Fourth of July Picks: My Country ‘Tis of Cheese!

The Fourth of July is a time for sparklers, s’mores, slaw, and sun. Everyone spends the day grilling the same old hotdogs and burgers. I’m here to tell you to change it up this year! Serve some cheese!

I can’t think of a better way to celebrate our fine country than to create a cheese board brimming with American beauties, and as a Murray’s monger I’m here to guide you to some of the best choices for a fabulous 4th.

Vermont Butter and Cheese Creamery Coupole – Without these visionary cheese pioneers of Vermont the American cheese scene would be unrecognizable today. Over 25 years ago, VBC introduced us to fresh chevre and they still make some of the best stuff out there. The bloomy-rinded Coupole is pure creamy goat goodness, known to disappear quickly at potlucks.

 

Old Chatham Hudson Valley Camembert – The French have given us many priceless things over the course of America’s existence – Lady Liberty, Southern Rhone blends, Gerard Depardieu, and a killer Camembert recipe. With the addition of sheep’s milk to the classic cow’s milk bloomy, this upstate New York square honors French gastronomic traditions in the American style.

 

Roth Kase Sole Gran Queso – Since we are discussing American cheese, it is essential to recognize those dairy lovers out in Wisconsin. Many of their wheels are based off of European staples and are now winning American Cheese Society awards (like this one!). This cow’s milk wheel is a take on the classic Spanish Manchego, which is made with sheep milk. Flavors of nutty, buttered popcorn dominate, making this an all-ages crowd pleaser and a great companion to American lagers and juice boxes alike.

 

Bellweather Farms San Andreas* – The courageous Gold Rush pioneers paved the way for American expansion west. California is now one of the more prolific states for cheese-making, especially in the fertile Sonoma coast area. Like the esteemed wines from this region, San Andreas blows us away with its full-flavored, gamey intensity. Do everyone a favor and give this raw sheep tomme a go this Fourth of July.

 

Keeley’s Cheese Co. Across the Pond* – Our declaration of independence from England is something we share in common with Ireland, the country that inspired this creation. This orange-rinded beauty is truly a labor of love in the American tradition, emerging from a vision, a herd of Holstein and Jersey cows, and a willingness to stand on principle. Honor our visionary forefathers with this stinky, sweet, buttery wheel.

 

Rogue Creamery Caveman Blue – Red, white, and … gotta have a blue! Plus it is far and away the monger favorite behind the cheese counter. The Rogue Creamery out in Oregon is a stalwart in the cheese business, crafting amazing wheels in the blue tradition. This well-balanced, sweet and savory number just might be the one to win over blue skeptics, especially when paired with a darker, malty beer from the Creamery’s neighbor, Rogue Brewery.

 

Caitlin Griffith is a monger at our Bleecker Street store and good cheese makes her feel patriotic.

*San Andreas and Across the Pond are currently available in stores only.

So You Want to Be a Cheese Whiz…Without Eating Cheez Whiz

As Murray’s Bleecker Street store’s newest cheesemonger, I know that cheese can be a little intimidating—particularly when you’re staring at over 350 in our cheese case! The fact is, the new turophile (that’s cheese lover in laymen’s terms) may be racked with indecision and anxiety when trying to decipher the ins and outs of the wonderful world of fromage.

“With so many to taste, how will I know which one is for me?” this person might ask. And then there are inevitable questions like: Which milk types should I try? Will it taste like it smells? Should I eat the rind? FOR THE LOVE OF CHEESE, WHERE DO I EVEN BEGIN?!

That’s where I come in, my friends. Below I’ve listed a variety of 5 cheeses that the cheese neophyte can start with, learn from, AND enjoy. And those of you with a little more expertise should read on, since these cheeses are just plain good eatin’,

1. Westfield Capri*
What’s that? You say you don’t like fresh goat’s milk cheeses? Let me introduce you to the cheese that changes your mind—Westfield Capri from Massachusetts. This little block of goaty goodness is what cream cheese wishes it could be: spreadable and luscious, with a soft texture and mild tangy flavor that melts in your mouth. And—while it tastes great on its own, it pairs perfectly with bagels, fresh fruit, granola or even a brunch-time mimosa.

2. Casatica di Bufala
Alright, folks—it’s time to back away from that generic supermarket brie that’s been coddling you. If you want to get familiar with the richest animal’s milk there is, you have to eat a cheese courtesy of the illustrious water buffalo! This animal’s milk sports twice the fat of a cow’s, and Casatica di Bufala shows off its curves with its mild but buttery rich flavor. The thin, white mold on the outside gives this bloomy-rind cheese a tasty creamline that dissolves into a mildly sweet, silky center. The perfect cheese to pair with a baguette and a light sparkling white wine.

3. Podda Classico
Sometimes, you just want a great snacking cheese. A little nutty with a touch of caramel sweetness, firm but crumbly Podda Classico tastes great sliced up for a cheese plate or grated for a pasta topper. This cow/sheep hybrid from Sardinia has the sharpness of a cheddar and the sweetness of an aged gouda—so you know it’s gotta be good! The full flavor stands up to fruit and wine pairings but won’t overpower them—in short, this is a cheese the whole family will love.

4. Pleasant Ridge Reserve
Sure, the Europeans know how to make delicious cheese. But did you know there’s some incredibly tasty treats coming out of American dairies? This award-winner from Wisconsin plays like a subtler, smoother version of the alpine style Gruyere. Raw cow’s milk provides a foundation for a firm, fruity, grassy palate-pleaser. Goes great with lager or red wine. I like mine with apple slices.

5. Chiriboga Blue
Ah… infamous blue cheese. I see the fear as your eyes wander to the section of the case to the inhabitants dotted with blue mold. But what if I told you there was a blue that you—yes, YOU—might even like? Meet my friend, the Bavarian Chiriboga Blue. This charmer is the perfect gentleman—smooth, sweet, mellow and bright. And—bonus!—unlike some of his friends, he’s not stinky! Give him a chance and you may realize you’ve found your surprise soul mate.

-Lauren McDowell is the newest monger on the counter at Murray’s Cheese. She’s tasting her way to expertise, one cheese at a time!

*Westfield Capri is not currently available online but is sold in our NYC stores.

Summertime: Make the Most of Your Mozz!

Sean Kelly is our all-star monger who will be competing at the Cheesemonger Invitational this Saturday! Don’t forget to VOTE FOR HIM on Facebook!

At Murray’s when we think of summer cheese we think FRESH! While we always love our stinky, nutty, firm and aged cheese friends, fresh cheeses go with warm weather picnics and sunlight like an oyster stout pairs with a strong washed rind. (Hint: that is an awesome pairing) But who is the undisputed king of the fresh cheeses? The noble mozzarella, of course.

Mozzarella is a proud member of the pasta filata, or “stretched curd”, family of cheeses, meaning that the curds are kneaded together, stretched, and re-kneaded repeatedly until the desired texture is achieved. It’s this process that is responsible for mozzarella’s stringy consistency and lively, bouncy texture. The stretched curd family of cheeses branches out into several other groups as well, and includes provolone and caciocavallo. But mozzarella will always be the cornerstone of the style, and now that summer is finally here mozzarella season is in full swing.

What better time to better know your mozz? Here are a few of our favorites for the season.

Maple Brook Burrata:

Meaning “buttered” in Italian, burrata is comprised of a thin sheet of mozzarella filled with fresh curds and cream. Burrata originated as a way for cheesemakers to utilize the leftover curds from the cheesemaking process and, like many foods with exceedingly practical origins, it has become one of the best options out there. Maple Brook Farm, who makes rich, fresh and traditional burrata, learned their technique from an Italian cheesemaker from Puglia, in the heart of mozzarella country. If you think the idea of a cream and curd-filled mozzarella pocket bears a striking resemblance to some sort of criminally decadent dessert, you’re not alone. We love serving these bundles of delight with a drizzle of aged balsamic vinegar for a savory sundae.

Buffalo Mozzaralla:

A far cry from the behemoths you may have seen on the back of a nickel, the Italian water buffalo is a dairy animal known for producing incredibly rich and flavorful milk perfect for cheesemaking. Buffalo milk is the traditional milk used for Italian mozzarella making, and Torre Lupara farm has been doing it since 1946 with a herd of 2,000 buffalo. Buffalo mozzarella provides an extra savory kick, tang and depth of flavor that makes it perfect for adding a layer of richness and moisture to just about anything. We love it in a BLT (a BBLT, if you will) instead of mayo. Or, if you have no sense of shame and love delicious things, just eat it whole, like an apple!

Lioni Mozzarella:

The classic standby for cooking and snacking, cow’s milk mozzarella has a very special place in America’s culinary heart, particularly here in New York City. Made fresh in Brooklyn by Lioni Latticini from whole cows’ milk, this mozzarella embodies traditional Italian flavor while maintaining a commitment to locally sourced ingredients and careful attention to detail. This cheese absolutely begs to be toasted atop a meatball hero or paired with paper thin prosciutto for a smooth and salty snack. If you’re tired of the same old-same old tomato/basil/mozzarella combo, try this fruity variation: mango/mint/mozzarella.

Azure Skies and Snowy-white Rinds

by Caitlin Griffith

At your next party – perhaps even celebrating the warm weather streak that we hope is here to stay – you absolutely need to serve a citrus-y Saison with a bloomy rind goat. Now, I am biased because farmhouse Saisons scream sunshine and warm weather to me. Give me a tangy straw-colored beauty any time of year and visions of verdant grass and azure skies swim before my eyes.

Before I become too mushy and emotional here, let’s revisit Saison history. In French, Saison means season, and originally the lightly hopped beer was brewed in the wintertime to be enjoyed during the late summer harvest. There was no refrigeration back in the day (cue entrance of cheese, which is milk’s leap toward immortality) and so the chilly winter months protected the bottle-conditioned brew from turning rancid. Perfect! This style is witnessing something of a revival right now and I, for one (if you couldn’t already tell) am psyched because of its excellence in pairing with food. Those French-speaking Belgian farmers were really on to something. Most Saisons boast a tartness and dry finish and many display citrus flavors, as well as a grassiness and biscuit-y yeast quality.

I tasted the Saison Dupont, arguably the world’s most famous and unmatched expression of a Saison, with hints of lemon, cardamom, clove, and pear, with one of my favorite goat’s milk cheeses, the Haystack Peak from Colorado. This pasteurized bloomy-rind goat is based on the pyramid-shaped goats from the Loire Valley in France but with an American spin. The snowy-white exterior hints at its milky, harmonious flavor. Its brightness is well-balanced by three distinct textures (thanks to time spent aging in Murray’s caves): a velvety rind, followed up by a delightful whisper of a creamline, and a pasty interior. The Saison Dupont and Haystack Peak danced all over my tongue in a sprightly tango that will light up the life of anyone interested in cheese and/or beer in the least bit.

Let’s not further complicate things here and say more than is necessary, as we already possess a flawless pairing, but throw in some nice crusty bread, whole grain mustard, and a log of the classic French Saucisson Sec and call it a day. Happy Spring!

Meet A Monger Monday: Cate!

I spent several years as an editorial assistant, buried under unpublished manuscripts, with dreams of running away to a dairy farm upstate. I took Cheese 101 in the Murray’s classroom, where a one ounce piece of gooey, bacon-y Epoisses exploded my mind and abducted my heart.

The class instructor directed me to the Cave Internship program at Murray’s, where I would spend many meditative hours patting and flipping Selles-sur-Cher and Brillat Savarin. This led to a year as a cheesemonger at the Grand Central Station store, and then to a position as an Associate in the ecommerce department, assisting cheese lovers across the nation.

No matter how many cheeses I try, my all-time-when-in-doubt-go-to-favorite is a baguette with Gruyere, Jambon Royal, and a liberal dose of spicy Dijon. Classic and freaking amazing, it’s particularly perfect before or after running a marathon.

 

Cate Peebles is a cheesemonger for Murray’s By Mail. When she’s not taking an order on the phone or taping boxes shut to ship cheesy goodness all over the USA, you can find her running marathons and making the rest of us look lazy.