About Leo

Leo has been slinging cheese behind the counter at Murray's in Grand Central Market for the last 2 years. He graduated from the Culinary Institute of America in 2011, and has worked in the food industry for over 7 years. Currently Leo is the marketing intern, and a Food Studies student at The New School.

Hanukkah Cheesin': The Forgotten Story of Curd and the Festival of Lights

Ed note: Loyal blog readers may remember this story from Hanukkah 2013. We’re republishing it this year because…well, because it’s an amazing story of how cheese saved the day, and we can’t get enough of those.

I can’t think of a better way to celebrate the “Festival of Lights” better than a big old wedge of curd. Every year, I make the schlep down to south Florida where the whole family gathers to enjoy a week of family time and fried food. And every year I brave the death-stares of fellow travels as I stink up the 3 hour flight with an insane amount of cheese stashed in my carry on. Although in my house I can’t guarantee that these treats will make it 8 days…48 hours would be a real miracle.

Until recently, I didn’t know that cheese, at one time, was part of traditional Hanukkah food celebrations. And just like any food tradition in the Jewish faith, there is a neat little story that will help us rationalize 8 days of gorging ourselves on some fantastic fromage. While this part of the Hanukkah story has become mostly forgotten in modern culture, it’s a great tale of heroism and the perfect excuse to munch on some curd, or gift a little wedge. It goes something like this:

Judith decapitating her enemy

Judith was a strikingly beautiful widow from the town of Bethulia in sixth century BC Israel. Her community came under siege, and annihilation looked inevitable. That is, until Judith came to the rescue. She put together a spread of wine and cheese and entered the enemy camp. The leader, Holofernes, was so smitten by her beauty, he couldn’t resist her offering of ripe cheese and intoxicating wine. He got bombed. I mean really, really drunk, like me at any Bar Mitzvah I have attended in the last 6 years. He was so wasted that Judith reacted in the most natural of ways: she stole his sword and cut of his head.

Jewish heroines really know how to bring the badass.

While this story takes place centuries after the Maccabees and their “Miracle of Light”, for many years it was incorporated into the Hanukkah celebration. Judith’s heroism was celebrated along with the Maccabees victory as an example of the perseverance of the Jewish people. But stories and cultures are not static, and this exciting tale has slowly been abandoned for the the modern Hanukkah story and celebration.

Torus

So, now that you know that it is not only acceptable, but encouraged that you get some cheese for Hanukkah, you might want a few suggestions for the platz-worthy wedge. The time and location that Judith’s story takes place would undoubtedly be a land full of goat and sheep milk cheeses. Allison Hooper, from Vermont Creamery, is what many consider the heroin of American goat cheese. She has helped to create the American market for goat cheese, and explored techniques and methods that have helped shaped a quality driven landscape of cheesemakers across the United States. Try some velvety and tangy Coupole or some fudgy and lemony Torus (and a dollop of their Crème Fraîche is a wonderful substitute for sour cream with your latkes). Nutty and grassy Ossau Iraty with a schmear of Seashore Honey will drive your great-aunts taste buds mashugganah, and a beautiful wheel of Cavemaster Reserve Hudson Flower will insure your eternal reputation as a real mensch.

One final piece of interesting cheese and Hanukkah knowledge. You know those potato latkes that Bubbie spends all day frying up? Potatoes were not brought over to Europe until the colonization of the American continent, but Jews had been making fried latkes for centuries. Guess what the original  latke was made of? You guessed it…CHEESE!

Regardless how you celebrate Hanukkah this year, Murray’s hopes it is a fun and full of friends and family. Here is to the festival of lights, and really good cheese! L’chaim, y’all!

8 Delicious Gifts for 8 Tasty Nights

Finding that perfect gift for Hanukkah is a task that drives the best of us meshugenah. So many different people to shop for, so many nights! Here are our top 8 picks for 8 super tasty Hanukkah treats!

epoisses_set_gift_2014

1. Epoisses

Perfect for that little sibling who’s really a stinker (I’m talking to you, sis). She made your parents proud with her law school, her perfect GPA, and her doctor boyfriend. Tell her how much she really stinks.

assortment_stilton_set_gift_20152. Stilton Crock

We’ve all got that terminally single, chronically depressed aunt who maybe overdoes it on the tranquilizers and vodka. Get rid of her blues with something blue. This classic English blue comes in adorable little crock!

chocolate_sweets_murrays_munchies_two3. Munchies

Forget about Gelt, give the kids something that they’ll actually want to win in this year’s dreidel games. Alternatively, keep these addictive candy bars for yourself and let the kids eat the crappy stuff.

oil_vinegar_due_vittorie_balsamic4. Due Vittorie Balsamic Vinegar

Dealing with the stress of the holidays (in-laws, anyone?) is enough to put any dad in a sour mood. Give him a gift with a flavor that’ll match how he feels! Due Vittorie is hands-down one of the best vinegars we’ve tried, with deep, bold red fruit flavors.

chocolate_sweets_salty_road_taffy5. Salty Road Taffy

We all have fond memories of Bubbie digging into the nether-regions of her pocketbook to pull out a chewy, decades-old wad of salt water taffy. Up her game with these small-batch confections, guaranteed to make her platz.

honey_jam_spreads_confiture_de_cerises_noires6. Black Cherry Confit

Even though she’s the maven of the guilt trip, your mother is still the sweetest woman in your life. Give her something equally as sweet! These cherries pair perfectly with a creamy brie, or make for an indulgent ice cream topping.

honey_jams_spreads_mikes_hot_honey7. Mike’s Hot Honey

You know that uncle that never shuts up? Here’s a way to get that trap closed, for at least a few minutes. While it might not be a permanent fix, you’ll be able to get a few words in. This honey is the perfect blend of spicy and sweet.

oil_vinegar_olive_oil_castillo8. Castillo de Canena Smoked Olive Oil

Grandpa’s olfactory might not be what it used to (hence the overwhelming smell of moth balls and Old Spice), so give him something he can actually taste! This flavor-forward olive oil has a nice smokiness that’s hard to miss!

For our other gift suggestions, be sure to check out Murray’s 2014 Holiday Gift Collections! And Happy Hanukkah!

What’s In Your Lunchbox? 4 Easy Lunchin’ Ideas

It’s time to go back to school, which means another year of crumpled brown bags full of same-old-same-old… just enough to make it through the day. Whether you’re packing up lunch for your kids, or you’re just a kid a heart, we have a few ideas to make your mid-day meal something to look forward to.

Want more lunch ideas? More importanly, do you want to win some free cheese? Need we even ask?! Check out our “What’s in Your Lunchbox?” Pintrest contest to find new ideas, and share your own. You can also enter to win a $100 Murray’s Gift Card!

1. Ham Sandwich, The “Do Over”

Just say “NO” to those nasty ham sandwiches. There’s nothing worse than finally sitting down to lunch and biting into a flavorless, floppy sandwich. At Murray’s, we reject the idea that the old brown bag classic has to be so darn dull. Jazz it up with the king of deli meats Mortadella, smear on some sinfully spicy Lusty Monk mustard and then bring it all together with a few crisp Rick’s Picks Pickles.

2.Mac and Cheese, PLEASE

Got a little more time on your hands? Pick up a Murray’s Mac & Cheese kit to do something extra special for that lunch break. Everything’s included to help you make a bangin’ mac, but if you’re looking for an easy way out, we’ve also got it pre-made for you. Just heat and serve!

3. Snack Emergency

EMERGENCY! It’s 2:30 and I’m HANGRY!! Chill out, sit back, and tear into the Murray’s “Emergency Snack Supply.” Full of filling munchies that will ward of the mid-afternoon pangs, this collection is there when you need a little bit of brain food, or a sweet treat to make it through the day!

4.Sweet tooth

Got a sweet tooth, but looking for something a little bit different than your average Oreo? Try Murray’s classic sweet treat – grab a wedge of an alpine cheese, Comte or Challerhocker work great, and your favorite Bee Raw honey and get dippin’. You can also try something a little bit nontraditional with Bayley Hazen Blue and a piece of Mast Brothers chocolate. While it sounds odd, the deep creamy nuttiness of the blue pairs perfectly with this dark, rich chocolate!

Don’t Forget! Find more great lunchbox ideas, and enter to win a $100 Murray’s gift card right here!

What’s Up With Roquefort: Help Us #RescueRoquefort

The cheese world continues to be rocked by the FDA’s overreaching on bacteria counts in cheese production. Andy Hatch at Pleasant Ridge is halting Rush Creek production for the year to avoid the possibility of devastating product loss due to arbitrary shifts in the FDA’s rules, and several beloved imports – Roquefort! Morbier! – from respectable producers are under scrutiny for levels of bacterial activity that have left exactly nobody sick in Europe.

We will continue to share information with you as we learn more, but for now, we’re going to celebrate the good stuff while we can – reducing the price of Roquefort to an unheard of $19.99 per pound (that’s more than 30% off the regular price of $29.99) – don’t let these cheeses disappear from American caves and shelves before you’ve had the chance to enjoy them at least one more time.

Want to help us keep this cheese on American cheese counters for years to come? Help us spread the word using the hashtag #RescueRoquefort! If cheese lovers coast-to-coast make enough noise, we can hopefully put enough pressure on the FDA to take a better look at their policies. Just a few months ago we were faced with a ban on aging cheese on wooden boards, a traditional and safe practice that has been used for centuries. The cheese community came together  without a loud enough voice to convince the FDA to reverse its decision. Let’s come together, make a stink, and tell them that we want our Roquefort!

Salad Days of Summer: Ripe Tomatoes & Fresh Mozzarella

 

There’s nothing like a ripe, still-warm tomato plucked from the garden, sprinkled with a pinch of coarse sea salt. We’re all for this method of consumption, and highly recommend it. But if you want to kick the experience up a notch and create something that you can share with friends on a Sunday afternoon, add layers of fresh mozz and basil for a classic Caprese salad. We’re into a variation on this classic that’s a little more chunky and rustic.

Supreme Summer Tomato Salad with Mozzarella (or Burrata)

2-3 lbs of garden fresh/ heirloom tomatoes
sea salt and ground pepper
pinch of dried oregano
red wine or balsamic vinegar
1 grated clove of garlic
1/3 cup basil, sliced thin
pinch of red pepper flakes

  1. Slice tomatoes into bite-sized chunks and wedges. Place in a colander and sprinkle toms with a few pinches of coarse salt, which will help draw some of the moisture out, and will bring out that bright, acidic tomato flavor.
  2. Toss and sprinkle and let the colander drain into a bowl or the sink for 10-ish minutes.
  3. While they drain, blend dressing ingredients together: oil, vinegar, oregano, red pepper and garlic.
  4. In a separate bowl, coat tomatoes in dressing and add ribbons of basil.
  5. Slice up a 1lb ball of Mozzarella or Mozzarella di Bufala, and cut the round pieces into smaller, bite-sized morsels that can be placed on a plate beside the salad, or scattered on top and mixed in.
  6. Option 2: pour salad around a ball or two of Burrata, that can be opened and dipped into with pieces of fresh, crusty bread.

 

Recommended sides: assorted olives, prosciutto, salami

Dig in!