As fall settles in, all sorts of exciting, new, seasonal flavors start to pop up on the cheese counter. Read below as Tess tells us what is tasting especially autumnal.
Greensward: Wrapped in spruce bark with a plump rusty, orange rind. Yeah, that’s what you see, but upon entry to the caves these little boozy, aromatic buggers are all white with frustrating grooves in their rinds. To get that layer of white mold off we scrub the grooves tediously with teeny nail brushes, a little bit of Ithaca beer, and a healthy sense of humor. With a little teamwork, our forearms will all be uniform, and this washed rind reserve product will continue to be available both behind the counter and online. Ample stacks at the moment, all at various mouth-watering stages.
Vermont Shepherd: Guess who’s back in town? The seasonal sensation from Major Farms — one of the oldest and most celebrated farmstead cheese operations — that’s who. From about April until November, cheesemaker, David Major, makes rounds of Vermont Shepard (a.k.a.) Verano, as his herd grazes on pasture. We’ll have this herbaceous, caramel studded, buttery wonder for a short period so come by the shop and give it a try before it get snagged up!
Malvarosa: This Valencia favorite was first made in an effort to preserve the local sheep breed Guirra. We fully support this endeavor, especially after tasting this semi-soft, sweet, buttery representation of sheep’s milk. This interestingly shaped cheese takes on the mold of its cheese cloth, which is wrapped tightly around the curd and knotted at the top. Grab a knife and slice off a hunk and savor the rind for more piquant, barnyard notes.
Ahh the Murray’s cheese caves! The best place in New York City for cheese to take some time to age and really up the funk. We consider the caves a sort of day spa for cheese. They get the care they need to be all that they can be! “Raves from the caves” is a new, weekly post that will feature what is ripe and ready on the cheese counter, and what good stuff is in the pipeline.
C-Local: We’re working our way through a fresh batch with a bright, tacky rind and young, but daring cream line. The aroma is dank and the flavor full. Expect more grilled lamb and savory notes to trump those bushels mixed berries. At least for now.
Greensward: The batch released last week is still exquisite and a new tower of nearly 300 has been through its first wash. The rind on the oldest batch is darker orange with pockets of woodsy brown near the spruce bark; the paste luscious and creamy, tasting like herb butter, roasted veggies, and the wind swirling through a forest canyon.
Hudson Flower: Hudson Flower for everyone! As the fall breezes creep in, everyone should be psyched to bring home a delicious round of fall foliage in the form of orange and yellow mold adorning most rinds of Hudson Flower. Cold storage with sliding metal doors continues to hold the cream line in check. Count on gamey, earthy notes teamed with buttery, tangy pockets.
Torus: Our little doughman is firmer and more dapper this week, having benefitted from a slightly altered aging cycle. We plated torus and let the batch experience the tender awakening of the drying room, followed by an indulgent slumber in the bloomy rind cave, and finally some tough, better-shape-up love from the mini-cold storage unit. The creamline is thin, yet decadent and even, and the paste yeasty, zippy, and bright. At room temperature the geotrichum rind – now sturdy and taunt – will relax into a velvety coat.
Chevrot: This pocket sized brainy drum is with us in abundant quantities, ready to surprise goat cheese lovers all over with its lemony, cakey, zippy profile. Consider mini Chevrot a filler for the office donut run. Why grab one when you can take a dozen to the office and smother them in honey and jam?
Roquefort: Oh Roquefort, oh Roquefort, oh how I love your deep blue pockets and your gritty butter laden paste. Come home with me and make my nostrils flare and the back of my throat tingle. You are classically radiant.
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. From locally made cheeses to specialties from Switzerland, there are so many cheeses that haven’t been discovered and it’s a great shame. 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! That’s the problem when it comes to these sorts of expensive delicacies: you just want a bit of cheese but you end up penniless for the rest of the month… The only thing you can really do to make sure that you don’t go broke is by keeping your finances in check. To do this effectively, you will want to track your budget to make sure that you can actually afford such luxury cheeses and, if not, what you need to change about your current spending habits to accommodate for it. There are technological solutions in the form of apps that can help you with this – check out this truebill review to learn more. 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.
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.
The Murray’s Mongers are a ragtag bunch. We all have different stories, but most everyone here has two things in common: that they did not plan to work at a cheese shop, and that they are now completely obsessed with cheese.
SEAN KELLY, Cheesemonger, Bleecker Street
I used to work in publishing. Not the kind of publishing that enabled me to read a bunch of great, interesting work from rising new writers (though the unsolicited manuscripts my company received were almost always insanely entertaining), but rather the more obscure realm of academic publishing. I would work with books on areas of anthropology I had no idea existed, medieval poetry, renaissance philosophy and a range of other subjects that have since slipped my mind. When I first began, I made an effort to read some of the works I was dealing with. After about thirty pages on the history of Newark parochial schools, I promptly gave up. The more I worked with these books, the less I felt I knew about them; and the fact that about one third of them were written in languages that I don’t speak certainly didn’t help things. I still managed to learn a lot along the way though and publishing is definitely something that I might return to in the future. A lot of my friends even say that my newfound love for cheese could inspire me to write a book of my own.
Anyway, a few years later, desperately needing a change of scenery and wanting to do something a little off the beaten path, I applied for an internship working in the caves here at Murray’s. It seemed to make sense: I had been a long time customer, loved cheese and had heard from many a friend who had graduated college and moved into the job market that employers appreciate a few interesting additions to a resume, and it’s always important that you can update your resume where you can, regardless of whether you use somewhere like Arc Resumes Virginia (https://www.arcresumes.com/local/virginia/), a professional resume writing company, or if you update it yourself. Even the smallest additions can make all the difference when it comes to whether you will be considered for a job or not. So, include as many positive additions as you can.
It can give you a foot in the door, especially in the job market post COVID-19, where jobs are pretty scarce because of the pandemic. So I started taking care of cheese. I made the rookie mistake of wearing a pair of shorts my first day (I insisted that I wasn’t too cold, but I was freezing and probably looked really dumb). I left work dirty and smelling like cheese, and, much to the dismay of my fellow subway riders, wore it as a badge of honor. I took to it pretty quickly.
Several months into the internship, I had developed an affinity for different types of mold. I began to love the smell of a room full of washed rind cheese. I realized that this was different than anything else I had done before. Obviously, none of my previous jobs had involved racks and racks full of cheese, but there was a much more important difference here. Unlike the shelves of French literary theory that I used to deal with, the racks of cheese in front of me made me want to know more about them. They were living, changing things that everyone could experience in a different way, and they could turn out beautiful or horrendous with just the slightest modification. I thought about this most when I worked with the Loire Valley cheeses, namely the lovely little Valencay pyramids. Watching a lump of fresh goat cheese turn into an aged, mature creation, carefully picking mold off of it all the while, made me feel connected to the thing that I was working with in a way I had never felt before. I got excited about it, and felt like I needed to tell other people about it.
My friends seemed to get tired of my constant rambling on about butterfat and bloomy rinds, so I suppose it was a good thing for myself and those around me that I moved up to the counter at Murray’s when my internship concluded. From a bookcase to a cheese case, I finally found something I could work with and want to understand. That being said, I have never lost my passion for books. In fact, as I previously mentioned at the start of this blog post, I would love to publish a book of my own about some of the different types of cheese out there. It is pretty safe to say that during my previous job in publishing, I learned a thing or two about how to publish a book. So, watch this space. My very own book about cheese might soon be hitting the shelves. That being said, of course, it certainly helped that my understanding of cheese has come from eating instead of reading this time around. I’m better at eating cheese than reading about it, anyway.