I Fonduel, Do You Fonduel?

What started eight years ago as a one-on-one matchup between two cheese distributors (Columbia and Gourmino), the annual Fonduel has now become a full on celebration of the Swiss dish that’s taken the world by storm. This year, rather than cheese distributors going head to head, six of the country’s best cheese shops put their crock pots—and even a steamer—to the fire, creating some of the most cutting edge interpretations of fondue you’re bound to find. The crowd of cheese lovers was wowed by the creativity on display, from Foster Sundry’s fondue ‘soup dumplings’ with apple and balsamic vinegar, to Di Bruno Brother’s spring vegetable zeppole fried to order. It was all about classic flavor with Bedford Cheese Shop’s mustard infused fondue, and Fairfield Cheese Co’s fondue celebrated the season with pickled ramps and ramp pesto. Eataly Downtown also had a strong showing, topping their house-made bread with 47-month-aged Prosciutto di San Daniele and daikon radish.

But the Murray’s Cheese recipe stole our hearts (and taste buds), nabbing the bronze medal with an Annelies fondue that topped both Swiss nachos (dill pickle chips, diced tomato, and pickled red onion) and bratwurst chili cheese dogs with crispy fried shallots. It was proof positive that even a 300-year-old dish from Zurich can still be fresh and modern.

Annelies is our own Cavemaster Reserve Cheese, a collaboration with world-famous Swiss cheesemaker Walter Rass, he of Challerhocker fame. Walter makes this incredible cheese in the Appenzell valley in Northern Switzerland, using a special hoop to press the iconic Murray’s logo directly into the cheese. He then carefully ages the wheels for three months before sending them on their way to the Murray’s caves in Long Island City. Here, in our special temperature- and humidity-controlled Alpine cave, they spend the next nine months in the care of our dedicated caves team, developing sweet flavors of roasted hazelnuts and vibrant alpine grasses, with lush undertones of butterscotch and cocoa. Annelies is named for Walter’s wife, and is a tribute to her. Our fondue was a tribute to the delicious things that happen when a master Swiss cheesemaker and NYC’s oldest cheese shop collaborate in the world’s melting pot, NYC.

Night Cheese: a Class and an Explanation feat. Carey Polis of Bon Appetit

Recently, we were approached with the suggestion of a type of cheese we’d never heard of before: Night Cheese. No, it doesn’t come from an obscure Vermont farm where the goats are only milked at beneath the moonlight, nor is it cheese that’s black as the midnight sky (although we do sell such cheeses, like this and this). No, as far as we know, Night Cheese comes from everyone’s favorite mid-to-late 2000’s NBC show, 30 Rock. “Working on my Night Cheese!” Liz Lemon sings, alone, to herself, in what looks like a Snuggy™ (did we mention this was the late 2000’s?). We’d link to the clip, but the GIF below basically sums it up:

Why such a long-winded discussion of a 2 second moment from a show that hasn’t been on TV in years? Like most people, we don’t think about Night Cheese often, if at all, but then we were approached by Carey Polis, the Digital Director at the food publication/juggernaut Bon Appetit, who wanted to do a class about Night Cheese.

The obvious question we had for her was just what the hell Night Cheese was. The answer was surprisingly simple: Night Cheese is that cheese you pull out at the end of a long day to pair with Netflix and your favorite beverage. No fuss, all deliciousness. We were sold, and set up a class to explore the deepest reaches of what Night Cheese is and what it can be. Here is just some of what we enjoyed that night. The photos are sized for a phone screen, as they came from our popular Cheese 101 Instagram Stories (if you haven’t already, throw us a follow!) :

First up was Murray’s La Tur, a creamy, luscious cheese that is so delicious, it’s easy to lose track of how much you’re enjoying. Luckily it’s nighttime, you’re alone(ish), and judgment over amount of cheese consumed means absolutely nothing. The caption says it all—this is cheese meant to be eaten far past its serving size.

Later on, we tried the cornerstone of the Night Cheese pantheon: Boursin. Because we’re human beings, we love Boursin in all its herby, garlicky, spreadable glory. However, we don’t sell it. Our executive chef, David Elkins, whipped up this homemade Boursin just for the class and it was even better than the original. We aren’t selling his creation, but we DO sell a spreadable cheese that hits all those Bourin-y flavors you’re looking for, and it happens to be one of our favorite snacking cheeses (read: Night Cheeses) right now: Meredith Dairy’s Marinated Feta.

In addition to cheese nicely laid out on our boards for tasting, we also had a wheel of Jasper Hill’s Harbison on each table accompanied by potato chips, because you can’t talk lovable cheeses without Harbison, which literally comes in its own bowl, and can be warmed up to make a single serving fondue (we know, it’s a life-changing move).

Night Cheese is now a permanent part of our lives, thanks to Carey, and we’re proud to have devoted a night to it. If you want to drink and eat delicious cheese, or love the idea of learning about cheese, check out our upcoming class schedule here, and be sure to follow us on Instagram for more glimpses into future classes!

 

An Exclusive Interview with Bon Appetit’s Alex Delany

Over the last couple of months, Bon Appetit’s Alex Delany has been co-teaching a series of classes at our flagship shop on Bleecker Street, alongside our Assistant Manager of Education and Events, Christine Clark. Alex is Bon Appetit’s Associate Web Editor, meaning he’s no stranger to teaching about food and beverage, but he usually does so on the page. We spoke with Alex about what it was like bringing his knowledge to the classroom, how he and Christine developed their classes, and what the two of them have in store for the future.

Murray’s: You write a lot about beer and cider, but you don’t often teach them in a live setting. What was it like having your audience right there in front of you instead of as an abstracted reader somewhere far away? What do you think attendees learn in an interactive experience that they might not otherwise pick up?

Alex Delany: Seeing people’s faces when they try a weird beer or cheese is amazing. Or seeing them look completely puzzled when I’m explaining a beer concept or fermentation technique. It’s really nice to have visual cues that let you know people want to hear more or don’t fully grasp whatever I’m talking about, or just to have students interrupt. People can stop me and say, “Wait, wait, wait. What?” It’s easy to get carried away with something you’re super nerdy about. Having an instant barometer for the information you’re relaying is extremely useful. It lets you figure out how to relate to a person.

I’m the type of person who will choose talking to someone instead of reading something 100% of the time…and I’m a writer. You retain and understand more through conversation, which is why I love these classes so much. I think the students really learn. They leave with information that they actually understand and can share with friends. That’s so rad.

Murray’s: What was your process for preparing for the classes? How did you decide what you wanted to talk about?

Alex: I’ll send Christine a rough list of what beverages I think will fit for the class, and after we source them, we sit down sometime the week before the class and run through potential pairings. Sometimes it’s immediate. We try a cheese and a beer, and it’s like, “Oh. Yes.” And other times it’s really tough. It’s usually an hour or two of drinking and eating cheese, so either way, it’s pretty great.

Murray’s: How did the process of pairing beverage with cheese expand your appreciation of each?

Alex: Well it’s kind of like seeing a coworker outside of work. At work, you’re like, “Oh yeah, Julia is really great at writing and editing.” But outside of work, you’re like, “Holy shit! Julia can play basketball? And has a really amazing record collection? And does stand-up comedy on Saturday nights? I never knew that.”

It gives you a different context to see the beverage and the cheese in. It lets you learn more about each component of the flavor and aroma. It can be one thing in a comfortable environment and something else entirely in an unfamiliar place, which makes you look at whatever you’re tasting as something with potential for change, not just a constant.

Murray’s: When you and Christine were putting together your Cider & Cheese class, there was one cider in particular that you spent a lot of time finding the right pairing for. I think you went through 17 different cheeses before you hit on the right one. Can you talk about what that process was like, and what you learned about the pairing process from solving such a stymying cider?

Alex: So we went through a ton of cheeses trying to find a pairing for Art + Science’s Symbiosis. It’s a blend of cider and Grüner, which we both loved and thought would pair beautifully with a bunch of cheeses. But it was almost like the cider didn’t want to be paired with anything. There were some mediocre pairings, and a ton that were truly terrible. Lots of animal and dirty diaper tastes. Lots of really disgusted faces.

But it kind of showed us that you have to go into a pairing with a totally blank slate. Leave your preconceived notions at the door. Pairing is more of a process and less of a calculation. Each cheese or beverage will react differently, no matter how close they are in classification or style, so it became clear that we were kind of just along for the ride, until we found our stop. Whether we’re talking cheese pairing or life, sometimes you just need to let things happen without forcing anything. We got it eventually.

Murray’s: You are looking at teaching a new set of classes with Murray’s. Can you give us a hint at what you have in store?

Alex: Hell yeah! I’m pretty stoked on the two classes Christine and I have coming up next month. One is going to be a beer and cheese pairing class that highlights the American brewers and breweries we’re most excited about. It’s going to be a chance for people to taste some really special beer they wouldn’t normally be able to get their hands on.

And then we’re also going to do a wine and cheese class. I mostly drink beer and cider, but I really love wine too. I have a pretty steadfast rule that I don’t buy bottles of wine that cost more than $25, so we’re going to let that determine the bottles that we pick. There’s so much incredible wine that’s extremely affordable. People need to start embracing that more. Hopefully we’ll get a nice mix of funky, natural stuff and well-executed classics.

Bring on the Spring

It has been spring for two weeks now, but the weather did not seem to get the memo. Who is to blame for the prolonged dreariness that is incessantly yawning over our land? We at the Murray’s blog must confess: it might be us. And we’re determined to rectify this.

You see, back March, we were planning a post about spring cheeses. The idea was to feature it on the day of the equinox, as a way to herald the changing of the seasons. But then we looked out the window and determined that no, it is spring only in name. It did not feel right to be discussing spring cheeses when the fourth nor’easter of the month was on its way. So we held off. And the weather didn’t change. And still it hasn’t.

Here’s where we think we erred: we let the winter happen to us. The essence of the spring is right there in its name. Spring bursts forth. Where fall obliges inertia, spring defies it. It wills its way into being. So to this lingering winter we say: Phooey! Cast off! Be gone! It is spring, and we are going to act like it. But to make this work, we will need your help, dear cheesers. It is time we make the season what we want it to be, tilt it to our desires, demand the blooming to commence. To do so, we are eating spring cheese anyway. And we encourage you to do the same. As a guide to how you might help wake the weather, here are some of our favorite cheeses for the spring.

DANISH WHITE

danish white knuthenlund sheep sheep's milk cheese

If the Danes made their own version of feta, this would be it. Fresh and briny, Danish White is a sheep’s milk cheese that’s much creamier than Greek feta, yet still maintains the bright, citrusy, and grassy notes we love in the style. The lactic, milk-forward paste is surprisingly light and spreads on toast or crackers with ease. You’ll find it’s best on a still-warm slice of sourdough bread with a drizzle of lemon curd.

NETTLE MEADOW BRIAR SUMMIT

nettle meadow briar summit murray's cheese

In the foothills of the Adirondacks, Nettle Meadow Farm has created a cheesy imitation of the mountains that loom above. Briar Summit is a creamy pyramid, made out of goat, cow, and sheep’s milk to create a truly unique cheese. The milk is infused with raspberry leaf tea, lending a distinct herbal tanginess to the fresh cream. Throw yourself a garden party, pour a glass of champagne, and break out a bowl of raspberries to enjoy.

WESTFIELD FARM CAPRI

westfield farm capri chevre goat cheese murray's cheese

Perhaps the springiest of spring cheeses, fresh chevre is tangy and vibrant, a result of its youth. Because of its high moisture content and the lean character of goat’s milk, it is naturally low in fat, even though no skimming has taken the rich, creamy quality out of the paste. Westfield Farm Capri is a quintessential chevre, made several times a week on a farm in central Massachusetts.

MURRAY’S CAVEMASTER RESERVE HOLLANDER

Murray’s first European Cavemaster Reserve in almost 10 years, this sheepy stunner comes to us “green” from the Pyrenees, and spends two months growing a beautiful mold-mottled rind in our caves. The toothsome paste tastes of sweet cashews, with a firmly acidic backbone. For a spring cheese board, use it as a counterpoint to Capri.

And like that, cheeser, you can be the spring you wish to see in the world, and the world will become the spring you wish it to be. The power is within you. Make the season as it should be.

April is National Grilled Cheese Month

Do you smell it? The sizzle of butter. The crisping of bread. The melting of cheese. You’re on the scent, dear reader: April is National Grilled Cheese Month.

Naturally, we at Murray’s are big April people, and we’ll be sharing the grilled cheese love with you all throughout the month. As Grilled Cheese Month gets started, however, we figured we’d take a moment to answer what is perhaps the most important question about the sandwich: Why?

There’s nothing new about cheese and there’s nothing new about bread. There’s also nothing new about putting the two together and placing them over flame. In fact, food historians consider cooked bread and cheese to be an ancient dish. But it didn’t used to look like this:

The grilled cheese sandwich as we know it is less than a hundred years old, and it was born right here in America. Indeed, the modern grilled cheese is a uniquely American creation.

How did this happen? Like so many essential creations, it resulted from the confluence of technology and necessity.

The first piece to fall into place was the individually wrapped slice of American cheese. This was popularized in the 1910s and gained steam into the 1920s. Then, the real game changer: the ready availability of sliced bread. The importance of the advent of sliced bread simply cannot be overstated. It was so great that it became the de facto thing that all other great things were marked against. We don’t say, “The greatest thing since mashed potatoes” or, “The greatest thing since yogurt in a tube.” We say, “The greatest thing since sliced bread.” And one of the greatest things about this greatest thing is that it was easy and economical to place a piece of cheese in between two slices and make yourself a sandwich.

For many Americans, this quickly became a necessity. Sliced bread was first sold in 1928. The next year, the stock market crash and the Great Depression began. Grilled cheese became a staple of the American diet. A generation of children was raised on the sandwich.

It isn’t every day that you come across something so simple and affordable yet so satisfying. Grilled cheese has that crispy, melty thing going for it, what we might refer to as goo-and-chew. And like so many commonplace dishes before it—paella, porridge, etc.—the sandwich proved to be a perfect canvas for creativity. As the economy began to recover, home cooks and chefs alike began to riff on it with more imaginative ideas, finding that you can make grilled cheese in endless fashions. You can make it with Stilton and bacon. You can make it with quince and spinach and feta. You can really make it however you want. And that’s what Grilled Cheese Month is a celebration of.

We’ll be eating our fair share of grilled cheese sandwiches this month, and we’ll also be sharing some of our recipes with you. Each week in April, we’ll be debuting a new, Murray’s-exclusive grilled cheese recipe, each one using a cheese made from a different type of milk. Keep checking back here as we unveil a new take on this American classic. Until then, happy grillin’.