Underrated Cheese

By: Lauren McDowell


Many people visit the world famous Murray’s cheese counter to taste something they’ve never tasted before, or to pick up something undiscovered by most. Here are a few of our favorite selections that are often overlooked.

Salva Cremasco – This Italian cow may be the absolute best value in our cheese case. As a cheese lover (and starving student) it’s hard for me to contain my giddy-ness over a supremely and lacticly delicious cheese that doesn’t obliterate my food budget for the week! The rainbow hued rind gives this cube a funkiness that belies its smooth, mild interior.

Cashel Blue – Time and again, we all look to the classic French blues when perusing the blue-molded section of Murray’s cheeses. I’m guilty of it as well, but when I fondly recall a short-lived and glorious semester spent abroad in Galway, Ireland, I reach for the oft-forgotten Cashel Blue. Excellent with a juicy pear or ripe red apple, the creamy and pleasantly mild blue sings with cucumber slices on dark toast, paired with a roasty Guinness, or an Irish whiskey.

Pecorino Foglie de Noce- A rustic cheese from the capital of food in Italy, Emilia-Romagna, these small wheels are covered in walnut leaves and aged in barrels, imparting milky, nutty flavors.

Sheep’s milk cheeses frequently leave you wanting in flavor, but not so with this crumbly wheel, at home both on a cheese board or grated over your pasta instead of the ubiquitous Parmigiano Reggiano or pecorino romano.

Pata Cabra – Mild-mannered and semi-firm, this Spanish goat’s milk cheese will surprise you every time. Aged in Murray’s caves, each log is unique with varied levels of tang and pungency, but always anchored by the bright white interior and citrus essence characteristic of goat’s milk cheese. Especially for those who shy away from the more intense washed rinds (think Alsatian Munster), this totally snackable and always underrated selection challenges the palate in the most delightful of ways.

Chevre Noir – A goat cheddar, you ask incredulously? Never. Oh yes, a goat cheddar from Quebec, this bright white block all dressed up in black defies expectations. Grassy and fruity, use it as you would any cheddar for an elevated and creamy experience that even the most ardent of vegetarians can love (the fromagerie up in Canada uses microbial rennet!).

Gorgonzola Cremificato—A question for all my blue cheese-loving friends: if you could eat blue cheese ice cream, would you? If the answer is yes-of-course-no-duh-where-can-I-get-that, you’ve probably been overlooking the luscious, creamy, just-right sweetness of this spoonable cow’s milk Italian blue.  Not to be confused with its more piquant relative Mountain Gorgonzola or less sweet but mighty strong Gorgonzola dolce Artigianale, this is a classic you need to get to know or re-visit.

Brebirousse d’Argental—We get a lot of customers in the Bleecker St. store who come in looking for a spreadable cheese they can nosh on with a bit of baguette.

It seems that everyone knows about creamy cow’s milk favorites, but there are less who are acquainted with this equally wonderful French sheep cheese. This gooey, complex darling boasts a grassy, tangy meaty flavor as unique as its lovely bright orange rind. This is a great pick for cheese plates when you want a cheese to taste as good as it looks!

Brunet—Beneath the unassuming white rind on each round of Brunet one discovers an opus of rich, tangy and woodsy flavored perfection—an accomplishment courtesy of the tender-lovin’ care it was given as it aged in Murray’s Caves.  The interior cake-like texture even comes with its own icing in the creamline. Two textures+many flavors=one great cheese.

Tomme du Bosquet—For the cheese lover who wants a goat that packs a punch without the stinkiness of a washed-rind, here’s your new favorite! This semi-soft raw goat’s milk cheese recalls a strong, earthy pungency reminiscent of a walk through the woods on a cool autumn evening. If that analogy sounds a tad over-the-top romantic, it’s because you haven’t tried this cheese yet!

Pawlet—While washed-rind cheeses traditionally come from Western Europe, rich Jersey cow milk makes American-made Pawlet (from Vermont’s Consider Bardwell Farms) a standout in its own right.  The bright flavor and creamy texture will appeal to many palates, and the extra aging in Murray’s caves brings a buttery funk to the table you won’t find anywhere else.

We Love It: Goat Cheese 10 Ways

 

Goat cheese is known for its bright, fresh, and lemony flavors. During the winter I stick to stronger washed rind and Alpine style cheese, but as spring approaches I start to crave the more delicate flavors. While some goats milk cheeses might be more minerally, and others more pungent, they all pair perfectly with spring. Here are 10 of our favorite things that you can do with goat cheese:

  1. Sweeten it up: Spread VBC Chevre on baguette and top with some honey for a sweet treat.
  2. Crumble on top: Sprinkle Westfield Capri over roasted beets & top with a little coarse salt.
  3. In a quiche: Add a lightly aged goat cheese like Crottin to your next quiche for a touch of earthiness.
  4. In an omelet: Try shredded Garrotxa, spinach and some salty Jamon Serrano.
  5. Paired with bubbly: Sparkling wine goes great with a French goat cheese like Selles-Sur-Cher or Valencay.
  6. On a pizza: Top with herbed fresh goat cheese, your choice of veggies and sundried tomatoes
  7. With greens: Add flavor to an earthy Kale salad with salty Capra Sarda and some sweet dried cherries.
  8. In sauces: Make your favorite pasta primavera recipe and add fresh goat cheese like Petit Billy to the sauce for a creamy texture.
  9. Top off your soup: tangy Chevre Noir is perfect for finishing spring soups
  10. Au naturel: There’s a goat cheese for everyone, whether you love fresh flavors, feta, gouda, something peppery, blues, stinky cheese or something unusual. Try them all!

 

The Story of Torus, Our Newest Cavemaster Reserve Cheese

by Adeline Druart, Master Cheesemaker & Operations Manager at Vermont Butter & Cheese Company

 

At Vermont Creamery we are known for making the best fresh and aged goat cheese in the country. We’ve been in business since 1984, and have been working with Murray’s for almost that long – way back when Rob, Frankie and Cielo were all behind the counter at the tiny shop on the corner of Bleecker Street. Our creamery crème fraiche, butter, and fresh goat cheese became a staple at the store, as did our small geo-rinded cheeses (the brainy-looking cheeses that are made with Geotrichum candidum mold). Over the years we’ve shared cheese beyond the shop, too – teaching classes, visiting restaurants, even hosting a bus of cheeselovers on a trip to the Vermont Cheesemakers’ Festival.

As Murray’s and Vermont Creamery continued to grow, what was left to do but create a brand new cheese, one that was made in Vermont and sent to age in the caves below Murray’s in New York City? Since we are known for our geo-rinded cheeses, it made sense to make an un-aged, or “green,” geo cheese for Murray’s to age – and that’s just what we did.

Vermont Creamery cheesemaker, Adeline Druart gathered the wish list from Murrays: Size? Small. Shape? Round. Ash? Nah. Creamy? YES. Yeasty-sweet-earthy-complex? Obviously. And yup, that signature brain-y Geotrichum rind, please. Our cheese expert friend from Australia, Will Studd put in his two cents and suggested we cut out the center, making a donut to create even more surface area for a yummy rind throughout. And with that brilliant idea, Torus was born.

Sounds easy enough? Not so. Adeline and the Murray’s cave master Brian Ralph worked for a year to perfect this little “donut.” Moisture and salt levels had to be just right. The milk had to be selected to accommodate the natural climate in the cave. The cave master had to “wake up” the dormant yeast and cheese cultures inside the carefully packaged and cooled cheeses to assure that the rind would grow properly in the cave. Luckily, with time we got it right. The result is a quintessential Geo goat cheese, with a flavor and texture unique to Murray’s and Vermont Creamery’s partnership.

What’s in a name?  Donuts make us think of Homer Price. And Homer Simpson. But we would like to think that making a good cheese requires more savoir faire. After lists of names by many, Murray’s buyer Aaron Foster came up with “Torus,” the geometric term for the ring shape of the cheese.  Indeed an artisanal replica of a geometric torus, we also think of Taurus the bull, an equally appropriate image for this cheese that required tenacity and drive to create such a satisfying reward. Vermont Creamery has spent years developing the Geotrichum category of goat cheese in America, both in perfecting the cheese and also in educating the market.  We are delighted to share the challenge with Murray’s who will serve their customers with a unique taste of Vermont and Manhattan terroir this holiday season.

Read more about Torus in the Wall Street Journal

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.

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!