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.

Summer Snacks: Peppablues!

By: Summer Babiarz

This week my Weight Watchers leader emphasized getting a lot of flavor into your food. I see her point. I do tend to graze less throughout the day if I have had something that is truly flavorful and satisfying. So with the idea of big bold flavors in mind I would like to introduce to you the glistening, fire engine red, juicebombs that are Peppadews! These little guys pack a lot of punch with very few calories. They are sweet, spicy and tangy all at the same time. If you stuff these hallow little wonders with almost any firm or crumbly cheese your taste buds will thank you

In honor of the upcoming 4th of July holiday, I have chosen to pack them to the brim with Rogue River Blue from Oregon.  Rogue River Creamery  has been a leader in American artisan cheesemaking for over 80 years. This cheese in particular is a monger favorite behind the counter at Murray’s because it is punchy and yet well balanced. It doesn’t hurt that it is soaked in pear brandy and presents its leaf-wrapped gorgeouness on a cheese board in a way that makes you look like a rockstar. Whatever the reasons- professional cheesemongers love this cheese and it’s no accident.


Inspired by the scarcity of great blue cheese in America, Founder of Rogue River Blue Tom Vella and his wife traveled to France in the early 1950s in search of Roquefort. Mr. Vella was able to win over the highly secretive Roquefort Association with  his charming personality and bilingual education. He was presented with a gold pass signed by all functionaries of the Roquefort Society. This granted him access to study every step of Roquefort-making from the functionality of farms to aging cheese in the limestone caves at Cambalou.  With that knowledge he founded this American cheesemaking powerhouse  and they seem to only get better at balancing these big bold flavors.

Peppablues are a healthy and smart appetizer for a picnic or BBQ and they fit right in with all their red, white and blue glory.


Peppablues (3.5 points, 2 servings = 7 points total)

2 oz Rogue River Blue

10 ea Peppadews

Same Cheese, New Heights: Slinging Cheese in Aspen

Murray’s owner Rob Kaufelt catches up with longtime friend Dana Cowin

By: Rob Kaufelt, Proprietor of Murray’s Cheese

When I graduated college way back in ’69, I climbed into my old Pontiac GTO and with my pals Dave and Gary headed west. When we got to Aspen, Colorado, the rednecks there said, in so many words, ‘There’s the road, son, you’re already on it, no need to stop here.’ This was their way of telling long-haired hippie freaks like us they didn’t want our kind around.

Flash forward forty four years to the summer of 2013, when Murray’s crew Amanda Parker, Nick Tranchina and I cruised into town in our rental car to meet Paige Yim (our Marketing Manager) and do the Murray’s booth at the Aspen Food and Wine Classic. Not too many rednecks around that town anymore, not in a town where a twenty million dollar ski house is nothing special. Nor is a skinny woman with blond hair and Botox. But Mario [Batali] and the boys were there doing their celebrity chef thing, and so were we with our selections of the country’s best cheese, fresh from Brian’s caves.

“I could get used to this”

We have sixteen stores in Colorado now, and we visited most of them. What a rush to visit a store up in the mountains and see a sign on the outside of the building that reads ‘Murray’s’, and inside, a beautiful shop with some of the nicest folks you’re ever gonna meet sampling cheese you never figured would get up into those hills. Times are indeed a-changin’.

It was a smokin’ hot 99 degrees, and it was smokin’, period, as Colorado springs was literally on fire. Speaking of smokin’, you know that Colorado has legal weed, giving new meaning to the terms grass-fed and pot belly. In fact, hog farmers out there are indeed feeding their pigs stems, leaves and other leftover scraps the growers don’t need. The idea is that stoned pigs go easy to slaughter. Next they’ll show that it cuts cholesterol and, capitalism being what it is, they’re bound to find some new uses for horrible piggy poop next.

All in all, a fun week in this old cheesemonger’s career!