These Are a Few of My Favorite [Murray’s] Things!

The holidays are HERE, and with them come a slew of new goodies for me to become obsessed with. Here are just a few of my favorite new things.

2-Year Aged Comte

Throughout the year, we have customers who venture to the cheese counter, inquiring about the status of our elusive 2-year aged Comte.  More often than not, we must sadly shake our heads and reveal the bitter truth—the time for this seasonal cheese hasn’t come.  But rejoice, fromage connoisseurs! This raw cow’s milk beauty is back and better than ever. You may recall from a previous post the story of our buyer’s journey to retrieve this marvel of the cheese world.  After tasting what was specially chosen just for Murray’s, I fell in love. I brought some home, ate until I couldn’t eat any more, and then had to have just…one…more…bite. It is the perfect snacking cheese—nutty, fruity, the perfect blend of savory and sweet, with a semi-firm but creamy texture that melts like butter in your mouth.  Though it’s hard to improve on perfection, this chameleon cheese pairs with almost any assortment of jams, honeys, butters or charcuterie. You won’t believe it until you taste for yourself—but we’ve found the perfect cheese.

Holiday gift note: If you can stand to share this seasonal alpine-style cheese, someone will love you dearly.


Rush Creek Reserve

Artisanal. American. Raw milk. My interest is piqued. But what’s so special about Rush Creek Reserve? For one thing, it’s made by Uplands Cheese Company in Wisconsin (the same folks who make award-winning Pleasant Ridge Reserve), who believe in a grass-fed pasture diet and seasonal herding for their cows. This means the animals are happy and healthy, which leads to better, more flavorful milk (and of course, better cheese!).  As for the cheese itself, Rush Creek Reserve sports a lovely spruce bark belt around its soft, ripe exterior—inspired by the famous French Vacherin Mont d’Or.  The result—oh, the result!—a delicate, woodsy, beefy paste that sings on the tongue and impresses your friends at holiday parties.

Holiday gift note: This seasonal cheese only comes from autumn milk, so its availability is extremely limited. Get it before someone beats you to it!



Societe-Original Seashore Honey

Most people know that honey makes a terrific complement to most varieties of cheese, but fewer think about why that is. Like cheese, honey is fascinating because its flavors vary based on terroir—the plants and flower nectar the honeybee collects determines the taste of its resulting honey (floral, fruity, nutty, etc.) in the same way that a ruminant’s diet will influence the taste of its milk and cheese. So I think we can agree—honey is a magical thing. But this honey? Magic becomes divine.  In addition to the sweet, floral taste (courtesy of French Canadian seaside summer pollen) the texture is creamy, smooth, and nougat-like.  Just as a cheesemaker or affineur can shape the texture of a cheese, the makers of Societe-Original whip the already delicious raw foundation to create light, fondant perfection. Picture coming soon, but trust me – it is a beaut!!!

Holiday gift note: Need a gift for that hard-to-please foodie? Stop looking. This is it!


Jeni’s Oatmeal Crème Ice Cream Sandwich

photo courtesy of jeni’s splendid ice creams!

Before you get your hopes up, no, sadly we can’t sell this one online! But if you’re ever near our Bleecker Store, you’re in for a treat. Jeni’s Ice Cream could convert even the most adamant ice cream opposition (which can’t actually exist, right?)—because it’s that good. The milk is sourced from Snowville creamery grass-fed cows, and the ice cream is made from scratch with all-natural ingredients.  So if the quality of Jeni’s Ugandan Vanilla Bean Ice Cream is amazing, and the flavor is out of this world, how might you improve on a tried-and-true formula? Stick that ice cream between some of the greatest oatmeal cookies ever created! Flavored with molasses and cinnamon, the soft oat-filled cookies soak in the cool, rich vanilla ice cream to create the perfect dessert.  Jeni’s other Ice Cream Sandwiches are worth trying, but in my opinion, this Oatmeal Crème can’t be beat!

Holiday gift note: Santa prefers Jeni’s Ice Cream Sandwiches.


La Quercia Acorn Tamworth Coppa

I must admit that I hold a soft place in my heart for Iowa-based prosciutto company La Quercia and its products.  After living in the Italian province of Parma (yes, the Parma of prosciutto renown) for several years, the husband and wife team from Iowa decided to bring premium quality prosciutto to their own state and country. From what started as simply prosciutto sourced from local, sustainable producers, La Quercia grew to include a plethora of cured meats. And these meats are incredible!  The La Quercia product I can’t get enough of right now is the Acorn Tamworth Coppa. Tamworth pigs from Missouri spend their last three months foraging acorns in the Ozarks from oak and hickory trees, which leads to a sweet and nutty flavor and silky, melt-in-your-mouth texture.  Coppa comes from the top of the pig’s shoulder, which ensures a lovely meat to fat ratio, evidenced by the beautiful white marbling on the cut.  This is the perfect meat to pair with cheese or adorn a cold plate—and (here comes the blasphemy) this American-made acorn coppa is miles above the Italian original in taste and texture. Currently only available in NYC stores.

Holiday gift notes: Local. Sustainable. Delicious. Pork.


Lauren McDowell is a cheesemonger who moonlights as a food scholar, earning a graduate degree in Food Studies at New York University one bite research paper at a time.

Who’s Afraid of IPA’s?

Kevin Brooks is a cheesemonger and self-proclaimed beer geek. This Saturday he’ll be leading a seminar at the Craft Beer Festival in NYC. The beers in this post are all available at Murray’s on Bleecker Street.

IPAs are intimidating.

It’s true. Big, strong and intensely bitter, IPAs are the beer that lets hops shine. Stinking of citrus and pine, they explode on the palate and, if you’re not used to it, they can really scare you off. I remember once in my callow youth when I left most of a pint of Sierra Nevada sitting on the bar, possibly thinking, “that was gross, it probably went bad.” Oh foolish past me!

The granddaddy of IPAs was developed in Burton on Trent in the 1800s. At the time, the British were having difficulties delivering beer to colonies in India.  A long hot sea voyage wasn’t good for the beer, and it was arriving spoiled and useless. Knowing of hops’ preservative qualities and that a stronger beer would be better suited to the trip, brew masters upped the amount of hops they added to the beer, resulting in a strongly bitter brew. It was pale ale destined for India, so they called it India Pale Ale, or an IPA. The name stuck.

There is a massive range of flavors and aromas in the world of hops, and brewers continue to find new ways to unlock ever more bitter and intense brews. Dry-hopping, wet-hopping, hop backs, double hopping, continuous hopping, bar-side hop infusers, all working to wrest more flavor and aroma out of this humble flower. Some hops are added for bitterness, some for flavor, some for aroma, and different kinds of hops are added at different parts of the boil. It’s all very involved.

To ease into the world of hops, I’ve selected three beers that raise us up through levels of intensity. So starting off we have an English IPA, Coniston Brewery’s Bluebird Bitter. English IPAs are milder than their American cousins; they’re hopped less, and English hops are milder, more floral, and less assertive than American hops. They also have cute names like Fuggle. Bluebird stands as a very drinkable, well balanced ale with a sweet backbone, lovely floral aromas, and light bitterness. I like this one paired with a mellow English cheddar with a similarly silly name, Tickler Cheddar!

Next up was an emblematic American IPA, Green Flash’s West Coast IPA. American hops tend to be more towards the piney and citric side of things, and American brewers tend to throw a whole lot more of them into the kettle, making for much bigger, more hop forward beers. The West Coast IPA smells like fresh cut grapefruits in the middle of a pine forest, while the flavor is big and citrusy, but still balanced, with a lingering bitterness to let you know what you are drinking. It’s also a touch stronger, at 7.2% abv, so be warned. For cheese picks, this is amazing with the hops-coated Cavemaster Reserve Hudson Flower.

And now for the bitterest of the bitter, an Imperial IPA. Imperial is a bit of a buzzword in brewing these days, and generally just means “more”, as in “more hops, more booze, more flavor.” Southern Tier’s Unearthly Imperial IPA is no joke, and one of my favorites. Enormously bitter, but with a big malt backbone supporting it, making for an eye-watering, yet still drinkable beer. But Murray’s doesn’t have the standard Unearthly; we carry the Oak Aged Unearthly, which has spent the better part of a year chilling in an oak barrel.

What a difference a year (trapped in a barrel) makes! As beer ages, hop flavor and aroma is the first thing to fade. First the aromas fade to nothing, then the flavors dwindle, leaving behind just the characteristic bitterness. The Oak Aged Unearthly has mellowed out considerably. No piney, no citrus, just a big chewy bitterness that isn’t overwhelming. And when you take a big, balanced IPA and remove the hop character, you’re left with a big, sweet, malty beer. The level of caramelly sweetness is really surprising, and so is how well it pairs with some Mast Bros. Sea Salt chocolate. Who would have thought you could drink an IPA with dessert?

Are IPAs intimidating? Sure. But as with anything else, if you give it half a chance, you’ll find some real pleasant surprises in there.

Our Top 5 Beach Cheese Picks

Sum-sum-summertime! Beach season is officially here, and at Murray’s we’ve got one thing on our mind when packing a picnic for those epic days in the sun: Cheese! Yes, cheese at the beach!

Hot weather means you’re going to want something refreshing and light to snack on. Fresh, spreadable cheeses that won’t stink up your cooler and transport easily are ideal. Here are some of our favorites for the season. Just add some fresh fruit, a big bottle of water or chilled vino, and the soothing sound of ocean waves.

Something fresh and light: With the sun beating down and the salt in your hair, there is no need for anything heavy. Bring on the Petit Billy, a delightful chevre that doesn’t tax your palate or your wallet. It’s creamy and bright like a tangy whipped cream cheese, and pairs just as fabulously with fresh fruit.

Something rich and triple crème-y: A couple of bites is enough to satisfy—you are still wearing a bathing suit, right? Nettle Meadow Kunik should do the trick. A small round of rich, velvety goodness hits the spot and never leaves you wanting. We love this with fresh strawberries or raspberries.

Something soft: Seriously, if you are anything like me, you’ve already packed a towel, water, sunblock, reading material, bocce ball… the last thing you need to be schlepping is a cheese knife and board as well. Brebisrousse D’Argental is light and creamy, and has plenty of flavor without being super pungent. Now all you need is to find space for those petit toasts to scoop up the orange-rinded sheep-y goodness.

Something smoky to put you in the mood for BBQ: This is a no brainer – River’s Edge Up in Smoke! A delicate chevre from Oregon gets wrapped in a smoked Maple leaf and spritzed with a touch of bourbon. The finished product is tangy and fresh with a meaty-smoke subtlety that makes your mouth water. You’ll wonder why your craving for ribs increases exponentially.

Something with a bit more heft: Yeah, we said to stick to light and soft, but just to round out our list, let’s throw in Cave-Aged Landaff. Reminiscent of a cheddar, this semi-firm raw cow’s milk cheese aims to please. Pre-slice for snacking ease.

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.