Our Favorite Things: 10 Nom Nom Sandwiches for Back to School

By:Robin Minkoff

Autumn is nearly upon us, and in New York City that means we’re thisclose to the end of: the Bloomberg Era, the bare midriff trend, and easy weekend parking.  But!  We’re getting ready for school: picking up new shoes, notebooks, and a lunchbox.  Here’s a guide to yummy sandwiches you can put together in a snap!

  1. Taleggio with Fig Jam and Proscuitto
  2. Irish Cheddar with Big Spoon Peanut Butter and sliced green apple
  3. Big Spoon Peanut Almond Butter with Linden Tremblay Honey
  4. Aged English Cheddar with Granbiscotto Cooked Prosciutto and Sonoma Brinery Bread & Butter Pickles
  5. Big Spoon Peanut Butter with Harvest Song Sour Cherry Jam
  6. VBC Peppered Goat Chevre with Genoa Salami and greens
  7. VBC Plain Goat Chevre with Mortadella and McClure’s Garlic Dill Chips (put ‘em right there in the sandwich!)
  8. Mountain Gorgonzola with Due Vittore Balsamic Vinegar and Proscuitto
  9. Appenzeller with Ham and Sonoma Brinery Spicy Bread & Butter Pickles
  10. Mountain Gorgonzola with Linden Tremblay Honey

Don’t forget the condiments!  Check out Sir Kensington Mayonnaise and Beaufor Mustard.

Mongers, Piglets and Bears, Oh My!

Piglets at Jasper Hill

By: Lisa Griffin

We didn’t follow the yellow brick road to the Vermont Cheesemakers Festival, but team Murray’s had an amazing journey. Our merry band of mongers had a fun, coffee-fueled drive up to Vermont. Thanks to our friends at Jasper Hill Farms, we met baby piglets that worked their way into our hearts (and the scent, into our van). Surprise does not even begin to describe our reaction to the bear cub darting across the road 5 feet in front of our moving vehicle. The most memorable part of the drive was the beauty of Vermont itself. Living in a city like New York, it is easy to forget the power of nature. The number of trees was awe-inspiring, like driving through a rolling sea of green.

After a lovely night in Burlington, we were off to Shelbourne Farms. The vibe on the day of the festival was one of palpable excitement. We were so excited to meet the cheesemakers and other producers attending. The best part was — they were just as excited to meet and talk to us!

Big Picture Farm’s goat milk caramels

Once at the Festival, one of my responsibilities as a volunteer was helping the producers load in their amazing food and set up their booths. To my delight, I had the honor of helping Louisa from Big Picture Farm set up. Big Picture Farm’s goat caramels are definitely one of our favorite sweet treats at the Bleecker store, and Louise was only too gracious to share some stories about her dog Elvis, her fantastic goats, and the wonderful portraits she has drawn of them all. You can taste the love in the caramels that she shared with us that day.

I also had the privilege of spending some time with Joan, one of the founders of Effie’s Oatcakes. I’m not going to lie, I am personally responsible for finishing off an entire package of oatcakes in one sitting. So, I was only too happy to talk about all of the cheeses I love pairing with these buttery, sweet, and salty snacks. She also let me have a sneak-peak taste of some of their new cakes coming out for the holidays. I’m already dreaming about the future cheese and oatcake bliss to come.

Vermont Butter and Cheese

Once the festival was underway, it was a great day of tasting and talking about cheese with the producers at Jasper Hill, Consider Bardwell, and Vermont Butter and Cheese. It was wonderful to meet the folks at Jan’s Farmhouse Crisps and Vermont Smoke and Cure as well. There are so many wonderful artisanal and farmstead foods being made. I definitely came away with a new appreciation for the amazing products that we have the privilege of selling.

I grew up in Los Angeles, and am a New York transplant, so spending some time on a farm and appreciating the amount of time, work and love that goes into the cheeses and the other foods from Vermont was invaluable to me. On the way home, we stopped at a farm that sells their products to the public. When you walk in the sign reads, “Welcome! Our store’s SELF-SERVICE and on the HONOR SYSTEM.” The farmers and artisans take such pride in their animals and their products. It is an honor for us to be a part of that process and pass that respect on to those with whom we share the fruits of their labor.

Summer at the Cellars at Jasper Hill

By: Summer Babiarz

While driving a van of Murray’s folks to Jasper Hill Cellars in Greensboro, Vermont I am keenly aware of how “New York “ we all sound as we gush over the vibrant green mountains. One thing is for sure, we all agree that THIS is where cheese should be made. As we drive by a little boy walking down a country road carrying a fishing pole, we begin to suspect that Vermont is staging postcard moments. This theory gets legs a half hour later when a baby black bear scampers across the road. It is finally confirmed as we pass a happy herd of cows chomping greedily on a field of wildflowers. However, our favorite sighting by far is the red barn with a mural of Bayley Hazen Blue cheese posing as the moon as we roll into the gravel driveway of Jasper Hill Farms.

The Cellars at Jasper Hill

Not everyone gets to tour the caves at Jasper Hill, which are not open to the public. As Vince Razionale meets us warmly and asks us to sani-suit up, we chat about how lucky we are to have been given an opportunity to see some of our absolute favorites in their aging environment. Jasper Hill has a stellar reputation for craftsmanship and artistry and picking a favorite is like picking your favorite song.

The first stop was the Bloomy cave. These stone caves are magnificently beautiful and have round ceilings to prevent raining. We see newly-formed Moses Sleeper and the dramatic transformation it makes into a cloud-like pillow in only six days. New Harbison wheels are deep cream colored and do not yet have their distinctive white speckled mold growing over its boiled Spruce-bark spine.

Alpha Tolman aging in the Cellars

The Alpha Tolman cave was next. Wheels of this Scharfe-Max-inspired-cheese are in neat rows up to the cave’s ceiling. Vince explains that Bloomy cheeses are a quick study due to their short life-cycle. In contrast, firm and larger format cheeses like Alpha Tolman could take years to develop fully. He cores Alpha Tolman wheels, and we all taste this cheese at different ages. Vince confesses that selling “age” is a little gimmicky and that he prefers to focus on the flavor profile.

The Cabot Clothbound Cheddar cave is so bountiful that the ammonia released during the aging process dries out your eyes as you enter. Vince explains the three benefits of lard coating these cheddars before they are bound in cloth:

Endless Cheddar!

1. It helps the cloth adhere to the wheel of cheese

2. It helps to develop the correct amount of mold growth

3. It helps to regulate the correct density and water weight.

The last stop is the Natural Rind cave where Bayley Hazen Blue is maturing before and after being pierced. It is especially cool to see these blues before their blue veining has developed. However, my favorite part about this cave was seeing that each rack is resting on a bed of small wet stones which helps to keep high humidity and cool temperature.

Cabot Clothbound

As we make our way back down to the city, freshly cut grass gives way to concrete. The rolling thunder clouds are into roaring subway cars, and the sound of crickets are silenced by honking horns on the dreaded BQE. That being said, whenever the city gets me cranky I need only nibble one of the treasures from the Cellars at Jasper Hill to remember a perfect July day in cheesenerd paradise.

Counter Intelligence: Spreading the Good Word on Curd in Vermont

This past weekend some of the Murray’s staff was lucky enough to escape New York City for the fresh, magical air of Vermont, a gorgeous state with its vast green rolling hills, scattered with cow paddocks.

For the last 5 years, The Vermont Cheesemakers Festival has celebrated all things fromage. Cheese producers from all over the state gather to display a plethora of Vermont-made specialty food products. Not only did we get to catch up with some of our cheesemaking friends, but we also got to enjoy idyllic scenery. Right outside of Burlington, the festival takes place on Shelburne Farm, situated directly on Lake Champlain

Skittles the Calf

When we weren’t busy rolling around in the field, munching on Vermont’s best, or petting the sweetest calf in the world (Skittles), we got to talk curd. Murray’s staffer, and all-around queso expert and connoisseur, Elizabeth Chubbuck, led the “Counter Intelligence” seminar. Elizabeth showcased a couple of cheeses sourced from Vermont that we later age in the Murray’s caves.


Elizabeth Chubbuck leading the “Counter Intelligence” seminar

You see, Murrays has a very special relationship with this state. Through our Cave Master Reserve program we have been able to source cheeses from Vermont, take them into our caves and age them. This process adds our own Murray’s terrioir to the cheeses.

“Counter Intelligence” cheese plate

As Elizabeth explained, this relationship with Vermont cheesemakers is good for both maker and seller. A great case is Vermont Butter & Cheese Company’s Torus. VBC makes this cheese exclusively for Murray’s, and sends it to us very young. When developing this cheese, we decided to go with the doughnut shape, allowing for more rind and varied texture in each bite. VBC produces the cheese, we provide the affinage – producing a product that is exclusive to our cheese counters. By collaborating with different on cheeses, it allows producers to get  a little extra attention from Murray’s. We are proud of our Cave Master selection, and participating partners have the advantage of the “Murray’s Showcase”.

The “Counter Intelligence” attendees

Shopping for cheese was another topic that Elizabeth discussed. One of the goals of Murray’s as a company is to demystify the cheese case. She provided tricks of the trade, and explained the difference between taste and flavor. We strongly encourage those who don’t have much experience in buying cheese to step up to the counter and give it a shot. Cheesemongers are thrilled to do this – helping a customer discover a new cheese by taking them through a taste journey is what inspires us.

After spending the weekend with fellow cheese nerds, beautiful cheeses, and breathtaking scenery, it was hard to say goodbye to Vermont.

The Vermont Cheesemakers Festival takes place every year in July, right outside of Burlington. Next year if you need a good reason to visit Vermont, want to eat some cheese and listen to a talented Murray’s cheese-whiz discuss the nuances of the cheese counter,  the festival might just be exactly what you’re looking for. Until next year, Vermont will remain in my mind as a magical, distant memory.

(Want to take a class led by Elizabeth? She is teaching “Feel the Funk” 8/19/2013 at Murrays!)

St. Marcellin, it’s not just a crock.

By: Lisa Griffin, Bleecker Street Monger

St. Marcellin is a little French cheese beauty that comes in it’s own crock, replete with creamy, salty deliciousness.  Originally from the Dauphine province, which is now the Rhone-Alpes region in France, this pasteurized cow’s milk cheese is aged for about a month and has a thin, mushroomy rind. I love this cheese because it is so versatile.  You can eat it hot or not.  It’s a great addition to any cheese plate, as is.  But, throw it in the oven for a few minutes, crock and all, and you have a bubbly, gooey little pot of goodness.  Just pick up your dipping favorites – like cornichons, apples, baguette bits or crudité veggies.  It’s like having your own personal fondue.  Want a cheesy dessert that is sweet and savory? Drizzle a little honey on top of your St. Marcellin and dip fresh berries, dried cherries or candied walnuts. In France, St. Marcellin is often served warm on salads.  I also find that it is a great melty topper for a crostini appetizer.  Feature this cheese gem at your summer dinner party or Bastille Day celebration. You never have to eat it the same way twice!

Summer Salad with St. Marcellin

Serves 4, 15 minutes

4 cups of Arugula, Frisee, or your favorite mixed greens, washed and dried

2 crocks of St. Marcellin, on the firmer side

¼ cup of pine nuts, toasted

2 TBSPs red wine or sherry vinegar

1/3 cup Extra Virgin Olive Oil

1 tsp Dijon mustard

Salt and pepper to taste

-Preheat the oven to 350.  Cut two firm St. Marcellins into quarters.  Place them on a parchment-lined baking sheet.

-Whisk together your vinegar, mustard, and olive oil.  Add some salt and pepper to taste, while whisking.

-Place your cheese in the oven.  Heat until it is just starting to droop (about 2 minutes)

-While your cheese is melting, place your greens in a bowl and toss with vinaigrette.  Add the pine nuts while you are tossing.

-Divide the greens onto four plates.  Slide two pieces of melted St. Marcellin on the top of each plate and serve immediately.