?  Part yogurt whey, part yogurt solids, part delicious flavors like star anise or turmeric, these tonics contain lots of protein and are really refreshing.  We already love fourth generation dairy farmer Patrick Lango’s amazing yogurts and custards that come in flavors as diverse as Chocolate Malt and Apple Pie, when Patrick mentioned the tonics back in January, little did we know how hooked our staff would get.

The whole Murray’s crew swears that there is restorative goodness in every bottle of Dairy Tonic.  They keep us on our feet whether we’re running around the store or running 50 miles in the park.

Murray’s staff aren’t the only ones who think White Cow Tonics are incredible – check out write-ups from The New York Times, Tasting Table and Serious Eats on these amazingly refreshing drinks. Yogurts and dairy tonics are currently available at our 2 retail locations only.