Fierte: A Special Edition Cheese for Pride

Since Murray’s opened in 1940, we have been located in Greenwich Village, the center of New York’s LGBT community. Many Murray’s employees identify as part of the community, and as a company we are proud to support and champion the LGBT community.

This Sunday is New York City’s annual Pride March, and we are celebrating with the release of a special edition cheese, Fierte. “Fierte” means pride in French, and the cheese is washed in Biere de Fierte, a Lemongrass & Ginger Belgian Tripel also made in honor of Pride by our neighbors at Big Alice Brewery.

Big Alice created Biere de Fierte in collaboration with Alexa Wilkinson, one of our very own wholesale account managers. We sat down with Alexa to discuss Murray’s Fierte, Big Alice’s Biere de Fierte, and her relationship to the two.

MURRAY’S BLOG: What is Biere de Fierte, and what is your relationship to it?

ALEXA WILKINSON: Biere de Fierte is a Lemongrass Ginger Belgian Tripel Ale that was brewed for the sole purpose of being a collaborative, limited release Pride ale between Big Alice Brewing and LGBT Craft Beer Meetup to not only be delicious, but help raise money to aide the LGBTQAI community.

Back in 2015 I started LGBT Craft Beer Meetup for a couple of reasons, the main one being that I wanted to create a community of LGBT craft beer nerds that, through a little research and organization, could occupy a craft beer bar or space in which we all felt safe and accepted. This craft beer industry is still very centered from a marketing standpoint towards typically straight men, and it’s still hard to find bars that feel safe to those in the LGBT community.

Big Alice Brewing Co’s owner, Kyle Hurst, and I would have many late night chats about the issue while he ate dinner at the bar I was managing, and about what we could do for the community. First step was brewing a delicious beer together, second step was serving it.

MB: What were you going for with this beer? Why did you choose the style and flavor profile?

AW: Honestly, the ingredients came together purely out of us wanting to have the acronym “LGBT.” Lemongrass and ginger are very complementary flavors, so after that it was deciding whether to keep going on with a list of four ingredients, or make a Belgian Tripel. We decided on the Belgian tripel 😊. Historically speaking, the yeast strain handles those intense, spicy flavors well, and Big Alice had already had a lot of success with both lemongrass as an ingredient and with the style itself.

MB: Is this the first incarnation of this beer? Were there others? If so, what was it like before this?

AW: This is the third year of this beer being brewed and sold, and every year it just keeps getting better. The first year was purely experimental, with just a taproom release. The second year was surrounded by a couple of events and fundraising efforts with multiple bars in the city. This year we were a little more relaxed and practical about it. Jon Kielty, head brewer of Big Alice, sourced some California Chardonnay barrels and did a smaller batch this year in order to get the flavors just right. The ABV on this year’s brew alone clocks in at almost 1% higher than last year because it just had more time to develop. It was sweeter and brighter before, with more residual sugar left over. This year it’s perfectly balanced, with hints of vanilla, spice, oak, and white wine. It’s fantastic. We are all very pleased.

MB: What was your goal in making Biere de Fierte?

AW: Our goal was to first and foremost collaborate on a beer that, while being sold, could actually benefit others. Money from every pint and bottle sold is going to New Alternatives, which is an LGBT homeless youth center in NYC. These kids have nowhere to go after simply being honest about who they are, and New Alternatives helps them with everything from the basic essentials like clean clothes and food to job training and education. Of the homeless youth in this city, 40% are LGBTQAI. That’s a disproportionately high number.

MB: When did you make the move from beer to cheese?

AW: I started in beer when I moved here from California as a singer-songwriter who desperately needed a serving job to pay bills. I found my way to the Gingerman through a friend of mine who knew Anne Becerra, who has become a mentor of sorts to me. While working there, we would spend hours on Sunday’s talking about beer and she inspired me to go after my Cicerone certification. After that, I went to culinary school at ICE and became an executive chef for multiple restaurants upstate and in NYC, all of which were centered around craft beer. So the jump from beer to cheese was not that difficult. They are both beautiful, 4 ingredient foodstuffs, old as civilized human history, that have a longstanding impact on economies and cultures. I love both equally, although beer will always be my first fermented love. Or is it pickles? No, it’s cheese! I have been eating cheese way longer than drinking beer.

MB: How did the idea come about for our Caves team to wash and age a cheese with this beer?

AW: I approached our buying team about how to make this happen and they were more than happy to try something like this out. Murray’s has worked with a couple of other breweries in NYC before, so it wasn’t too much of a risky experiment at this point to attempt a wash with this beer. All I did was help brew it and get it to our caves. PJ, our cavemaster, did the rest. He’s a Disney prince-looking genius who really knows his stuff. I feel very lucky that I get to work at a company that can combine my passion for both cheese and beer and actually make something incredible out of it!

MB: What do you pick up in this cheese? How does that play off the profile of the beer when they are paired together?

AW: If you’ve ever tried our Greensward and liked it, I highly recommend you try this cheese. It picked up some amazing piney and woodsy notes from the oak. Plus a hint of spice and umami as washed rind cheese tends to do. Its inner paste has duck fat and bacon notes as well, very decadent and tongue-coating. The pairing itself is fantastic too. The clove and banana notes in the beer stand out above the other flavors, leaving you with almost a bananas Foster campfire in your mouth. It’s a sophisticated pairing to say the least. Not your standard IPA and Cheddar!

MB: If people are interested in learning more about these products and the initiatives that proceeds will support, where can they do so?

AW: To find out more about Big Alice Brewing Co you can find them on social media or go to their website. This beer and cheese will be sold in our retail locations, and the cheese will also be sold online! Please visit New Alternatives to find out more about this organization. They do great work with limited resources and need every dollar we can give them.

From all of us as Murray’s, Happy Pride!

Olympia Provisions: The Grandest Salumeria in the Land

Cheese and meat is one of the oldest pairings, and Portland, OR’s Olympia Provisions is one of America’s foremost producers of artisanal meats—Bon Appetit calls them the country’s best charcuterie, and they’ve won more Good Food Awards than any other producer ever. So it’s only natural that we’d team up.

Murray’s and Olympia are joining forces for a series of experiences that are all about the glorious relationship between meat and cheese. We’ve developed exclusive recipes, collections, and classes that we’re sharing with you here.

Take a gander at some of the stellar Olympia products you can get right here on our site:

The Grand Olympian

Oregon’s first USDA-approved salumeria has been handcrafting world class meats for the last decade, developing a renown that only grows. In this collection, we’ve paired some of Olympia’s finest provisions with their cheesy counterpoints, along with a selection of classic meat-and-cheese accompaniments. This collection is a legitimate bounty.

Included in this collection:

• Olympia Provisions Summer Sausage
• Olympia Provisions Etna Salami
• Olympia Provisions Sweetheart Ham
• Taleggio
• Piave Vecchio
• Three Little Figs Balsamic Fresh Fig
• Rustic Bakery Olive Oil & Sel Gris Flatbread
• Castelvetrano Olives

Salami Etna

As masters of the charcuterial arts, Olympia Provisions has nailed this large-format, southern-Italian salami. It’s studded with pistachios and pepped up with lemon zest, giving the meat a bright and complex flavor profile.

Olympia’s artisanal meats are crafted with the utmost integrity, with pork from local farms that’s hand-butchered and free from antibiotics and hormones. These practices lead to an Etna salami that is exceptionally buttery in texture, with the pistachio providing an occasional crunchy contrast. That consistency makes this salami ideal for traditional antipasto plates—a few slices, along with mixed nuts and olives bring, out the best of the traditional Sicilian flavors.

Capicola

From the velvety white and pink marbling to the crust of toasted herbs, this traditional Italian meat tastes as beautiful as it looks. A cut of heritage pork shoulder is cured for ten days, then coated with black pepper, fennel seed, coriander, and anise. The crust is then made crispy with a slow roasting, creating a tender shoulder ham that is perfect for slicing. If you’re thirsty, grab a nutty brown ale or an inky Syrah.

Sweetheart Ham

This is one sweetheart that’s easy to fall in love with. It’s made with pork sirloin tip that’s brined for ten days with juniper berries, fresh herbs, garlic, and onions. After its glorious week-and-a-half flavor soak, the ham is slow-smoked over applewood for ten hours, acquiring a deeply satisfying depth. Makes for a revelatory ham and cheese sandwich, especially when counterpointed by an aged Manchego. Pop open a bottle of rosé or Chenin blanc for ultimate summer picnic vibes.

Bratwurst

German born, American adopted—the bratwurst is beer’s favorite sausage. That makes it ideal for a summer cookout. Olympia seasons theirs with white pepper, ginger, and nutmeg, a classic blend that’s never tasted better than when it meets pork of Olympia’s quality. You might say it’s the bratbest.

The Macallan Whisky & Cheese Pairing Guide

Scotch whisky is every bit as diverse, intricate, and nuanced as cheese, so it helps to know which whiskies go best with which cheeses. With that in mind, we partnered up with our pals at The Macallan to put together this definitive guide for pairing their whiskies with the best possible cheesy companions. Without further ado, we present The Macallan Whisky & Cheese Pairing Guide:

Triple Cask Matured 12 Years Old

Nose: Complex with a hint of fruit and heather honey
Taste: Soft and malty, balanced with oak and fruit
The Perfect Pair: An extra aged gouda, such as Roomano
Here’s why: Triple Cask Matured 12 Years Old’s unique and complex honey sweetness enhances the caramel and toffee notes for which this cheese is so beloved.
Also pairs well with:
– A classic Comté , such as Murray’s Comté
– A creamy cheddar, such as Milton Creamery Prairie Breeze

Double Cask 12 Years Old

Nose:  Creamy butterscotch, candied orange, vanilla custard
Taste:  Honey, spices, and citrus, balanced with raisins and caramel
The Perfect Pair: A young manchego, such as Murray’s Young Manchego
Here’s why:  This sheep’s milk cheese is rich yet mellow, cutting through the citrus and spice notes within Double Cask 12 Years Old while enhancing the notes of honey and vanilla custard.
Also pairs well with:
– A French sheep’s milk cheese, such as Brebis du Haut-Bearn
– A
n earthy, truffled pecorino, such as Murray’s Pecorino Tartufello

Sherry Oak 12 Years Old

Nose:  Vanilla with a hint of ginger and dried fruits
Taste:  Smooth, rich dried fruits and sherry, balanced with wood smoke and spice
The Perfect Pair: An aged Alpine Gruyère, such as Murray’s Cave Aged Gruyère
Here’s why:  Alpine cheese typically leads with hints of caramelized onion, roasted garlic, and sweet, nutty notes. These flavors pair particularly well with the mellow wood smoke and dried fruit notes in Sherry Oak 12 Years Old.
Also pairs well with:
– An American Alpine-style cheese, such as Jasper Hill Farm Alpha Tolman
– A Swiss Alpine-style cheese, such as Annelies or Challerhocker

Triple Cask Matured 15 Years Old

Nose:  Full with hints of rose petal and cinnamon
Taste:  Intense rich chocolate, notes of orange and raisin
The Perfect Pair: A mellow blue cheese, such as Castello Traditional Danish Blue
Here’s why:  The salty, buttery flavors found in this blue cheese provide a refined contrast to the Triple Cask 15 Years Old’s floral and citrusy notes. It’s a perfect example of opposites attracting.
Also pairs well with:
– A Bavarian blue, such as Chiriboga Blue
– A buttery blue, such as Jasper Hill Farm Bayley Hazen Blue

Rare Cask

Nose:  Vanilla, raisins, and chocolate, followed by citrus fruits and spices
Taste:  Nutty spices, tempered by raisin and citrus
The Perfect Pair: A rich Camembert, such as Murray’s Camembert Fermier
Here’s why:  This funky, bloomy-rinded cheese has sweet, floral notes that bring out the Rare Cask’s qualities of maple syrup and candied nuts. The vanilla and citrus in the Rare Cask also help to cut through the cheese’s richness.
Also pairs well with:
– A woodsy, creamy bloomy rind, such as Jasper Hill Farms Harbison
– A soft-ripened triple creme, such as buttery blue, such as Delice de Bourgogne

And just like that, you’re ready for a fine dram and its perfect partner in cheesy refinement. In terms of the best way to enjoy your Scotch: you’ll get the most out of it by sipping on it at room temperature either neat or with a drop or two of water. Ice will chill the spirit, locking up both its taste and its aroma. A tiny bit of water can act to release new properties in the whisky, but a little bit goes a long way. With stuff of this quality, its best to appreciate it in its purest form.

Slàinte mhath.

Señor Lechuga Hot Sauce: Caliente A.F.

“I’ve just always had a love for really spicy food,” says Nico Lechuga. Seems natural, then, that he’d love hot sauce too. And he does. But he always felt that the hot sauce game had a problem. There was plenty of eye-wateringly, tongue-flamingly, nasal-drippingly spicy stuff on the market, but none of those blistering bottles had any flavor to them. So, one day, he decided he would do something about it.

Nico didn’t come up as a chef. He was born and raised in California, in the Orange County town of Trabuco Canyon, and moved to New York to attend NYU for college. He’s been in NYC ever since, building a career in private equity. During that time, craving a hot sauce that registered equally high in Scoville count and deliciousness factor, he began making his own. He’d put it on everything: eggs, meat, soup, tacos, whatever. And then his friends caught on. When he and his wife Lauren would have people over, they’d try the bottle on the kitchen table without knowing that it was Nico’s creation. First they’d rave. Then they’d ask where the couple found it. When Nico would cop to having made it right there in the kitchen, everyone would say the same thing: “We would buy this if it was available in stores.”

And so Nico started working towards that. He made a test batch, he developed a trio of styles, he learned how to scale production, and then he found a space in Brooklyn where he could make and bottle the goods. Meanwhile, Lauren, who works in beauty, began developing the branding. She came up with the name, the labeling, the aesthetic, the website, the Instagram feed (go ahead and search #calienteasfuck)—everything outside the bottle. And thus, Señor Lechuga was born.

We met up with Nico and Lauren in their production space a couple weeks ago, where they led us in a make of their sauce. Naturally we brought a selection of cheese with us to pair with the sauces.

Our big takeaway from watching the operation in action was how meticulous Nico is at every step. There’s constant measuring and testing for things like pH and temperature precision and quality control. And the labeling (including handwriting every batch and bottle number on the bottles themselves) and pasteurizing and lid wrapping lead to a process that is quite intensive in both concentration and physical labor.

But as much sweat goes into making these bottles, maybe even more results from consuming them. Which we did, in copious amounts, with a suite of cheeses and side items. Here’s a rundown of our post-make creations:

The Wingless Buffalo Bite

There are three primary components to the ultimate buffalo wing: a peppery, vinegary sauce, a creamy and cooling blue cheese dressing, and a bright green crunchy element. Señor Lechuga’s Original Hot Sauce pairs with Point Reyes Original Blue and McClure’s Bread & Butter Pickles to achieve all that in one bite.

The Murray’s Monger Nachos Bite

Arzua Ulloa is our go-to cheese for nachos, and Señor Lechuga’s Chipotle Hot Sauce brings the smokey, spicy depth any good nacho should have. Add in a slice of chorizo for the meaty component and you’ve got yourself a combo that evokes the dish.

The Hawaiian Pizza

Cheese, pineapple, pork: the Hawaiian pizza is a thing of beauty. This combo tastes just like it. Señor Lechuga’s Pineapple Hot Sauce brings heat and tropical sweetness to contrast against a fresh, creamy cheese (we used burrata, Delice de Bourgogne, and Four Fat Fowl St. Stephen), while a slice of Speck hams things up.

Each one of these pairings sang, and then, when the heat hit, they also pleasantly screamed a little bit. And if, like Nico, that’s exactly what you’re looking for in a hot sauce, know that Señor Lechuga has you covered in spades.

From PhD to Goat Cheese: A Conversation with Judy Schad of Capriole Goat Cheeses

Judy Schad, photo courtesy of www.cheeseconnoisseur.com

Along with luminaries Allison Hooper (Vermont Creamery) and Mary Keehn (Cypress Grove), Judy Schad is regarded as one of the first people to popularize artisan goat cheese, and farmhouse cheese more generally, in America. Rather than finding her inspiration in France, however, this mother of three and former PhD candidate found it in Indiana, when she tried goat cheese for the first time. Judy and her family left the city for an 80 acre family farm in the hills of Indiana. Then came goats, and naturally, Capriole Goat Cheeses followed.

To celebrate the return of Capriole to Murray’s, we sat down with Judy and had a wide-ranging conversation. From her decision to leave the city behind and her inspiration for making cheese, to her current favorite goats and her one message to the nation of cheese-lovers, there’s no better way to celebrate National Cheese Day than reading the words of one of the Founding Mothers of American artisan cheese making!

Murrays: You are one of the founding mothers of modern American artisan cheese making. This is the first time in many years that Murray’s has had a chance to sell your lovely cheeses in New York, and as such, we thought it fitting to feature you, your cheese and your story on National Cheese Day!

Judy Schad: So glad to be back at Murray’s. You were among our very first customers in the early 90s and the shop was tiny but splendid even then! As it’s grown it’s really a reflection of the evolution or American cheese in general

When did you first know that you wanted to be a cheese maker? What inspired you? Where did you learn to make cheese? What were you doing before cheese? (Sorry, we’re excited, can’t you tell?)

We had a lovely home just across the Ohio River from Louisville. My husband was a judge and attorney in New Albany, IN and we had 3 small children aged 3-7. I was working on a PhD in English at University of Louisville, cooking my way through Time/Life Foods of the World and Julia Child, and gardening like a mad woman. But I wanted every crazy city woman’s dream of a farm; I had no idea. We did find an 80 acre farm in the hills above the river and later found it had belonged to my husband’s great, great grandfather in the 1850s. A few goats, too much milk that my city kids refused to drink, and then I ate my first goat cheese from the Kilmoyers at Westfield Farm. I was in love with this lovely stuff and went to Hubbardston to work for a week with Letty and Bob [Kilmoyers). That was it for me, with a little instruction from Ricki Carrol’s book “Cheesemaking Made Easy’. There was no France, or short courses for us then, but we quickly got to know each other—Mary Keehn at a goat show in 1983 and Allison Hooper, Paula Lambert, and Chantal Plasse at food shows and conferences. This was how we learned and inspired each other.

Why goats? How did you end up making goat cheese?

Goats were the perfect farm animal for city folks pretending to be farmers—I could love them like dogs and cats, be totally entertained by their crazy, loving personalities, and not get hurt if they stepped on me. What do you do when you have bushels of cucumbers? Pickles. Too much goat milk? Cheese. This is just farm cooking. There is no EVO within 20 miles & ‘putting food by’ was just part of the whole picture

Capriole Piper’s Pyramide

What are some of your favorite memories from the early days of Capriole?

There were some lovely ones—taking the ‘girls’ (goats) for long walks in the woods, picking morels in the spring, planting 2 acres of beautiful flower gardens. Love my garden. Years of wonderful and not-so-wonderful international interns. Many funny ones as well: growing ½ acre of black eyed peas that were totally eaten overnight by bean beetles; a ridiculous photo shoot for People magazine where I refused to wear a ratty crown and red velvet robe and sit on a bale of hay. There have been far more to laugh at than get wet-eyed about. Farms are generally a humbling experience. More about what you don’t know than what you do.

The cheese industry today very much feels like an international community.  Can you talk a bit about how you have seen that community grow and evolve?

I totally agree, and in retrospect while there was just a handful of us initially in the US, even then it was international. Just a few years after we began—this is our 30th anniversary– the goats and the cheese introduced me to wonderful people and places. Roberto Rubino and Cinzia Scaffidi in Italy. Randolph Hodgson, Juliet Harbutt, Mary Holbrook and so many more in England, and Jeffa Gill in Ireland. Pascal Joaquin, the Carles family, Chantal Plasse in France. I was and am so lucky and so inspired by them. Of course the community was happening simultaneously in all those places. Neal’s Yard was aging just a handful of traditional cheeses and opened the door for so many more. Even in the early 90s in France there were many small cheesemakers—teachers and professionals starting their own productions. We did our first Slow Cheese in 2004 and that led to a friendship with Cinzia Scaffidi who organized it and the first Terra Madre. I attribute a lot of that international community to Slow Food who really brought us together every other year in Bra. And to ACS for creating a national one.

What do you love most about your day job?

I love my cheesemakers, the Capriole team and how much better they have made the cheeses. I may have come up with the names and recipes, but they have made them good. I love that we’re still small enough to know our customers personally and choose who best handles the cheeses. The ripened ones really require fromagers in the true sense of the word. You can’t just throw them in a coffin case unless you want to watch them die! The excitement of tasting a perfect Wabash Cannonball, Mont St. Francis, or any of our cheeses, never leaves me.

Capriole Mount St. Francis

What are some of the struggles of being a farmstead cheese maker?

For goat cheesemakers in particular it was the lack of established knowledge and practice of both animal husbandry and the cheeses themselves. When we began there were so few commercial goat herds that just finding the right animals, then building the genetics and sound management practices for goats was in every way a challenge. Considering that it take 8 times the labor to get the same amount of milk as it does from a good cow, goat keeping, milking, and labor in general can be incredibly inefficient without a well-designed facility for moving animals. As for the cheesemaking, Allison Hooper and I have often talked about how much everything we did was experimental and how waste was for a very long time, directly proportionate to production. The more we grew, the more we threw away, at least in the first 10 years. We sold our herd 6 years ago and our cheese is so very much better than it was. The animals took an unbelievable amount of time and energy that’s now devoted to cheese.

If you could speak to all of the nation on National Cheese Day, what would your message for them be?

Probably that cheese, at its best, is simply a perfect food. You don’t have to do anything to it or with it – except not ruin it. Rely on a good cheesemonger to direct you and taste, it’s all about the taste, not the romance,

Do you have a current favorite goat?

I only have a few retired girls who worked hard and now live the easy life. Some are over 15 years old.

What aspect of your job do you think people would be most surprised to learn?

That cheese is just cooking, and like all cooking it can be mysterious and surprising and an adventure. And maybe, that my best customer has always been myself

Who inspires you to grow and evolve?

All of you—from the friends and the community of cheesemakers that helped each other to an exciting generation of cheesemongers and customers that truly love and know cheese.

What values do you believe in most as a cheese maker?

Make what you love and make it personal. I can’t offer what I don’t love. It’s like sending your children to school in dirty clothes!

Do you have a favorite cheese?

I want complexity in cheese, it doesn’t have to hit me over the head with flavor, but I want a beginning, middle, and end. I taste everything everywhere, especially when someone tells me it’s bad. So I certainly have ‘worst’ cheeses.

Want to try some of Judy’s delicious and award winning cheese? Right this way.