Murray’s Teaches: Whiskey and Cheese Class

In technical terms, Christine Clark is a Certified Cheese Professional. In her own words, she is a “really passionate geek.” This makes her well-qualified to teach classes about cheese, and as the Assistant Manager of Education at Murray’s, that’s exactly what she does.

Every day at our shop on Bleecker Street, Christine and her team lead cheese-centric classes. Examples include Cheese 101, Burrata Making, and Spanish Wine & Cheese. What happens in a class like this? For one, there’s a lot of cheese eating involved. This includes no less than six varieties, often featuring reserve products that are exclusive to Murray’s. And if you’re doing a pairing class, there’s always a beverage to go with each one. That was the case last week, when we teamed up with Bruichladdich Distillery for a special installment of our Whiskey and Cheese series.

whiskey whisky scotch cheese class classes education murray's bruichladdich islay

whiskey whisky scotch cheese class classes education murray's bruichladdich islay

Though we tend to think that the natural pairing partner for cheese comes from grapes, it is just as sensible for your pairing to come from grain. Scotland is the undisputed whiskey capital of the world, and within Scotland, the most legendary region of production is a small island off the west coast called Islay. There are only eight distilleries on Islay, and Bruichladdich is one of them. We were fortunate enough to have one of Bruichladdich’s ambassadors, Jason Cousins, present to co-teach the class with Christine.

As Jason noted up front, the most difficult thing to learn about Scotch is pronunciation. For example, how would you think to say “Bruichladdich” out loud? Broo-ich LAW Ditch? BROKE Ladike? The proper pronunciation is actually rather simple: Brook LADDIE. For a mnemonic device, just remember that a brook is a small river and a laddie is a small boy. And Islay is not pronounced IZ-lay or ICE-law. Rather, it’s AISLE-uh. “After that,” as Jason said, “everything is easy.”

whiskey whisky scotch cheese class classes education murray's bruichladdich islay

Indeed, he was right. Jason gave an overview of whiskey in general and Scotch in particular, and though it was as nuanced as the Scotch itself, it was also just as smooth. He and Christine had met the week beforehand to taste through Bruichladdich’s whiskies and test out pairings for each one. According to Christine, the general rule of thumb when devising pairings is: “One plus one should equal three.” This is not to say she is bad at math, but rather that, when combining the experience of one product with the experience of another, they should create a sensation that is greater than the sum of its parts.

That was certainly the case with the pairings we tasted. We began with the Classic Laddie, Bruichladdich’s flagship expression. It is unpeated and imminently drinkable, and its flavors of apple, melon, and vanilla brought a whole new dimension to Sweet Grass Dairy’s Green Hill, a bloomy rind cheese with a deeply buttery quality.

On the other end of the peat spectrum is Bruichladdich’s Octomore 7.1, which has the distinction of being the peatiest whiskey in the world. What can stand up to such a formidably smoky Scotch? That would be Up in Smoke, an Oregon goat’s milk cheese that is smoked over maple wood and then wrapped in smoked maple leaves. You may think that this would lead to smoky, peaty overkill, but both products are so expertly made, so impressively controlled, that they each brought out new characteristics in the other.

Octomore typically goes for around $170 a bottle, which is one of the reasons we love doing tasting classes—you get to experience products you might not otherwise consider. This is especially true with one of the class’s favorite pairings of the evening: Roomano Extra Aged Gouda and Bruichladdich’s Black Art 5. The Black Art series is Bruichladdich’s most exclusive expression, and the version we tasted had been aged for 24 years. It’s a spirit that is certainly worthy of its $400 price tag. Rich and desserty, it complemented the most aged cheese on the night’s slate, creating what one attendee referred to as the ultimate after-dinner bite.

By the end of class—as is so often the case—most everyone found themselves with a fuller stomach and a brighter brain. There was also a consensus that the ability to notice and enjoy flavor grew as the class progressed, in spite of any well-documented effects that alcohol may have on the palate. This is because our capacity to appreciate something increases the more we know about it. Cheese class makes cheese taste better, plain and simple. It also happens to be a great time—regardless of what you are imbibing.

So, we’d love to have you in our classroom. With nine classes every week, there’s certainly something that’s right up your alley. You can take a look at our schedule to see for yourself. We hope to see you soon!

whiskey whisky scotch cheese class classes education murray's bruichladdich islay

Murray’s Burrata Salad Recipe

Over at our Bleecker Street shop, our executive chef David Elkins—formerly of Per Se—has recently revamped our made-to-order menu. Loaded with salads, grain bowls, and sandwich melts, this new menu is, simply put, very, very good.

While devising these new dishes, Chef David also developed this burrata salad, made with radicchio, pine nuts, and mint. It looks like this:

If you’re like us, your first reaction to seeing this salad is: “WANT.”

Well, you can have. Chef David’s idea with this dish is that it can be easily prepared at home. That’s why we are sharing his burrata salad recipe here, so you can try your hand at preparing this creamy, fresh, crunchy dish yourself.

Here’s a recipe card for Chef David’s Burrata with Radicchio, Pine Nuts, and Mint:

 

buratta cheese salad recipe murray's

If you’re wondering where you might pick up some burrata, pancetta, apricot preserves, or pinecone syrup, well, simply click those words. Or, if you’re in New York City, pop into our store and pick them up. While you’re at it, you may find yourself compelled to try a few of Chef David’s new menu items, like the BBQ broccoli bowl, smoked trout salad, and cauliflower burger with fried artichokes. Once you’ve picked up your ingredients, take them home and follow the above instructions. Just like that, you’ve got a salad that looks just like this:

burrata cheese salad radicchio pine nuts pears murray's recipe

burrata cheese salad radicchio pine nuts pears murray's recipe

burrata cheese salad radicchio pine nuts pears murray's recipe

Enjoy!

 

2017: A Year in Cheese

The final days of 2017 have us in a reflective mood here at Murray’s. As we cement our resolutions and look forward to sharing our plans with you for the coming year, we are also taking stock of the last 12 months. We hit some major milestones this year, and we sold a lot of cheese—over half a million pounds in New York alone. Because we are in that transitional space between taking one calendar down and pinning another up, we figured we’d use this time to collate the most noteworthy moments of 2017 and put them all in one place. This is what a year in cheese looks like.

Murray’s Releases Stockinghall Cheddar

For years, we have been collaborating with some of our favorite cheesemakers to age their wheels in our caves, but this year marked the first time we released a cheese that we developed from scratch. That cheese is Stockinghall Cheddar, a classically clothbound truckle with meaty flavors of bacon and sour cream. It was created by our caves team in conjunction with Cornell University, where we shape the wheels before bringing them down to NYC for aging. We feel like proud parents, only instead of raising these wheels up and sending them off to college, we’re doing it in reverse.

The American Cheese Society Awards

The future is bright for Stockinghall, not least because it’s hanging out in our caves with a bunch of stars. This year’s American Cheese Society festival was held in Denver, CO, and three of our cave aged cheeses took home prizes in their respective categories. Greensward was voted best soft-ripened washed rind cheese in America for the second year in a row, and the third time in four years. Hudson Flower took top honors among sheep cheeses with flavor added, and Project X earned third place among all aged washed rind cheeses. Special shout out to our pals up at Spring Brook Farm for taking home Best in Show with their terrific Tarentaise Reserve.

400th Store

Murray’s began partnering with Kroger in 2008 to expand the grocer’s specialty cheese program across the country. It’s been such a success that this November we opened our 400th location, in Houston, TX.

Kroger Makes it Official

And we are looking forward to opening in many more stores next year, as Kroger officially purchased Murray’s back in February. This gives us the ability to expand the reach of our mission of providing the best cheeses in the world. It also means we had a prodigious send-off for our previous owner, Rob Kaufelt, who transformed Murray’s from a corner village mart into one of the country’s top destinations for artisanal cheese.

New Murray’s Label Products

Along with a wider reach, we also brought some excellent new cheeses into our private line. From classic blue Stilton to the delectably creamy Delice de Bourgogne, you can now get more great cheese with our seal of approval. We’ve debuted some top-notch preserves, too. Our Preserved Pumpkin and Preserved Walnuts are both complete stunners, bringing a new possibilities to your pairing habit.

We’ll be rolling out more goodness in 2018, and we can’t wait for you to try it all. Until then, thanks so much for making 2017 a great year in cheese. Have yourself a happy New Year, and don’t forget to have some cheese with your midnight champagne.

NYE Champagne and Cheese Primer

Many of our national holidays are defined by a specific food. Thanksgiving is the turkey holiday. Independence Day is the hot dog holiday. But New Year’s alone is the holiday that is defined by a drink. That drink, of course, is Champagne. Well, let’s say sparkling wine, since we cheese people can certainly sympathize with sensitivities toward the misappropriation of names with protected geographical status. You may be drinking Cava, or Prosecco, or Crémant—technically, none of those are Champagne.

The point of the New Year’s beverage isn’t about where it’s sourced from, though. It’s about what it tastes like. So long as your wine has a good effervescence to it, you’re doing it right. And since there’s so much variation in sparkling wines, there’s naturally going to be variation in which cheeses you want to be pairing with. So we’ve put together this primer as a way of discussing how to do sparkling wine and cheese pairings the right way.

Champagne Cheese Sparkling Wine New Year's Eve Party Celebration

Generally, we can break things down by level of sweetness. Take a look at the label for hints on the sugar content of your vintage. Drier wines will have the word Brut, medium-dry ones will say Seco or Sec, and the sweeter stuff will be denoted by the word Doux or Dolce. We could get into the micro-degrees on this spectrum as well, but we’ll leave that for another time. Let’s focus on those three distinctions.

Brut
If you have a Brut-style wine, you’ll want a cheese that is luscious, soft, and super indulgent. The acidity and effervescence of the wine will work to swashbuckle through the richness of the cheese. The classic pairings here are your triple-cremes: Brillat-Savarin is always a crowd pleaser, as are Delice de Bourgogne and Cremeux de Bourgogne. If you’re looking for something made stateside, New York’s Champlain Valley Triple Cream and Vermont’s Nettle Meadow Kunik are the ways to go.

Seco/Sec
A sparkling wine that is semi-dry wants a cheese that is semi-indulgent. It should still be creamy and rich, but not at such heights as a triple-creme. A Chevre D’Argental would do particularly well with a seco, as would the ever-reliable Camembert Fermier.

Doux/Dolce
Sparkling wines with higher sugar contents are usually fruity and juicy. Therefore, you’ll want a cheese that goes well with sweet, fruity, berry-type flavors. There are plenty of styles that do just that. Valencay is both gooey and fudgy, with a nice bloomy rind to boot, and Taleggio works quite well if you’re looking to bring the funk. If you’re feeling indulgent—and after all, that’s the whole spirit of New Year’s Eve—Cypress Grove’s Truffle Tremor is decadent, tasty, and tasteful.

Bottle Aged/Biodynamic
Now, we did say three categories, but here’s a little bonus info for you. If your sparkling wine happens to be bottle aged, you can try opening up your selection to a broader range of flavors and textures. Bottle aged wines get fermented twice: once in the vat and then once in the bottle. That means they continue to evolve while under the cork. Often this makes for a drink that is funky and unfiltered, much like biodynamic wine. In these cases, the above rules still apply. But you can also do a big blue cheese like the holiday favorite Stilton, or go nuts with something alpine, like Annelies or L’Etivaz.

These are your rules of thumb. Again, no need to over-complicate things for your New Year’s bash—these few guidelines are all you need. Keep it fun, keep it simple, and when in doubt: the creamier the better.

Your New Year’s Eve Cheese and Meat Board

If you are reading this, it means you have just successfully completed a major holiday. Or at least endured it. Either way, you’re probably still feeling the effects in some way or another, perhaps as the aftereffects of a herculean cleaning effort or an incessant throbbing in your head that makes you vampirically sensitive to sunlight. But hey—you did it! Give yourself a pat on the back, if you can do so without throwing out your shoulder.

One of the challenges of the holiday season is that the occasions are anything but occasional—they come in quick succession. And it can be a tall order to maintain some sense of creativity in how you host a party or what you bring to the one you’re attending. With Christmas barely in the rear view, we imagine the last thing you want to do is start game planning New Year’s Eve. Listen: you don’t have to. We’ve already put the plan in place.

Over at our restaurant, Cheese Bar, we’re featuring a holiday cheese and meat board that has been on the menu for the past couple weeks. It is excellent, and it looks like this:

Murray's New Year's Eve Holiday Cheese Board Plate Platter

Murray's New Year's Eve Holiday Cheese Board Plate Platter

Murray's New Year's Eve Holiday Cheese Board Plate Platter

This holiday spread was developed by our veritable Cheese Bar mongers Michaela Weitzer and Ian Pearson. “We wanted to have something that’s very decadent,” says Michaela. That is, after all, the M.O. of New Year’s: decadence for the sake of it. This here’s what an NYE platter looks like when prepared by the pros.

Here’s a quick key of what we’re working with, along with some insider info from Michaela. A few of the items are exclusive to Cheese Bar, but we’ve got you covered with ways you can fill in those spots.

New Year's Eve Holiday Meat and Cheese Board Spread Plate

  1. Blueberry Balsamic Compote – Our Cheese Bar team makes this in-house by pickling blueberries and mixing them with a balsamic compote. That’s not an easy thing to pull off. What is easy to pull off is the lid from a jar of Murray’s Wild Blueberry Preserves or Strawberry Balsamic Preserves from our pals at Anarchy in a Jar.
  2. Rabbit Pate – Made out in the Bay Area by Fabrique Delices, masters of artisanal charcuterie. It’s “a very sweet meat on its own,” says Michaela, “so we wanted to put some acid with it.” Hence the blueberry balsamic compote, and hence the reason either of our readily available alternatives will make for a great pairing as well.
  3. Truffled Potato Chips – The idea behind these in-house chips is twofold: something decadently earthy and something dippable. Potter’s Onion Crisps hits both those marks with panache.
  4. Rush Creek Reserve – Per Michaela: “We wanted to feature a very special holiday cheese on there.” Nothing does that job quite like the highly seasonal, universally adored Rush Creek. It’s super gooey, which is why you want a crisp with dippability to go along with it.
  5. Prosciutto San Daniele – A customer favorite over at Cheese Bar. “Super buttery and really smooth,” says Michaela.
  6. L’Etivaz – Gruyere as it used to be. Hazelnutty and fruity with a trace of smokiness.
  7. Brûléed Chestnuts –Every time the Holiday Board is ordered, we torch a batch of chestnuts to bring out their sweetness. This is done as a way to play off those salty, nutty qualities in L’Etivaz. Basically, you’re looking for a large, darker nut with some caramelized properties. Murray’s Preserved Walnuts fit the bill wonderfully. They are cured whole, with a mix of cinnamon and allspice, and develop a rich taste and pliant texture.
  8. Lamb Ham – The idea behind this item was to include a smoked meat that’s a little different and a little more exotic than your traditional pork products. We only have it in our restaurant, but some duck prosciutto from Fabrique Delices is more than game.
  9. Stilton – “Stilton is such a holiday cheese,” says Michaela. Indeed, out in its homeland of England, Stilton is synonymous with holiday feasts. To take it to new levels of holiday-ness, Ian developed the final item on the board:
  10. Cranberry White Chocolate Ganache – It is, to use a technical term: super good. The idea behind this creation is that a sweet, candied pairing would make for the ultimate holiday bite. Short of spending New Year’s Eve at Cheese Bar (which you can! We’ll be open from 11am ‘til midnight), this flavor profile can be best approximated with the Murray’s Sundred Cranberries that Ian uses and a bar of Zotter Caramel Milk bar.

So, if you’re feeling some pain up in the ol’ noggin as you try to think your thoughts today, just take a breath and slow it down. Your New Year’s Eve spread is now one less thing you need to mull over. Of course, you don’t have to go whole hog (and rabbit and duck) on your own board; calibrate to the size of your crowd. At the very least though, a couple of these pairings will be their own causes for celebration on Sunday night.

But, you may ask, what about champagne? How does that fit into this pairing party? Check out the blog tomorrow, when we’ll have the relationship between champagne and cheese broken down and explained.

Til then, Cheesers.

Rush Creek Reserve Uplands Cheese Company