Tuesday, June 12, 2007

Grass Fed Goodness

Well, it's summertime, and that means lots of tall, green, good grass. Well, most places anyhow. I'm sure that Central Park and Prospect Park are trying their darndest to keep up, but there's just no comparison between our New York City greenery and full-on pasture.

You may be asking yourself, what the heck does this have to do with cheese? Grass is nice and all, makes for nice scenery, and is good to stomp around in... but there's more! Good grass equals a plethora of good things for the farmer, for the animals grazing on it, and for us stalwart eaters of grass-fed cheese!

Grass is good for the farmer because he (or she!) can feed his animals the old-fashioned way, by grazing. This not only manages the natural growth of grass on the land, it actually improves it as animals move through the fields leaving little bits of manure magic behind. Who needs a tractor when your fertilizers walk on four legs?

Grass is good for the animals because it's chock full of potent vitamins and minerals. When cows, sheep, and goats are being milked, their bodies essetially work overtime to ensure that they are consuming enough nutrients to support their young (by way of milk!) as well as sustain themselves. Since there's only so much an animal can consume during the day, grass is pretty much the healthiest snack going.

Grass is good for us because we get to absorb some of those extra vitamins and minerals as well! When animals are left to romp outside in the summer sunshine, they eke nutrients from the plants that we humans (with our goofy little one-chambered stomachs) couldn't otherwise get. Grass-fed milk is full of beta-carotene, vitamins A and E, and CLA which is good fat known to fight cancer and other diseases. And last, but certainly not least, grass-fed cheeses are by far the tastiest cheeses on the map. After all, milk is like wine... it should taste like the place it comes from. Grass-fed milk has more complex flavors and aromas which, when made into cheese, pack a wallop of taste into a tiny little morsel.

Grass-fed cheeses good to munch right now:

Meadow Creek Dairy Grayson:
It's back! The gooey, buttery, slightly pungent cheese from the Blue Ridge Mountains of Virginia. Meadow Creek Dairy is one of the only truly seasonal cow dairies making farmstead cheese, and Grayson is a shining example of what a little good grass can do for your tastebuds! This week marks the release of the first batch of the season, so come on in and try a bite.

Jasper Hill Farm Bartlett Blue:
A big, blustery, and fudgy blue from the brothers Kehler up in Vermont. Bartlett is riddled with gorgeous green-blue veins and has a little salty punch that makes it the perfect mouth watering accompaniment to a glass of sweet white wine or dark syrupy port.

Twig Farm Square Cheese:
Michael Lee's goats are some of the scrappiest around (in a good way). These hardy little buggers are on the browse from spring till fall, eating up tons of grass, shoots, leaves, brambles, and whatever else they can get their teeth on. The resulting cheese is floral, savory, and has gamey musky undertones.


Thursday, June 07, 2007

Picnic Cheese Addendum

Ok cheese-sters.

Just in case you need a little picnic inspiration, we've compiled a little list of outdoor jaunts that are PERFECT for cheese consumption. I mean, in theory, anywhere, bus stop benches included, is a perfect place for cheese consumption. But if you're looking for a beautiful place, well we've got your number.

New York Picnic-Ready Venues:

Here is a list of free events that equal picnic time. Use the money you saved on tickets to go buy more wine and cheese!

Brooklyn Bridge movies with a view 2007, Starts July
5th. Check out the link!

Music in the Park (Central, that is...)
Series of concerts and great operas to pair with
special cheeses! La Boheme is June 12 and Faust June

Shakespeare in the Park (Romeo & Juliet)
Mon June 11 at 8PM, Mon July 2 at 8PM & Sun July 8

Finally the Bryant Park Film Fesival
starts June 18th

Picnic Cheese if you please!

Picnic cheese if you please!

Saxelby Cheesemongers Day A Whey trip to Valley Shepherd Creamery has left me bitten by (and smitten with) the picnic bug...

And you don't need to travel far and wide to have a stellar summer picnic. All you need is a healthy chunk of cheese. And maybe one or two other essentials (bread, wine, what else is there?) to round things out.

There are a few cheeses that seem to me to be especially picnic worthy these days. So before you head out to the park, be sure to check out:

Three Corner Field Brebis Blanche:
A light and tart little button of fresh sheeps' milk cheese. I swear to you, drizzle this guy with a little bit of honey and you might find yourself floating away on a blissful little trip to cheese paradise*

*wine aids considerably with this effect

Try it with a crisp, floral summery white like Vouvray or something more mineral and apple-ish like Muscadet.

Lazy Lady Farm La Petite Tomme:
A delicious disc of soft, creamy, thick goat cheese from the artful hands of Laini Fondiller. If this cheese doesn't make a goat lover out of you, you've got some explaining to do...

Try it with a spiced wheat beer, the hints of coriander and citrus'll do a goat cheese good.

Cato Corner Farm Brigid's Abbey:
A stalwart and rustic picnic cheese if there ever was one. This country-fied tomme of sweet and buttery cows' milk cheese is just begging to be eaten alongside your favorite chunk of cured meat or juicy summer fruit.

Try it with everything! But if I must be more specific... how about a light dry red, like Beaujolais or a nutty brown ale?

Birchrun Hills Farm Birchrun Blue:
Earthy creamy blue from hearty Pennsylvania Holstein cows. The rind, dusted with white, brown, and purplish mold contributes a floral and mushroomy quality to the rich creamy blue that lies beneath.

Try it with a bright juicy red like Zinfandel or a sweeter white like Riesling.

So there. Go picnic your little heart out! And don't say we didn't warn you about the bug...


Back to the Brine!

This Week at Saxelby Cheesemongers

It's back to the brine!
Memorial Day weekend at Three Corner Field Farm comes to an end...

While most people spent their Memorial Day out at a barbeque or sipping frosty cocktails on a roof or in a park somewhere, I elected to head out to Three Corner Field Farm in Shushan, NY to get into the cheese (so to speak) with Karen Weinberg, Paul Borghard, and their two daughters Emily and Zoe. What better way to kick off the summer than cavorting with farmers and their sheep?!

Three Corner Field Farm is home to a whole caucophony of grass fed sheep and lambs who supply the farm with incredible cheeses, yogurts, and milk as well as lamb and wool. The farm is sustainable in every way, from their solar powered water system in the cheese house, to their implementation of a rotational grazing scheme for their sheep. Summer is the best time of year to visit Three Corner Field Farm; The pastures are gorgeous, rolling and green, the sheep are basking in the sun and mowing down the tall early summer grasses, and the milk is plentiful and insanely delicious.

People regard sheeps' milk with a certain degree of suspicion, which I assure you is totally unfounded. On the contrary, sheeps' milk is the stuff dreams are made of, more readymade vanilla milkshake than straight up milk. Look out for sheeps' milk on Saxelby Cheesemongers' shelves in a few weeks when production hits full swing. You won't be dissappointed... To tide us over till then, however, I did manage to bring home some booty in the way of fresh cheeses and yogurts made by the skillful hands of Karen Weinberg.

Karen began her cheese making oeuvre with two cheeses, Brebis Blanche and Shushan Snow. The former is a fresh little button of sheeps' milk goodness, with a light, nutty, almost citrusy flavor. Perfect for breakfast, lunch, dinner, or dessert, and absolutely sublime when drizzled with a bit of honey. Shushan Snow is a camembert-style cheese that when ripe, achieves an unprecedented degree of gooey-ness bound to make you grin and tap your toes. It's flavor ranges from pure butter to distinctly herbal, with hints of the diverse grasses and plants that make up the sheeps' daily smorgaasbord of grazing.

And then there's the yogurt... oh, wonderful yogurt! Sheeps' milk yogurt is amazingly rich and healthy, and is easier to digest for those who have troubles with cows' milk products. Three Corner Field Farm's yogurt has the consistency of a Greek style yogurt, dense and heavy enough to sustain you through an Arctic winter. Ok, that might be a slight exaggeration, but it does make cows' milk seem pretty wimpy in comparison.

I packed a cooler full of these sheep milk goodies, so stop on by the shop this week and try something new!!

Also, if you want to hear more sheepy stories, check the blog later tonight for a more in depth profile of Three Corner Field Farm. It's a farm to marvel at, let me tell ya.
Reminders and such:

A Day A Whey (the sequel!) is coming up this Sunday, June 3rd

Don't miss a fantastic day trip to Valley Shepherd Creamery in New Jersey
We'll see a working sheep dairy in action, from cheese making to the cheese cave, and finish up our day with a picnic on the farm.

The bus is filling up fast, so get your tickets today!


Tomorrow Night, Wednesday May 30th, join Saxelby Cheesemongers at Jimmy's no. 43 for a rollicking tasting of artisanal chocolate, cheese and beer!

Enjoy delicious custom pairings dreamed up by cheese geek Anne Saxelby and chocolate and beer geeks from New York's own home brewers club.

The festivities start at 7:00 pm and finish at 9:00 pm.

Jimmy's no. 43
43 7th Street between Bowery and 2nd Ave.