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!)

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

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.