‘Tis the Season for these One-of-a-Kind Holiday Cheeses

rush creekTwinkly lights. Christmas music. Cozy sweaters…CHEESE!! Nothing says holiday spirit–and flavor–like these super seasonal cheese favorites. These gorgeous wheels are at their peak now, and many are only available for a precariously short amount of time. The clock is ticking.

Plus, a spot-on holiday cheese plate is a guaranteed way to spread love and joy. Happy shopping, feasting, and celebrating to you and yours!

Rush Creek Reserve

Uplands Cheese Co., one of the most beloved cheesemakers in the United States makes this Vacherin Mont d’Or-inspired beauty, possibly the most sought-after cheese in the world (pictured above). This is big news. And it makes total sense – the raw winter milk from their pastured herd of cows is less plentiful and of a quality that’s better suited to a younger, softer cheese, so they’ve done exactly what the French & Swiss have been doing for centuries: binding small wheels in spruce bark and washing them for sixty days to produce an astoundingly unctuous, resiny, bacony delight. Best served warm, with a bottle of oxidized white wine, crusty bread, and potatoes.

This cheese has a very limited availability. (Last year, it wasn’t available at all!). Get it while you can, or spend 2016 in a cheesy shroud of regret. 

comteap32 Year Comte

Frankly, a fantastic cheese. Here at murray’s, we can’t get enough. Aged in the Fort Saint Antoine in Jura, this Comte is produced by one of 13 high altitude cooperatives (“Fruitiers”) approved by affineur Marcel Petite. This Comte is aged for 2 years, which is the longest the affineur will age any cheese. The enormous wheels of raw cows’ milk have a firm texture, leaving flavors that can range from dense, with hints of smoke and onions, to sweeter, with notes of chocolate and hazelnuts. A holiday cheese plate must, and major crowd-delighter.

stiltonColston Bassett Stilton 

How did Stilton become a Christmastime tradition? The most sky-high quality milk comes from cows grazing at the end of the summer, and Stilton is at its best after about three months of aging. Hence, the cream of the crop Stilton is ready just in time for the holidays! Plus, it’s fantastic after Christmas dinner, with some tawny port and shards of chocolate.

The term ”Royal Blue” must have come from the creation of Stilton. Invented by Elizabeth Scarbrow and first served in 1720 at the Bell Inn in Stilton, England fame was not far behind. Made with pasteurized cows’ milk, it is ripened 3-4 months under carefully controlled cool, humid conditions. These farmstead, rustic looking cylinders are made by Colston-Basset Dairy, for Neal’s Yard Dairy. What makes them unique is the use of traditional animal rennet, not to be found from any other Stilton maker. Each bite is exceptionally buttery in texture with a clean, mineral tang that you’ll never forget.

Vacherin Mont D’Or

vacherinVacherin Mont D’Or inspired mania and devotion, and rightly so. A thermalized cow’s milk cheese wrapped in spruce to contain the woodsy liquid interior that, with one taste, commands spontaneous exuberance. It tastes like the holidays.

Extremely rare and highly seasonal, Vacherin Mont d’Or hails from Switzerland on the border of France near the mountain D’Or. Traditionally made with the winter milk of the same cows that produce Gruyere in the summer, this cheese is only available from October until April, making it all the more precious. The cheese must be made from cows munching on straw and fodder; once outside to graze at pasture, their milk is used for larger alpine cheeses. Swiss regulations also dictate the cheese must be produced at elevations of 2,297 feet or higher. Not a dictate, but we highly recommend you enjoy this delectable cheese with a bottle of Gewurtztraminer.

Fondue! We DO! Stay Warm & Satisfied with the Perfect Winter Comfort Food

gooeyfondueWhat’s better than cheese? Trick question…nothing! But a big bowl of melty cheese (read: fondue) for dipping your heart out ranks really high up there for the best inventions of humankind. The days are getting shorter, and colder, and darker. Fondue to the the stomach and soul-warming rescue!

A quick fondue history lesson: The Swiss have been enjoying this goodness for a very long time. Homer’s Iliad–dated from about 800 to 725 BC–even mentions chowing down on a glorious mixture of goat’s cheese, wine and flour. Sounds like fondue to me! The custom makes a lot of sense. The Swiss have a storied cheese tradition–and cheese odds and ends could easily be warmed up in a big pot atop a fire and savored during frosty Swiss winters.

In 1930, the Swiss Cheese Union appointed fondue the country’s national dish – and the world has been gaga over it ever since. Here’s a can’t-fail recipe for classic fondue…but experiment away! Fondue is a perfect blank canvas for playing around. Alpine cheeses are classic choices and stellar melters, so they’re a great place to start. (Think nutty, savory Appenzeller, pictured below). Go ahead, add some kick with a little of blue, perhaps some creamy gorgonzola. Or introduce a funky note with Spring Brook Farm Reading.

swiss_and_nutty_appenzeller_1Murray’s Classic Fondue 

Ingredients:
1 teaspoon salt
1 garlic clove
150 g (approx. 3/4cup) white wine
4 oz (approx. 1 cup) Gruyère, grated
4 oz (approx. 1 cup) Comté, grated
3 oz Emmental, grated
1 tablespoon + 1 tsp cornstarch
1 teaspoon lemon juice

Directions:
1.Sprinkle one teaspoon of salt in the bottom of a small saucepan.
2.Cut garlic clove in half and rub the inside of the pan, starting at the salt.
3.Heat the wine on medium-high just until boiling. While the wine is heating, combine the cheeses and toss with cornstarch until evenly distributed.
4.Gradually add the cheese a half a cup at a time, whisking constantly until melted and smooth.
5.Add lemon juice and whisk until incorporated.

The Great Dipping Debate

Dipping…so fun! Here are some of our favorite fondue vehicle. What’s yours?

  1. Cubes of your favorite bread
  2. Crackers! Raincoast Crisps do the trick brilliantly.
  3. Croutons
  4. Apples and pears!
  5. Veggies like broccoli, cauliflower, fennel spears, and baby carrots
  6. Pickles and pickled veggies, like Rick’s Pick’s dilly Mean Beans
  7. Fingerling potatoes
  8. Salumi and cured meat. Yes to chunks of chorizo!

Boo! The Scariest Cheeses for Halloween

scary cheese

Scary gorgeous photo by Carey Nershi

Happy Halloween! It’s time for ghosts and goblins and other scary things. Cheese doesn’t have to be one of them, but it certainly can be. What better time than now for brainy rinds and sizable stink factor? There’s nothing to be afraid of. Promise.

Bonne BoucheBonne Bouche is the flagship of Vermont Creamery’s signature aged goat cheeses. Made with pasteurized goat’s milk, the curd is carefully hand-ladled into molds, lightly sprinkled with ash, and aged just long enough to develop a wrinkly, brain-like rind. Reminiscent of Loire Valley favorites like Selles Sur Cher, Bonne Bouche also pairs well with Sauvignon Blanc.Frighteningly good.

Murray’s CaveMaster Reserve Greensward: If giant, funky flavor and oozy goodness scare you, don’t read on. Creating a new cheese is hard work! After tons of experimentation, we’ve arrived at perfection. Perfect spoonable, silky texture. Perfect big, bacony flavor. Perfect notes of forest and resin from Greensward’s pretty spruce jacket. The perfect collaboration with Jasper Hill. For even more perfection, open a light Gamay, or bourbon, and dive into this beauty with pieces of crusty bread.

stinky_murrays_cave_aged_epoisseÉpoisses: Don’t be afraid of the stink! You may not know it, but Époisses is actually a French word meaning “completely worth the effort”—either that or “stinky but incredibly loveable” because the end result, a custardy bacon bomb, is oh-so-worth-it. One slurp of the intensely creamy paste of this French classic, and you’ll know why we go to such lengths to ensure that this unctuous pasteurized cow’s milk round, made in Burgundy, France, is so delightfully decadent. After near extinction in France during the World Wars, Époisses de Bourgogne was resurrected in the 1950s by our beloved M. Berthaut. After being carefully hand-ladled into forms and dry-salted, each wheel takes a turn in French cave. Tucked into a clever wooden box meant to ease transport to our fair shores, serving Époisses isn’t nearly as difficult as aging it—slice a crusty baguette and dunk away, adding a glass of Burgundian white for terroir-driven perfection.

Coupole: Another wrinkly beauty from Vermont Creamery. As it ages, the pristine, velvety edible rind softens the fresh chevre beneath to an unctuous creamline. The resulting two textures of its cross-section make for a stunning visual presentation; this is an ideal selection for a stand alone cheese or first position of a cheese plate. Pair with a dry, grassy white.

Murray’s Cincinnati Cheese Festival City Guide: Our Favorite Cincinnati Haunts

cincy guide mapWe’re gearing up for the first ever Cincinnati Cheese Festival, and we hope to see you there. On Friday, November 6, dozens of the country’s best cheese and specialty food producers will show off their most delicious treats in Over-the-Rhine…and hundreds of Cincinnatians will gather for great food, drink, and community festivities.

Our home base is New York City, but we spend a whole lot of time around the country–from Arkansas to Oregon to Alaska–where we have 250 Murray’s stores and counting. Cincinnati is the site of the first Murray’s location outside of NYC, and the place where we launched our partnership with Kroger. The city has a special place in our hearts and bellies. We love Cincy, and we spend a lot of time here selling cheese and taking breaks for tacos and other deliciousness. Here are some of our trusty favorites, and the first of an upcoming series of City Guides–the scoop on places where we love to eat and explore.

What are your favorite spots? Snap ‘em—or better yet, you enjoying them—& tag #saycheesecincinnati

Without further ado…the Cincinnati City Guide!

The Eagle: A beer hall with fried chicken that makes us all weak in the knees. Free range birds are brined, dredged, then dropped into custom-built fryers. Pair with cheddar grits, if you’re smart.

1342 Vine St, Cincinnati, OH

Moerlein Lager House: They brew (great) beer here, and their selection of Cincinnati-brewed beers is nothing short of awesome. For sustenance: pillowy soft pretzels with beer cheese.

115 Joe Nuxhall Way, Cincinnati, OH

graetersGraeters: A lot has changed in 140 years since Graters began, but the fam biz still makes ice cream two gallons at a time, with the French Pot Process for unreal creaminess. Just say yes to Black Raspberry Chocolate Chip.

Many locations (thank the ice cream Gods)

Jeff Ruby’s Steakhouse: Sometimes the New Yorker in us will settle for nothing less than a dry-aged New York Strip in a wonderfully clubby, old-school steakhouse. Even better with Maytag Blue Cheese Butter.

700 Walnut St, Cincinnati, OHDerby Weekend at Jeff Ruby's Steakhouse (Derby Eve)

Metropole: In Cincinnati’s 21c Museum Hotel, Chef Jared Bennett makes magic in his custom-built wood-burning fireplace. His smoky blue cheese-topped burger: OMG. Plus there are big yellow penguins, so.

609 Walnut St, Cincinnati, OH

Skyline Chili: The original, with chocolate as the not-so-secret ingredient. Chili + spaghetti + cheddar is a three-way. Add onions or red beans for a four-way, or both for a five-way, if you like it kinky.

skylineMany locations (thank the chocolaty chili Gods)

Fifty West Brewing Company: The 50 West Brewing folks craft upward of a dozen beers, and they’re mighty tasty. So is their Hot Brown sandwich: turkey, bacon, and tomato, topped with a gruyere and an over easy egg.

7668 Wooster Pike, Cincinnati, OH

Bakersfield: Taco joy, plus over 100 tequilas and American whiskeys in a pretty, lively spot. So many brilliant choices! The braised short rib taco, with queso fresco, radish and crema is no joke.

1213 Vine Street, Cincinnati, OHbakersfield

Sotto:

In the back of this low-key, sexy spot, cooks roll out seemingly endless sheets of handmade pasta. Order the gemelli con pomodoro with san marzano tomatoes, arugula, and burrata that oozes as if weeping with joy.

118 East Sixth Street, Cincinnati, OH

Senate: This trendy OTR mecca makes hot dogs that top the best hot dogs ever list, plus killer poutine with local cheese curds. Try the Lindsay Lohan: a beef dog with

goat cheese, caramelized onions, bacon, arugula, balsamic…and tons of drama.

1212 Vine St, Cincinnati, OH

A Tavola: Wood-fired pizza, great wines, craft beer, and yummy cocktails. Sweet pea, bacon and fontina pizza is something beautiful, even by New York pizza snob standards.

1220 Vine St, Cincinnati, OH

Hilton Cincinnati Netherland Plaza - Bar from Mezzanine

Hilton Cincinnati Netherland Plaza – Bar from Mezzanine

The Bar at the Hilton Netherlands Hotel: We love a snazzy hotel one. This elegant Art Deco spot is full of gorgeous details. We’ve drunk many a Manhattan at the huge bar. Say hi to the bartender with the incredible hairstyle.

35 W 5th St, Cincinnati, OH

Great American Ballpark: The home of the Cincinnati Red’s is also a bona fide food and drink destination. Keep it simple and soul-satisfying with pork loin back ribs from Montgomery Inn. Plus a side of mac and cheese, of course.

100 Joe Nuxhall Way, Cincinnati, OH

Taste of Belgium: Respect the waffle. Start your day with a McWaffle:

egg, bacon, Gruyère, maple syrup. End it with waffles, crunchy fried chicken and hot sauce. Take home some waffles for midnight snacking.

1135 Vine St, Cincinnati, OH

Newport Hoffbrauhaus:  We once stumbled on a German folk celebration here. The men danced with sausages around their necks and we ate schnitzel bigger than our heads topped with beer cheese. Plus, fried pickles.

200 E 3rd St, Newport, KY

Rheingeist Brewery: Built in the the skeleton of the old Moerlein bottling plant, these guys brew 20bbl batches of beer that sing with flavor. Play some cornhole and ping pong, or throw an epic party in their 25,000 sqaure foot space.

1910 Elm Street, Cincinnati, OH