Same Cheese, New Heights: Slinging Cheese in Aspen

Murray’s owner Rob Kaufelt catches up with longtime friend Dana Cowin

By: Rob Kaufelt, Proprietor of Murray’s Cheese

When I graduated college way back in ’69, I climbed into my old Pontiac GTO and with my pals Dave and Gary headed west. When we got to Aspen, Colorado, the rednecks there said, in so many words, ‘There’s the road, son, you’re already on it, no need to stop here.’ This was their way of telling long-haired hippie freaks like us they didn’t want our kind around.

Flash forward forty-four years to the summer of 2013, when Murray’s crew Amanda Parker, Nick Tranchina, and I cruised into town in our rental car to meet Paige Yim (our Marketing Manager) and do Murray’s booth at the Aspen Food and Wine Classic. Not too many rednecks around that town anymore, not in a town where a twenty-million-dollar ski house is nothing special. Nor is a skinny woman with blond hair and Botox. But Mario [Batali] and the boys were there doing their celebrity chef thing, and so were we with our selections of the country’s best cheese, fresh from Brian’s caves.

“I could get used to this”

We have sixteen stores in Colorado now, and we visited most of them. What a rush to visit a store up in the mountains and see a sign on the outside of the building that reads ‘Murray’s, and inside, a beautiful shop with some of the nicest folks you’re ever gonna meet sampling cheese you never figured would get up into those hills. Times are indeed changing. So, if you’re ever going to go through these mountains, prepare a little and stay awhile for a beautiful Colorado vacation.

It was a smokin’ hot 99 degrees, and it was smokin’, period, as Colorado springs were literally on fire. Speaking of smokin’, you know that Colorado has legal weed, giving new meaning to the terms grass-fed and pot belly. In fact, hog farmers out there are indeed feeding their pig’s stems, leaves, and other leftover scraps the growers don’t need. The idea is that stoned pigs go easy to slaughter. Next, they’ll show that it cuts cholesterol and, capitalism being what it is, they’re bound to find some new uses for horrible piggy poop next.

All in all, a fun week in this old cheesemonger’s career!


Azure Skies and Snowy-white Rinds

by Caitlin Griffith

At your next party – perhaps even celebrating the warm weather streak that we hope is here to stay – you absolutely need to serve a citrus-y Saison with a bloomy rind goat. Now, I am biased because farmhouse Saisons scream sunshine and warm weather to me. Give me a tangy straw-colored beauty any time of year and visions of verdant grass and azure skies swim before my eyes.

Before I become too mushy and emotional here, let’s revisit Saison history. In French, Saison means season, and originally the lightly hopped beer was brewed in the wintertime to be enjoyed during the late summer harvest. There was no refrigeration back in the day (cue entrance of cheese, which is milk’s leap toward immortality) and so the chilly winter months protected the bottle-conditioned brew from turning rancid. Perfect! This style is witnessing something of a revival right now and I, for one (if you couldn’t already tell) am psyched because of its excellence in pairing with food. Those French-speaking Belgian farmers were really on to something. Most Saisons boast a tartness and dry finish and many display citrus flavors, as well as a grassiness and biscuit-y yeast quality.

I tasted the Saison Dupont, arguably the world’s most famous and unmatched expression of a Saison, with hints of lemon, cardamom, clove, and pear, with one of my favorite goat’s milk cheeses, the Haystack Peak from Colorado. This pasteurized bloomy-rind goat is based on the pyramid-shaped goats from the Loire Valley in France but with an American spin. The snowy-white exterior hints at its milky, harmonious flavor. Its brightness is well-balanced by three distinct textures (thanks to time spent aging in Murray’s caves): a velvety rind, followed up by a delightful whisper of a creamline, and a pasty interior. The Saison Dupont and Haystack Peak danced all over my tongue in a sprightly tango that will light up the life of anyone interested in cheese and/or beer in the least bit.

Let’s not further complicate things here and say more than is necessary, as we already possess a flawless pairing, but throw in some nice crusty bread, whole grain mustard, and a log of the classic French Saucisson Sec and call it a day. Happy Spring!