Monday, December 29, 2008

Ringing it In...

It's the eve of New Years Eve, and it's gotten me to thinking about what lies in store for cheese and the makers of it in 2009. With each passing year, we are graced with more and more beautiful cheeses coming from small farms across the country. And while there may be lots of ice (or mud) and sludge and puddles out there, the seeds of next years' production are being sown as we speak.

In Vermont, in Pennsylvania, upstate New York, there are bunches of folks learning the cheese ropes and honing their craft, and with a bit of luck and a few pestering entreaties via telephone, we'll be seeing some of their cheeses this coming winter and spring. And that's just the newbies. The more seasoned cheese makers that we work with at Saxelby Cheesemongers are twisting and stretching their creative limbs and evolving new cheeses in a seemingly round-the-clock, dairy-centric effort to get the most interesting and true flavors from their animals and their land.

Now is an especially fruitful time for makers of delicious dairy, and the cheeses that we are seeing (and eating!) are changing the cheese-scape of our country like never before. Just like different moments in the history of art produce different outbursts of inspiration and innovation, cheese is the movement of our day. I guess if we were painters it would be a return from abstraction to realism to a more solid, tangible realism. Like tracing from Pollock back to Sargent, from Kraft to Jasper Hill Farm. Any way you slice it, from these mongers' eyes, things are definitely looking up.

One of the particularly American innovations that has captured my interest over the past year is the influx of mixed milk cheeses out there. There are many cheese makers out there milking goats and sheep who have begun to craft an impressive array of mixed milk cheeses, usually by adding a bit of cows' milk. Sometimes the imperative is economic, and other times the desire to experiment and create is the overarching goal.

Goats and sheep are quite seasonal in their milk production, goats giving milk for about 9 months after freshening (farm speak for giving birth) and sheep for just 5 months or so. As the animals near the end of their lactation cycle, the constitution and flavor of the milk changes, getting fattier and more rich. Many of the farms we work with at Saxelby Cheesemongers have taken to combining this late season goat and sheeps' milk with a bit of cows' milk, both to balance out the fat content, and eke out some different flavors. It also means that the farmer can make and store more cheese to get them through the winter months when their own animals aren't giving milk. Cows' milk, being quite mellow and buttery in flavor, is an ideal element to play with, tweaking the flavor a little bit in the direction of butterfatty goodness, and making the texture of the cheese a bit silkier and more supple.

This seasonal mixing of the milk is something that is unique to America, and to be frank, something that probably would not be tolerated by AOC and DOC regulations in Europe. Across the pond, cheeses are made according to traditions that were established over the past couple of hundred years, and to deviate from them is akin to sacrilege. However, in our little age of experimentation, these tweaks and deviations are being embraced daily by cheese makers mastering their own styles and varieties of cheeses. Ok, so there might be a bit of Pollock in there. Cheese makers nowadays are kind of benificent, stir-the-pot renegades in their own right.

If you'd like to try a few on for size, come by the shop and weigh in with a nibble or two. At this time of year, the ranks of mixed milk cheeses are at their fullest and most splendiforous. Just ask for a bite of any of these and see what the mixing of milks is all about:

Battenkill Tomme (raw sheep and cows' milk. Three Corner Field Farm, NY)

Humble Pie (pasteurized cow and sheeps' milk. Woodcock Farm, VT)

Seal Cove Tomme (pasteurized goat and cows' milk. Seal Cove Farm, ME)

Capriola (pasteurized goat and cows' milk. Lazy Lady Farm, VT)

Timberdoodle (raw sheep and cows' milk. Woodcock Farm, VT)


We wish you a Happy New Year and Happy New Cheeses to Come in 2009!

Monday, December 22, 2008

The Twelve Days of Christmas... According to Saxelby Cheesemongers

This Week at Saxelby Cheesemongers
The Twelve days of Christmas According to Saxelby Cheesemongers...

This one's for you Veronica! We at Saxelby Cheesemongers would like to admit that we have a bit of beef, as if were, with the traditional lyrics to this song. Has anyone else ever noticed that the Twelve Days of Christmas in its original incarnation is unabashedly biased towards fowl? In attempt to appease the dairy gods this Yuletide season, we've worked out an alternative to the birdy norm...

This song is best when accompanied by a kazoo. Here goes. A-one, a-two, and a-one-two-three!

On the twelfth day of Christmas my monger gave to me...
Twelve little eggies... er a dozen if you prefer (Rich, free-range, and delicious! La!)

On the eleventh day of Christmas my monger gave to me...
Eleven scoops of ricotta (Just enough for a killer frittata! La la!)

On the tenth day of Christmas my monger gave to me...
Ten chunks of butter (And why not? A leaning tower of butterfat is never a bad thing. Ho hum!)

On the ninth day of Christmas my monger gave to me...
Nine different yogurts (Cow, goat, sheep, skyr, thick and thin, plain and flavored! Ta da!)

On the eighth day of Christmas my monger gave to me...
Eight maids a' milking (Ok. So they got one verse right. Why deviate from a good thing?)

On the seventh day of Christmas my monger gave to me...
Seven stinky cheeses (Hooligan, Grayson, Twig Wheel, Three Mountain, Fil-A-Buster, Rappleree, Chester... whew! La dee da!)

On the sixth day of Christmas my monger gave to me...
Six goats a-bleating (As goats are want to do at all hours of the day and night. Mbaaa!)

On the fifth day of Christmas my monger gave to me...
Five Wrapped Pearls!!!!!!!!!!!!! (Home-spun gooey mixed milk cheeses wrapped in grape leaves that were steeped in spicy bourbon. 'Nuff said. Hiccup. La!)

On the fourth day of Christmas my monger gave to me...
Four kinds of blue cheese (Bayley Hazen, Cayuga Blue, Mossend Blue and brand spankin' new Battenkill Blue)

On the third day of Christmas my monger gave to me...
Three cows a-moo-ing (A little loud, but the neighbors'll get used to it.)

On the second day of Christmas my monger gave to me...
Two cheese sandwiches (with Frankie's olive oil drizzled on top! Good for breakfast, lunch, or to snack on for the long plane ride! Ta da dee!!)

On the first day of Christmas my monger gave to me...
A steaming pot of fondue! (And for those of you who've made it this far... you just might want to make some for yourselves! Have a peek at Saxelby Cheesemongers' take on the classic fondue Savoyarde below.)

Happy Holidays and a Joyous New Year to you all.

Love,
Saxelby Cheesemongers

Fondue Savoyarde as interpreted by Saxelby Cheesemongers and Anne Beuh:

For one bottle of white wine, you'll need about three pounds of cheese.
You'll also need the following:

1 clove of garlic, minced till quite tiny
Nutmeg and ground black pepper to taste
3 tbsp corn flour diluted in whiskey, bourbon, or eau de vie

For the cheese we chose:
Rupert (raw cows' milk. Consider Bardwell Farm, VT)
Pawlet (raw cows' milk. Consider Bardwell Farm, VT)
Grafton Classic 2 Year Cheddar (raw cows' milk. Grafton Cheese, VT)
However, there are innumerable other delectable combinations! Experiment and see what frightfully delicious concoction you can dream up!

1. Heat 1/3 bottle of white wine over medium-low heat.

2. Add 1/3 of your total cheese (about 1 lb if you're following this recipe exactly, but you can always make less! Three pounds is a lot of cheese... but we firmly believe in your cheese consumption capabilities.) Incorporate by stirring. Stir often and consistently, or else the cheese begins to stick to the pan!

3. Add a touch of garlic, nutmeg and black pepper to taste and continue to stir.

4. After a few minutes, add 1 tbsp of corn flour diluted in some kind of strong alcohol of your choosing.

5. Keep simmering and stirring for about 20 minutes total, then dig (or dip) in!

You can dip pretty much anything into this mixture and it'll be ridiculously tasty, but we picked boiled potatoes, steamed cauliflower, apples, and bread. Oh yeah, and just to guild the lily, we had some smoked ham from Jeffrey's on the side.
When you've gobbled through the first round, just start it all over again till there's no more cheese in sight.

Monday, December 01, 2008

On a Sunday in December...

This week I'll make it short and sweet. For the month of December, the Essex Street Market will be open on Sundays! Who'd a thunk it??

It is a point that has been belabored by many a patron of Saxelby Cheesemongers. The Essex Market, lovely and quirky tho it may be, has up till this point been closed on Sundays. Well, this December, the market has at long last decided to bite the bullet. That's right, no more mad Saturday scramble for cheese! Beginning this Sunday, and continuing every Sunday till New Year's, the market will be open from 10:00 am to 4:00 pm for your dinner party-ing, Sunday supper-ing, holiday entertaining needs.

Back in the day, the Essex Market, like much of the neighborhood, was closed on Saturdays. At some point in the last twenty years or so, the current switched and the day changed to Sunday. Over the past few years, customers and vendors alike have been voicing their desire to have the market open on Sundays and slowly but surely, the EDC responded!

So spread the word and come on by! The market will be full of good cheer... there'll be live music, new cheeses, and all manner of shenanigans alla Lower East Side.

Monday, November 17, 2008

Wrapped and Ready to Roll



What's small and cardboard and smells like a sock? That's absolutely right! A holiday box' o cheese from Saxelby Cheesemongers! This holiday season, the best of America's farmstead cheeses are just a hop, skip, and a click away! We apologize to the FedEx guys in advance for stinking up their trucks...

Despite my Luddite leanings, this old thing we call the interweb is just too clever! And who doesn't want a little bit of extra cheese around when all the friends and family get together?? So whether you're entertaining and want a snazzy cheese plate, or ranting and raving and trying to figure out just what to get that discerning cheese geek in your life, look no further! Whether it's a Cheesemongers' Choice selection or a few months of bliss from our Cheese of the Month Club, you and your guests are sure to be sated.

Just head to saxelbycheese.com and click the 'Buy Cheese' link to check out the cheesy goodness up for grabs. We've tailored our selections to focus on the finest seasonal cheese out there, from super small production farms like Lazy Lady Farm in Vermont or Seal Cove Farm in Maine to newly knighted American classics like Cabot Clothbound Cheddar and Grayson from Meadow Creek Dairy. Just leave it to your mongers... we won't steer you wrong.

And for those of you living just around the corner, Saxelby Cheesemongers is offering up a stellar array of cheese platters to ease the craziness of holiday entertaining. Put that old cheese ball recipe back in the closet and have no fear! Just give us a buzz, let us know how many people are descending, and like stealthy dairy ninjas, we will slice and dice together a gorgeous cheese plate, complete with Sullivan Street Bakery breads and delicious dried fruit and nuts.

Cheese platters can be delivered, or you can pick up at the shop; it's as you wish! Like the post office says, nor rain nor hail nor dark of night (and a whole bunch of other stuff too) can keep us from getting your cheese to you!

The holidays will be here before we know it! So get ready, get set, and get cheese!

Monday, November 10, 2008

It's Back in White

Ok, AC/DC would probably never write a song about dairy. But if they did... Dave and Sue Evans' creme fraiche might be just the thing to inspire them. This week, by some glorious turn of the cosmos, the Evans Farm creme fraiche is in the house. And you, good cheese people, should hurry on over to claim a dollop or two for yourselves!

Like a rare Amazonian monkey that eludes all efforts made to study it, this creme fraiche is better known for its disappearing acts than for its presence on the shelves at Saxelby Cheesemongers. To say that the Evans have a lot going on up at the farm would be a bit of an understatement. In addition to husbanding and milking over 90 Jesrsey cows, they make a dizzying array of fresh dairy products including butter, yogurt, milk, cream, buttermilk, and cheese. Sometimes in the grand weekly orchestration that happens up at the farm, the creme fraiche just goes by the wayside.

So we've learned to cross our fingers, wait patiently, and pounce when the opportunity is ripe! Evans Farm creme fraiche is truly special, and can be used for just about anything you've got going on in your kitchen. It is thick beyond belief, so fatty that the top inch or so of every container we open is pretty much pure butter. The bright, golden yellow hue is a nod back to the grass and to the fat, happy cows that produced it.

So that brings us to the million dollar question... what should you use your creme fraiche for this week? A better question might be, what can't be improved by a little dash of the decadent stuff? Creme fraiche makes for a delightful spread; mix it up with herbs and serve it alonside some delicious smoked fish (when was the last time you went to Russ and Daughters??) or atop your breakfast toasties. Plop some atop your favorite creamy soup, or add it to any savory sauce, from tomato-based pasta sauces to rich and rustic pan sauces. Or, if you want to go the dessert route (which according to my mom is always a good route to follow) heap a little bit on your pie, apple crisp, or with some good fresh berries for a simple, but sublime satisfaction of your sweet tooth.

And keep your noses to the wind... we'll be sending out a little whiff about our holiday mail order selection in the weeks to come! Yes, that's right. It's our cheese in a box.

Monday, November 03, 2008

Sitopia (Don't Worry, I'll Explain...)

Sitopia. When I first read that word, it sounded a bit like that futuristic version of humanity alla Wall-E, where people are resigned to traveling about in the permanent comfort of their floating, electrically powered arm chairs. Scary, but not altogether implausible. Thankfully, 'tis not so.

The word Sitopia was coined by British author Carolyn Steel in her new book Hungry City, one of the finest tomes (literary anyways) that I've consumed in quite some time. Steel looks at food issues from a myriad of different perspectives and comes to the conclusion that what we all need right now is a little bit of sitopia. In her eloquent argument, Steel combines Sitos, the ancient Greek word for 'food' with the notion of Utopia, which linguistically means 'no place' or 'good place.' The idea of Utopia has been bandied about for centuries, millennia even, but as the root of the word itself implies, has never quite taken hold in the real world. In contrast to the unattainable notion of utopia, sitopia is something that we can participate it, and indeed create, through small dealings in our daily lives. Ms. Steel affirms that there are a million ways in which we can fashion our own sitopias, whether we live in the city or in the country, simply by regarding food and our relationship with it (where does it come from? how was it prepared? who did the cooking?) in a more thoughtful way.

It seems to me that one of the finest and most fundamental places to channel a bit of sitopia is around the dinner table. We literally sit there, sharing wonderful food and conversation with the people we love, or with people we are getting to know. The dinner table is a little bit like social super glue, keeping us all connected and moored to each other and to our environments. A pretty good place to be, if you ask me.

So, in celebration of sitopia, Saxelby Cheesemongers says, Hey! Have yourself a dinner party one of these days soon. Invite some folks to gather 'round the table and chew the fat. This Sunday eve, we'll be having a little supper club sitopia of our own, along with some good friends and fellow food producers at a slightly wacky, yet wonderful space in downtown Brooklyn. The gist is this:

Sunday Supper Club
Sunday, November 9th at 6:00 pm

Featuring a rustic, family-style dinner prepared by GradyWood

Followed by a guided tasting of Saxelby Cheesemongers' finest autumn cheese

Featuring beverages and accoutrements from a cadre of inspired gastronomic entrepreneurs: condiments from Schoolhouse Kitchen, breads from Hot Bread Kitchen, wines from Uva Wines, and coffee from Crop to Cup.

Hosted by Greenspaces, with support from the Metropolitan Exchange

For reservations ($50) send an email to info@saragrady.net with the number of people in your party. Ms. Grady will get back to you with all the pertinent details regarding the location of this clandestine supper club. Space is very limited, so the sooner you email, the bettah!

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

A Day A Whey Recap

Ok, ok. I know. The email should have come yesterday. It must have been something in that sunny country air, because I found myself doing quite a bit of sleeping... On this most yucky and rainy Tuesday morning, I wish I could continue on the same track, but alas, the week must begin sometime!

Sunday's Day A Whey trip to Sprout Creek Farm was a real knockout of a fall day, complete with resplendent foliage, plenty of sunshine, and more food than we knew what to do with. Our day began (after a slight directional hiccup, eh-hem, and an admittedly dorky screening of a movie entitled 'Living on the Wedge') at Sprout Creek Farm, established back in 1982 as an educational center for kids. To say that nuns Margo Morris and Sue Rogers were ahead of their time is a gross understatement. The two enterprising women founded Sprout Creek Farm as they began to realize that more and more, children were losing touch with nature, with the source of their food, and spending more time getting snuggly with their tv sets and fruit roll-ups. Now, that's not to say there isn't some lovely nostalgia surrounding fruit roll-ups... I myself probably consumed hundreds of the sticky little pancakes, but you get the idea.

When the farm moved to their current site in Poughkeepsie from Connecticut, Margo and Sue's ideas and programs truly began to flourish. Today Sprout Creek offers camping and overnight trips for kids of all ages, and produces everything from fresh veggies, to chickens, pork, and lamb, to honey and cheese. They started up their creamery about 10 years ago with a line of three cheeses, but have really hit their stride in the past two years with cheese maker Colin McGrath. Colin took time out of his busy, cheesy schedule to share with us the intricacies of cheese making, starting with the little innocuous sounding strains of bacteria all the way through to a finished wheel of cheese. As we listened to Colin's talk, the day's cheese making was in full effect. The words curds and whey went from nursery rhyme fodder to reality as we watched the curds be stirred, drained, and then spiritedly packed and smushed into molds to await the brine tank. Colin, a self-professed lover of all things fermented, also makes his own beer at home, the perfect accompaniment (in my opinion) to the array of cheeses made at Sprout Creek. Maybe on the next trip we can incorporate a little lesson in brewing too??

After all that talk of cheese, bellies were rumbling, so we retired to the barn for a big old picnic lunch, replete with salad, breads, cheese (of course!) and cider. Now we all know what the best follow up to a glorious Sunday lunch should be... nap time. Even if everyone didn't lay down in the grass for a little shut-eye in the sun, there was plenty of relaxing going on. I found the homemade peppermint stick ice cream in the creamery too good to pass up, and opted for a cone instead of a snooze.

Our next stop was Terhune Orchard, a charming little place just down the road in a town called Pleasant Valley. I mean, seriously, you'd think that all those folks upstate would just be content with their gorgeous parcels, but no, they've got to rub in all in up our Brooklyn and East Village faces and call them things like 'Pleasant Valley.' Well, dang it, they're right. To call that spot anything other than pleasant would be an out and out lie. For it being so late in the season, there were a surprising variety of apples left to be had, and we waltzed out of there with scores of Empires, Winesaps, Granny Smiths, Golden Delicious, the list goes on and on... I witnessed more than one person, bag overflowing, try to cram in just one more crispy little orb, thoughts of pie and apple sauce and streusel in their heads. Or maybe that was just me. I now have more apples than I know what to do with, and am seriously thinking, at the risk of being labelled the dreaded, health-freak old lady, of dispensing with some of them during trick or treating at the Essex Street Market.

So, I hope you all have a most happy, apple and cheese filled week, and check out the pictures of the trip online when you get a minute. (I promise I'll get to that by tomorrow!) Our last Day A Whey was a true delight. Many thanks to everyone for schlepping along with us!

Until next year... we might just plan a Sprout Creek camp out ourselves!

Monday, October 20, 2008

For the Love of Goat Yogurt

Cheese lovers, meet goat yogurt.

Goat milk is one of those funny things that has been a bit maligned by the masses over time. People inevitably have some funny remembrance of the first time they tasted goat milk... some hippie relative giving it to them as kids, growing up near a farm that milked some stinky goats and being forced by a parent to take a swig...

Or, take my Italian friend Agusto. For a time before opening the cheese shop, I lived in a small town in Umbria whose population was hovered somewhere around 1,000 people. In the town there was a cadre of old people who were tough as nails and would all help each other out during the harvesting of grapes, olives, you name it. Now, keep in mind that harvesting is at base a pretty arduous and tedious job, and without sufficient banter and shit-giving, folks are likely to get bored. And also keep in mind that in a town that small, everyone knows EVERYTHING about everyone.

One fine October day, Agusto (who is now well into his seventies) was working alongside everyone else, snipping grapes off vines and hauling them by the bucketload to a nearby truck, when somebody yelled out 'goat boy' or some such thing in Italian and set the whole group guffawing. As an outsider, I was mildly confused by this allegation (I lived across the street from Agusto and knew that he had no goats) so I elbowed the person next to me in the ribs and asked what all the goat insults were about. She, being of the same age bracket as Agusto, informed me that when they were kids, Agusto had a twin brother and for want of sufficient milk, Agusto was raised on goats' milk. And so the joke went, from the 1940's on into eternity.

Well let me tell you what. Today I'm here to celebrate the dang milk of the goat, and tell you that whatever anti-goat feelings you may harbor, you have got to try Beltane Farm's superb goat yogurt. Somebody's got to set the record straight, and the does (ie lady goats) of Beltane are up to the challenge.

Beltane Farm Goat Yogurt is of the Greek persuasion, thick and rich and silky, with just the right amount of tang and sourness. Paul Trubey, farmer, yogurt maker, and all around nice guy, has painstakingly perfected his recipe over the past few years and has come up with something the likes of which I've never tasted. After the yogurt has set, Paul strains it through cheesecloth to achieve a more hearty and robust texture. The result is decadent, stick-to-your-spoon yogurt that makes for a fantastic cuppa breakfast or dessert. I'm imagining whipping some up with some maple syrup and serving it alongside a streusel-y apple crisp. Oh how the mind wanders at 8:00 am on a Monday...

So for the love of goat yogurt, get yourself down to the cheese shop to try a lovin' spoonful. You just might have a change of heart (or tastebuds, as it were.)

Monday, October 13, 2008

Tasty Cheese Ahoy!

It's been a while since we've given you a rundown of all the tasty new cheese in our purview... Seems like the cheese makers have been going like gangbusters these past few months, cranking out some delightful things that rarely see the light of day at Saxelby's. Stop on by for a nibble or two, and see what's good in our cheesy world!

Seal Cove Pyramids
(pasteurized goats' milk. Seal Cove Farm, ME)

An ashed pyramid of goats' milk cheese to rival any of its distant French relatives. These pyramids are chalk full of barnyardy goatiness (a very technical cheese term, eh-hem!), as the goats' milk makes a shift and becomes heartier and more dense at this time of year. Nevertheless, a light and mouth-watering tang picks up the back end of the cheese, giving it a bright little lilt. The rind that blooms on the surface of this coal-black cheese is delicate and fine, adding a decidedly earthy and mushroomy flavor.

Mixed Emotions
(raw goat and cows' milk. Lazy Lady Farm, VT)

Is the moniker of this cheese a reference to crossing the goat/cow boundary in cheese making? Like their human counterparts, those barnyard beasts up in Vermont are just more progressive by nature. This tasty, golden pancake of cheese is made up at Lazy Lady Farm, but finished and aged in the cellars at Jasper Hill, just down the road. The result is a unique and savory cheese that tastes a bit of caramel and peanut butter, but with an undertone of goat musk. Laini buys in cows' milk from some local organic farmers, rounding out the cheese with a deep buttery baseline.

Menuet
(raw cows' milk. Dancing Cow Farm, VT)

A beautiful aged cows' milk cheese from one of the most beautiful farms in the Champlain Valley. Menuet, like the rest of the cadre of cheeses made by Steve and Karen Getz, is named after a dance, and certainly makes us want to step to it! The cheese is pale golden yellow, with a firm, crumbly paste that is somehow sweet and tart all in one go. The wheels at Saxelby's are spring cheeses, made from the milk of the Getz's herd right after they went out onto pasture. See what sunshine locked into cheese tastes like!


PS... For anyone who hasn't picked up a copy of yesterday's New York Times, run, don't walk to the newsstand! Michael Pollan has once again hit the nail right on the head with a thoughtful and inspiring letter to our future president called 'Farmer in Chief.' It's in the magazine, or just a click away, if you click the link below...
Enjoy!

'Farmer in Chief' by Michael Pollan

Tuesday, September 30, 2008

A Day A-Whey Does Po-Town


Can it be? September is almost over?!

Well, the seasons roll on and so do we here at Saxelby Cheesemongers. We're switching from our tomatoes and cheese pants to our apples and cheese pants, in a manner of speaking, and planning our final Day A-Whey trip of the year! In just a few weeks be heading up to Poughkeepsie (aka Po-Town, Po-Vegas... any monikers you'd like to submit are heartily welcomed) for some tasty farmstead cheese and an afternoon in an orchard amidst some of the most spectacular fall foliage this side of the Hudson. Read on, good cheese eaters, and see what's in store!

A Day A-Whey to Sprout Creek Farm and Terhune Orchard
Sunday, October 26th
9:00 am to 7:00 pm
For tickets ($95) click here



We can't think of a better place to learn about farmstead cheese than Sprout Creek Farm, a lush little parcel o' green just outside of Poughkeepsie. Margo Morris and Sue Rogers founded Sprout Creek in the 1980's with the intention of creating a place where kids of all ages could learn about agriculture and get re-connected to where good food comes from. What started off as a summer camp has blossomed into a multifacted year-round farm and market, busting at the seams with home grown produce, jams and jellies, home spun yarn, a delicious array of cheese, and local meats.

For our Day A-Whey Margo and her most excellent cheese maker Colin will lead us on a grand tour of Sprout Creek, explaining the ins and outs of running a farm and all the glorious insanity it entails. We'll begin in the cheese room, learning how farmstead cheese is made, and get a glimpse into the aging caves where all those hearty tommes are matured to perfection. Next, we'll head out to the barnyard for some sunshine and see where the cows and sheep and goats like to roam, or escape, as it were... (last year there was much excitement when the sheep got out of their pen and ran amok for a brief while) We'll also take time to visit the chickens, ducks, and greenhouses, rounding out the incredibly diverse range of farmy enterprises in the works at Sprout Creek.

After the tour, we'll be treated to a harvest lunch and cheese tasting in the comfy old barn featuring a splendid spread of local fruits and veggies, freshly baked breads, cured meats, and of course, plenty of delicious fromage!! Daytrippers will have time to sit and dish and picnic the afternoon away, and gather up some goodies from the farm to bring back home.

Come afternoon-time, we'll hop back on the bus and take a quick jaunt over to Terhune Orchard for some late season apple picking. At the end of October, we'll be munching and crunching on Mutsu, Granny Smith, and big red Rome apples, just to name a few. Terhune is a family owned orchard that has been in the biz for over 70 years, and boasts some of the finest apples these mongers have ever tasted. We'll take a wander through the orchard and soak up some good fresh air before heading back home, sleepy and sated!

So what are you waiting for? The apples and cheese are a-calling, and it's bound to be a fine farmy day!

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Cheese Tastings A Go-Go... Plus, Anne's Luddite Manifesto

The Luddites were on to something I tell you. This is my way of saying that I have a good excuse for being a day late with my email this week... as I spent the better part of yesterday afternoon locked away in the sunny, spastic confines of the Mac store Genius Bar. My history with technological devices has been speckled with moments of bliss and order and happiness, but mostly it has been a comic tale of woe and confusion. Ever since I left for college, I have managed to have more strange things happen to my computers than I care to recount. It makes me feel a little bit proud though, that usually these problems, hiccups, and glitches stump even the most seasoned techie veterans. The common refrain when I bring my computer into tech support with some sort of ailment is usually something to the tune of, "Uh, that's strange, we've never seen that happen before..."

I will digress for a brief reference to Looney Tunes (pre-computer animation, and formative material of my childhood) before returning to my tale.

Has anyone ever seen the cartoon where the man finds a little frog in a top hat and suit that will sing and perform Broadway show tunes, but only for him? The minute he brings the frog to anybody else to show off his strange and wonderful talent, the frog simply sits in the box and ribbits and displays all the glamor of a dirty, wet dish towel. So, the man with the frog, who from the get-go was bent on making millions off of his slimy little buddy, finally goes nuts and attempts to bury the frog once and for good in the cornerstone of some New York City skyscraper. I should be so lucky to be able to do that with my computer.

So, my new-ish laptop was in the habit of making a hideous beeping sound whenever I turned it on, sort of like a tiny little air raid siren going off. I don't know whether it was trying to announce my incompetence or just its hatred of me, but whatever its motivations were, something was amiss. At the Genius Bar, I explained my situation to the amiable nerd charged with helping me, and went to turn the computer on to demonstrate this terrible racket. Sure enough, just like the frog in the cartoon, the computer turned on without an iota of beeping, making that crisp and sexy Mac gong just like it's supposed to. After two or three more feeble attempts to prove myself not crazy (the laptop started up with the grace of a Russian figure skater landing a triple lutz each time) I shrugged my shoulders and relinquished custody of that nasty little machine to Mac for further inquiries.

So, the Monday email was shot, but I am sitting at home now with a much clunkier and more reliable old computer and do want to tell you just a few things about cheese before the morning slips away from me.

Saxelby Cheesemongers is sprinting into fall with a pretty intense lineup of tastings and gatherings and hooplas of all sorts. The fun begins tomorrow at Against the Grain and continues well on into October. So check out our new calendar and mark your own for some cheesy exploits. We hope to see you out on the town! Thankfully we'll never need a computer to slice you a piece of cheese...

Wednesday, September 24th
7:00 to 9:00 pm
Against the Grain and Saxelby Cheesemongers Present...
A Farmstead Cheese and Wine Tasting

Five flights of cheese and wine with other delicious little trifles.

For tickets ($25) and reservations call 212-358-7064

Tuesday, September 30th
7:00 to 9:00 pm
Jimmy's no. 43 and Saxelby Cheesemongers Present...
Chocolate, Cheese, and Beer! (back with a vengeance)

Chocolate from Nunu's in Brooklyn, Craft Beers from Across the Globe, and Cheese from Yours Truly.

For tickets ($35) and reservations call 212-982-3006

Saturday, October 11th
11:00 am to 9:00 pm
Gowanus Harvest Fest

Join Saxelby Cheesemongers, Sweet Deliverance, and Just Food for a day of fun, food and music! We'll be bringing our stinky grilled cheese show on the road... maybe with a twist for fall.

For tickets ($10 in advance, $12 day of) and more info visit www.theyard.ws

Sunday, October 26th
8:30 am to 7:30 pm
A Day A-Whey to Sprout Creek Farm

Our last Day A-Whey of the year! Don't miss out as we travel up the Hudson for a day of cheese, farms, and fall foliage. Tickets will be available later this week...

Tuesday, September 02, 2008

It's Time to Harvest Cheese!

It's harvest time out there. And whether you're a cheese maker or growing gobs of veggies, there's lots of cooking to do. Over the last couple of weeks we've been inundated with peaches, berries, melons, tomatoes, corn, beans, and a whole slew of other good things too! This week, Saxelby Cheesemongers is here to give you a few tasty, dairy-centric recipes to help put all this harvest time bounty to good use.

Squash Blossoms:

What could be better than squash blossoms stuffed with some magnificent fresh goat cheese or hand made ricotta and then fried to golden toasty perfection?! We think a little Beltane fresh chevre or our good old Salvatore ricotta would do just the trick. Another way we've had them is fried (I'm beginning to see a theme here) but not stuffed with fromage. After you've fried the blossoms, arrange them on a plate with a deliberate dusting of sea salt and a few meager but potent shavings of an aged cheese like Vermont Shepherd or Ouray. Squash blossoms aren't around all that long... we see no need to justify that extra fried goodness!

Sweet Corn:

There is only one word. Succotash. Perhaps one of the most delicious meals on earth, succotash seems to be the perfect bridge from summer to fall. The corn is light and sweet, the beans are rich and hearty, and there's cream spilled all about the midst of it, locking it all together with a butterfatty seal of approval. I first encountered succotash just a few years ago, but have been an ardent supporter of (and eater of) the stuff ever since. Pick up a pint o'cream and go nuts... it's the kind of thing that you can make a whole bunch of and eat all week long.

Tomatoes:

The salad options are endless! Carve 'em up with some fresh mozzarella, some decadent creamy burrata, or combine them with all those cucumbers lolling about, add some garlic and a little crumble of feta and voila! Greek salad galore. (another one that gets better the longer it sits) Or, if you're into making your own tomato sauce, heat a little bit of that up, wilt some spinach or chard and plop some ricotta down on top for the best ten-minute-prep dinner you've ever had.

All that fruit, berries and peaches and the like:

Compote, cobbler, and pie, oh my! There are a boatload of fantastic desserts to be gleaned from all these late summer fruits. Just remember that the second most important part of any proper dessert is the cream. Be it whipped or frozen and turned to ice cream, for the love of cheeses don't omit this ingredient! A little bird told us the Evans Creamery makes some of the best in the land... We see no reason to disagree!

***

If you want to see the harvest in full swing, join us for our next Day A-Whey to Long Island's North Fork, where a mini food revolution seems to be underway. We'll be stopping off at Catapano Goat Dairy, Corey Creek Vineyard, and Sang Lee's renowned farm stand. Sundays don't get much tastier than this...

A Day A-Whey to Catapano Goat Dairy
Sunday, September 21st
8:30 am to 7:30 pm

For more tickets ($115) and more information, visit http://www.brownpapertickets.com/event/41742

Monday, August 25, 2008

Get Your Goat On with Our Next Day A-Whey!

The first rustle of fall has begun to creep into the air, and our thoughts are turning farm-ward. Summer may be nearing its end, but don't despair! Saxelby Cheesemongers has big plans to get you out of the city and into the cheese with our next Day A-Whey trip to Catapano Dairy. Read on and see if you've got what it takes to get down with the goats!

A Day A-Whey to Catapano Goat Dairy
Sunday, September 21st
8:30 am to 7:30 pm
For tickets ($115) and info visit:
http://www.brownpapertickets.com/event/41742

The North Fork of Long Island, once known for being the stinkier of the two forks (they grew boatloads of cabbage and cauliflower there...) is now home to an astonishing array of agricultural enterprises. Goats, ducks, fruits, veggies, and vines all have a home on the North Fork. On our next Day A-Whey we'll try to cover just as many farm bases as possible, starting our day at Catapano Goat Dairy, relishing a picnic lunch and wine tasting at Corey Creek Vineyards, and stopping off at a local farmstand to collect some booty on our way back home. We couldn't think of a better way to ring in the fall!

Up till now, we haven't been able to go out and visit with goats on any of our Day A-Whey trips... a grievous barnyard omission in my opinion. Happily, the hour of the goat has arrived! Karen Catapano makes some of the most delicious fresh chevre that these mongers have ever tasted, and she'll be kind enough to share some of it with us on our foray into goat-dom. We'll spend the morning carousing around her farm, hobnobbing with the herd and learning what it takes to make delicious and tangy goat cheese.

Come lunchtime, we'll head to Corey Creek Vineyard, one of the North Fork's oldest wineries. Corey Creek is the sister vineyard to Bedell Cellars, which got its start in pretty modest digs (i.e. the back of a potato barn) in 1985. Corey Creek is home to a beautiful cacophony of vines that produce red, white, and rose wines of impeccable quality. Daytrippers will be treated to a guided tasting and picnic lunch featuring Karen Catapano's cheese and other fresh goodies culled from the Union Square Greenmarket.

Following the visit to the winery, we'll stop off at a local farmstand to load up with North Fork produce. Come late September, the harvest will still be in full swing, and we're sure to find heaps of delicious fruits, veggies, pumpkins and maybe even pies.

We think it's downright fitting to celebrate the end of summer with lots o' goat cheese and good times... hope you can join us!

Monday, August 18, 2008

Gone Farming

This Week at Saxelby Cheesemongers
Gone Farming!

Good Monday to you cheese people. I'll make this brief, cause I'm not too sure how long my internet connection will last, and the truth of the matter is, I'd rather be in the cheese room making cheese!

Yep, I'm over at Meadow Creek Dairy today, and I'm about to get my hands into a batch of Grayson. (If I can pull myself away from the breakfast spread that is... homemade bread, maple butter, scones, AND savory ricotta rolls. Roll me out of the cheese room and into the cheese room!) The milk is cultured and ready to go, and Helen Feete, cheese maker extraordinaire, is about to skim some of the cream off the milk to make for a not quite to so fatty fat cheese.

My travels this week will take me from the Blue Ridge Mountains of Virginia, up to the Finger Lakes, across the Adirondacks, and back down to NYC through the great green state of Vermont.

And even though I'm playing hooky from the cheese shop, we're still open and slinging cheese if all y'all get a craving.

Lots of pictures and tales of cheese and adventure to follow!

Till then, eat good cheese and be merry.

Monday, August 11, 2008

And the Sheep Rolls On...

So, last week I mentioned that August is a month chock full of new cheeses, and this week seems to be no exception. The folks up at Woodcock Farm, dairy mecca that it is, have sent a smattering of new soft sheep and mixed-milk cheeses for us to nibble and heap praise on. They're gooey and ripe and tasty as all get-out, so come on by the shop and have yourself a lovin' spoonful.

Summer Snow
(pasteurized sheeps' milk. Woodcock Farm, VT)

Vermonters, stalwart souls that they are, spend about 8 months out of the year covered in snow (Or at least slogging through it in some fashion or another). It only makes sense that come August, they might start to get a bit nostalgic and wish for a little of the white stuff, if only in their minds. Summer Snow is a runny puddle of sheeps' milk cheese that is more than happy to oblige those wintry leanings. Ripened for just a few weeks, Summer Snow is coated by downy white rind that conceals the rich, melty paste within. Unsure of what to do with that load of veggies you zealously hauled home from the market this week? Make yourself a simple salad, and plop a bit of Summer Snow down beside it. Snag a fresh, crusty piece of bread from somewheres, and voila! Dinner is served.

Humble Pie
(pasteurized sheep and cows' milk. Woodcock Farm, VT)

This cheese actually arrived on the doorstep of the shop bearing the moniker 'Something New.' (i.e. that's what was written on the invoice... such and such pounds of 'Something New') And though I delighted in that name, I was informed on a quick phone call to the farm that the cheese did in fact have a tentative name, and that Humble Pie was it. Now, I hope I haven't let the cat out of the bag and spoiled the creative process entirely, but for now, this is what we'll call it. Humble Pie, a common American-ism that seems to be especially appropriate in this day and age, acutally evolved from a thing called Umble Pie, which was a pastry filled with different kinds of offal. Yum. We've come a long way from Umble with this tangy, tasty, and yes, a tad bit beefy cheese. The rind is washed ever so slightly with a b-linens-laced* brine and takes on a tawny, orangey glow after just a few weeks in the cellar.


*First cheese footote ever! I am such a nerd. B-Linens is a kind of bacteria that colonizes the rind of certain cheeses, usually those whose rinds are washed with brine or booze. It usually packs a stinky punch and give the rind an orange or reddish color.

Until next week, fellow cheesers!

Monday, August 04, 2008

August in Cheese Country

It's August. Gulp. How in the heck did that happen? To us New Yorkers
August means the near desertion of the city as everyone leaps into their waning days of vacation, leaving the city oddly quiet and almost, kind of, strangely peaceful.

August may symbolize long and lazy days for us, but for all the cheese makers out there August is one of the zaniest months of the year. The grazing is good, the animals are in full production, and nobody gets a minute to rest as the farms begin to prepare for the winter. It is just about as old fashioned as it gets... those who can are making hay to store away for the winter, and filling their caves with cheeses to age and sustain them through the long cold months.

In tandem with all their cold weather preparation (as if they didn't have enough to do already...) the farms that we work with are making cheese like gangbusters, churning out lots of young and yummy cheese to be eaten right this very minute. The cheese-scape at this time of year is similar to what you see strolling through the farmers' market each week... utter abundance. Sheep, cow, goat, you name it! They're all here and ripe for the munching. August's the time to dig in and celebrate the sumptuous array of cheese proffered up by our local farms.

Here's a smattering of newbies we're exceptionally keen on at the moment. So if you're in the neighborhood, stop in and try a bite!

Sheep Sorrel
(pasteurized sheeps' milk. Ploughgate Creamery, VT)

This cheese could get by on its story alone... lucky it doesn't have to 'cause it's so dang tasty! Ploughgate Creamery was a nearly defunct sheep dairy in northern Vermont that was run for a number of years by a couple who made aged cheeses. However, as they neared retirement, the cheese making came to an end and the fate of the dairy hung in the balance. Enter two intrepid young girls: Princess and Marissa, who after cutting their teeth respectively at Jasper Hill Farm and Bonnieview Farm, negotiated with the owners and decided to use the dairy to make a new and delicious sheeps' milk cheese. Now the dairy is up and running again, and in their very first season the girls are expertly navigating the sea of curds, leaving a wake of delectable, soft and gooey cheese! Sheep Sorrel is a small disc of cheese whose white bloomy rind conceals a supple and thick interior that tastes of sheep, barn, and sweet summer pasture.

Manchester
(raw goats' milk. Consider Bardwell Farm, VT)

Oh Mr. Manchester... why are you so fine?! Sorry, it's early and I'm still a little punch drunk from my coffee. I love this cheese so much I could imagine myself crooning to it, lounge singer style over the din of a smoky cocktail-infested room. I won't do it, don't worry, but the picture is vivid in my mind. Manchester has just reached its seasonal tipping point and is ripe and ready to devour! We've been waiting for it all summer long, and now its here. Bold, goaty, and musky with a lovely salty streak running through it. The rind is washed with a salty brine, lending a slighly nutty, peanut shell-y flavor to the cheese.

Sweet Emotions
(pasteurized goats' milk and Jersey cream. Lazy Lady Farm, VT)

If a piece of this cheese ever crossed Steven Tyler's ample lips, he'd be proud. Sweet Emotions is just what you'd expect from a decadent triple creme... buttery, silky, and true to its name, sweet as fresh cream. A new cheese from the mad scientist's lab that is Lazy Lady Farm, Sweet Emotions is a fantastic specimen of fromage that celebrates the best dairy to be found in Westfield, Vermont. The goats' milk comes from the Lazy Ladies themselves, and the cream comes from Butterworks Farm, an organic local dairy that makes killer yogurt. You don't need an excuse to indulge in this rock anthem of butterfat. Just do it.

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Saxelby Cheese on WBEZ

More dispatches from the cheese side!

Listen in to WBEZ Chicago Public Radio as Anne dishes on goat cheddar with Bob, veteran cheese dude from Wisconsin...

WBEZ Stream

Monday, July 28, 2008

And the Winners Are




It’s 7:30 am on a muggy July morning in Chicago, and I am standing outside of Union Station looking about confusedly and trying to hail a cab. The pool of seasoned veteran commuters streams off the suburban commuter trains and expertly eddies and flows around as I try to negotiate my way toward the taxi stand. I am already a bit late for my date with, no joke, about 1,000 cheeses. For this year’s competition, the American Cheese Society has picked me and my taste buds to judge the spread of cheesy comestibles brought forth from farms ranging from California to Maine. Gulping the rest of my coffee, and cursing myself for not leaving more time to walk to the judging site (I am going to be eating cheese for the next 7 to 8 hours after all) I jump in a cab and putter off west, towards an imagined Everest of dairy products.

The judging of this years’ competition is to be held at the plumbers’ union, an imposing fortress of a building located in the wholesale market district, a not-too-showy neighborhood west of downtown. The location of the judging was a much sweated over affair, as the size of the competition balloons a bit more with each passing year. The Chicago Hilton, where the rest of the conference is to be held, is a grand old edifice on South Michigan Avenue with ballrooms aplenty, but even they couldn’t stomach all that cheese. Being a union town, Chicago is blessed with many large, ornate buildings for the congregation of the brothers and sisters of the trades. However, as far as I could fathom from the Plumbers’ Union, nowadays these grand pieces of architecture are used mainly for the collection of member dues and perhaps the occasional polka dance party in their grand auditoriums.

The cab glides to a halt out front, and I make my way around the building to the loading dock, guided by American Cheese Society signs hastily scotch taped to the windows of the main entrance. As I amble around, following the Xeroxed paper trail, I am greeted with a hearty good morning by a random man on his way to work, and am reminded of why I love the mid-west the way that I do. I also wonder what these plumbers could possibly be thinking as they glimpse the signs announcing the existence of a cheese competition in their midst on their way in to take care of union business. Would they write it off as some sort of practical joke, perhaps played on them by their brothers in the local 130? I for one find it irresistibly funny that the judging should be held there, in a temple to the digestive mechanisms of the city which by association is linked to the digestive system of every cheeser, which over the course of the next 48 hours might be subjected to any number of, ahem, inconsistencies.

The staging area out back is abuzz with cheese professionals, culinary students, and cheese dorks come to graciously donate their time to help out with the judging. (This is no disparaging remark, by the way. I unequivocally count myself among the legions of cheese dorks out there in the world.) Three portable refrigeration units the size of shipping containers are humming away, filled to the gills with over 1,100 cheeses, yogurts, butters, and just about every other dairy product you could imagine. The exteriors of the coolers are plastered with poster-sized lists of cheeses written in good old-fashioned permanent marker, encrypted in a code legible only to the ACS team that composed it. I would challenge any Pentagon sleuth to try their luck at dissembling the jumble of letters and numbers representing so many butters, triple crèmes, swiss cheeses, cheddars. Over the course of the next two days, it will be up to the 30 or so judges assembled from the world over to whittle those cheeses down to a handful of blue ribbon winners, and finally to one single cheese that will receive ultimate accolade of Best in Show.

Despite all my scurrying around and incompetence at hailing cabs in Chicago, I have somehow managed to arrive early, and am ushered inside to wait for the other judges to arrive on the shuttle bus from the hotel. I sit down next to another early bird, a kind woman from Dallas named Helen who, like me, is a first time cheese judge, but a seasoned veteran in other kinds of food judging, from cakes to pies to other baked goods regularly featured at county fairs. She advises me to eat a good breakfast, which registers as a stark contrast to my own plan, an inventive combination of fasting, fiendish water drinking, and shameless prayers and entreaties to the cheese gods for extra intestinal fortitude. Her logic, which was echoed by the other judges, was to fill up so that you aren’t tempted to really eat the cheese, rather just taste it. Glancing out into the grand salmon-colored auditorium, I note that the judging tables are topped with small arsenals of paper plates, spoons, and plastic buckets, which to my chagrin Helen informs me are in fact spittoons. I hadn’t really pondered this option, the spitting out of cheese (what a terrible waste!) but it is apparently common practice for those accustomed to judging ridiculous numbers of cheeses in uncommonly short periods of time.

Slowly the breakfast area begins to fill up with judges as the bus arrives from the Hilton. I spot some of the usual cast of characters, and begin to get a little bit nervous about the business of eating all this cheese. After all, who could have taste buds on par with the likes of Bill ‘walks-on-water’ Wendorf, a UW dairy science guru in his sixties, who in a gesture of sheer tenacity, is drinking milk for breakfast before the orgy of cheese even begins? And in the opposite corner there’s Steve Jenkins, another personal cheese hero of mine, who has run the cheese counter at Fairway for the past twenty-odd years at Fairway with a fierce and unwavering dedication to delicious dairy. I finish my egg and sausage sandwich (thankfully, the caterers omitted the ever-present third ingredient) with butterflies in my tummy and head out to the main hall to see whom my judging partner will be.

The auditorium of Journeyman Plumbers’ Union looks a lot like a high school gymnasium, sans the basketball hoops and flags announcing the laurels of sports teams in years past. There is a stage up front, and rows of tables set up for the judging flanked by red and white curtained screens that remind me of a polling place on election day. The environment is cheerful but serious as people bustle around, wheeling speed carts laden with racks of cheese to all the tables. A command central of computers, scanners, and copy machines, cords all a-jumble, backs up to the stage, ready to import the litany of scores and other information generated during the judging. Off to one side, there is a heap of white lab coats on a tabletop, which are to be our official uniforms for the next 48 hours of cheese immersion. I don a lab coat, stick a nametag on it, and take my spot at table 15.

Soon enough, a pleasant white-haired gentleman named Bill approaches and announces that he will be my co-judge for the duration of the competition. He looks to be in his late sixties or early seventies, trim and fit as a fiddle after a life of tasting and grading cheese and butter for the state of Wisconsin. ‘Eat your heart out, cholesterol-phobes!’ I think to myself as he settles into the seat next to me. In the auditorium, the air conditioning is blasting, and half to combat the cold, half to show off just how dang cool he is, Bill pulls a white cap out of his bag emblazoned with the words ‘Wisconsin World Cheese Championship 2005’ and plops it down on his balding head. Once again, I am faced with my cheese green-ness in the ranks of lifers such as these. Lucky for me, Bill is a generous and kind soul, who over the next two days ends up teaching me much about the cheese business: from the changes in cheese production methods over the course of his life to how to tell the difference between a good and bad eye in a wheel of Swiss cheese.

We take a look at the list of categories we are to judge for the day, and my eye skips down almost immediately to the line that reads ‘cheeses with pepper.’ Oh agony and woe! I was forewarned by a friend of mine who had been a judge in years past that at the American Cheese Society, that was how the cookie crumbled. You are assigned some lovely and delicious categories, and then you get some of the dregs like flavored cheese. Or worse, low fat cheese. (I happened to get both of those categories… call it beginners’ luck!) I guess it’s just like the rest of life… if it were all roses and triple crèmes all the time, we’d just get bored and freak out. Or morbidly obese, as it were.

So, Bill and I spend the morning slogging through a veritable zoo of cheeses, from the silky and refined triple crèmes, to bread cheeses (a new one to me… this kind of cheese is literally a slab that you can put on the grill and eat like a chicken wing) to pepper cheeses (I reiterate, yuck), and fresh goat cheeses. For each cheese, we taste and contemplate… Bill always spits his cheese out into the little spittoon, while I reserve that insult only for the lowliest of the pepper cheese. Then we compare notes, and finally give it a score along with some helpful comments to the cheese maker. Bill being the dairy science dude that he is, points out the technical flaws, while my job, much more fun in my opinion, is to award points for positive attributes found in the cheese.

And so it goes, through the afternoon and then starts up again the next day at 8:00 am sharp. The American Cheese Society doesn’t mess around. And they have good reason not to, because there’s a lot of cheese to be tasted. After the morning round of tasting on the second day, all the judges are left to roam around for an hour or so while the team of volunteers and cheese society intelligentsia assemble what amounts to a bonus sudden death round of cheese judging: the Best in Show showdown.

Please take a moment to pause and imagine this… you’ve been eating cheese for nearly 24 hours straight. You’re trying to nibble the occasional cracker, pineapple, lettuce leaf, anything that doesn’t look like dairy and chugging water (or coke) like a novice nomad in the Sahara. You’re liberated for an hour of sunshine, napping or strolling around as you please, and then you are summoned to the real contest. A couple of deep breaths and side stretches, and we’re back to the races.

Now the blue ribbon winners of all the categories (somewhere between 80 and 90, I refused to count…) are splayed out like so many pieces of meat on the judging tables. This is the cheese judges’ moment of truth. Will everyone make it, I wondered? I for one was starting to feel a little cheese worn and thirsty. I took a quick ocular survey and appraised the looks on my colleagues’ faces. ‘Walks on water’ Wendorf didn’t blink an eyelid before digging in, so far as I could tell. David Lockwood, a veteran cheese judge who works with Neal’s Yard Dairy in London, began the task with an easy zeal, wandering from table to table and munching and chatting as he went. Some folks had a strategy (save the flavored ones for last! Start out with butter and crème fraiche!) while others just dove right in, knowing that when it came right down to it, there were 80 odd cheeses to taste and it would be ridiculous any way you sliced it.

I tried to subscribe to the latter strategy, but was bamboozled by a cumin-laden piece of gouda somewhere around table 7. After that, all bets were off. I tore around the tables, making notes in my little notebook and making frequent trips to the garbage can to spit out the morsels of cheese once I got a read on the flavor. I am not proud of this. The spitting out of cheese. But you must understand, at a certain point, it simply must be done. Wine makers and consumers alike spit during tastings or else they would end up stone drunk. From the slight headache I was starting to develop, I feared what might become of me if I actually ingested all that cheese. Images of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory flashed through my head. If Violet Beauregarde ate the blueberry candy and burst, surely I was on my way to a dismal fate.

But the toughest part of the entire process was yet to come… having to choose a winner! All jokes about pepper and cumin cheese aside, the array of cheese up for offer on that day was truly astounding, and there were many candidates that I would have loved to award Best in Show. Coming into the judging, I figured that at the end of the day the choice would be obvious, that there would be one shining knight of a cheese that would out-cheese all the rest. But there wasn’t. There was delicious goat butter, succulent sour crème fraiche, mushroomy camembert-style cheeses, rustic clothbound goat cheddars, caramelized and crumbly cows’ milk cheeses, cheese rubbed with coffee grounds, and tangy, citrusy fresh sheep cheese.

In the end, and I can say this now that the official results are out, the winner was a gallant goat cheddar from Carr Valley Cheese in Wisconsin. The cheese was a sight to behold. Burly and bandaged, the cheese weighed in at about 40 pounds, the true size to be called a cheddar. (more cheese trivia I learned thanks to Bill) It was musky, sweet and just plain wonderful. A week later, I can still remember what it tasted like, and how the rich and creamy paste (cheese dork word for the interior of the cheese) lingered and sang a little ditty about goats as it coated my palate. As a cheese ages, its flavors coalesce and concentrate, revealing more of their flavor with each potent little tidbit.

My hat goes off though, to all the cheese makers and all the folks who organized the astronomical feat that is the cheese judging. After more than a week of gathering cheeses shipped to the conference, recording their provenance, labelling the samples, and making sure they were coddled along to perfection, all we judges had to do was show up an eat! I hope to go back next year, cheese trier in hand, and taste the bounty of cheeses that are changing the face of American cheese. And the self-imposed cheese vacation that I planned post-conference didn’t last too long… come Saturday, fresh off the plane and back at my shop, I found myself munching as delightedly as ever. Some habits just die hard.

Monday, July 21, 2008

Calling All Cheese Geeks!

Saxelby Cheesemongers pays a visit to the American Cheese Society!

Well, it's that time of year again. Somewhere in the far off hinterlands, a bugler or a yodeler or some kind of caller sounds a cry and all the cheese dorks in this great nation descend on a particular city for a week of festing and feasting on American cheese. (and I don't mean the Kraft singles kind) That American cheese isn't allowed at the American Cheese Society so far as I know, though that might be a sore spot given that this year's ACS Conference is taking place in Chicago, which among other distinctions, can call itself the birthplace of Kraft foods.

It's been 25 years since the American Cheese Society banded together, rooting and fighting for the little guys in the cheese world, those laboring in relative obscurity and in seeming isolation, churning out great cheese despite lack of resources, supplies, and support in general. The Cheese Society was founded with the aim of connecting anyone and everyone interested in the world of American cheese, from consumers and enthusiasts to cheese makers, restaurateurs, and retailers. Bringing together such a formidable flock of turophiles encourages not only some raucous parties, but the dissemination and sharing of knowledge, from cheese making tips to knowing what kinds of cheese pair best with the local Chi-town microbrews.

I was picked to be a judge at this year's conference, a great honor to be sure, and I will dutifully report to all of you the details of my gluttonous next few days! In a somewhat ironic twist of fate, the cheese judging this year is to be held at the Chicago Journeymen Plumbers' Union. And while I sincerely hope that this choice is not some kind of cruel joke in reference to the judges' collective digestive systems, I can't help but giggle and wonder about inviting Christopher Guest to follow along and make his next movie about the underground cheese movement happening in our midst.

But seriously, The American Cheese Society has come a long way over the past 25 years. What started out as a small-ish, motley but earnest group of cheese makers has blossomed into a grand organization that last year, during its conference in Vermont, featured over 1200 different kinds of cheese. The number of farms producing wonderful, unique, and individual cheeses continues to grow with each passing year, expanding our palates and our hunger for local cheeses at an exponential rate. And while the conventional, industrial dairy landscape looks bleak, there is a flicker bordering on a brush fire of excitement when it comes to farmstead cheese and value added dairy production (cheese, yogurt, ice cream, you name it).

This brushfire is fueled by farmers, of course, but is fanned and spurred onward by you, all the wonderful cheese eaters out there! It is with this knowledge that I thank you from the bottom of my cheesy heart for all the enthusiasm and support you provide to these wonderful cheese makers. And you better believe we won't come back from Chicago empty handed... There'll be plenty of new cheeses to share!

So let's hear three cheers for American Cheese, and may the tastiest wheel win!

Monday, July 14, 2008

The Cream of the Crop... or Our Crop of Cream

This past Saturday, while strolling through the Greenmarket, it took much effort and restraint (which seems to leave my mind as quickly as the dollars float out of my wallet) not to pick up one of each and every kind of fresh fruit and berry available for sale. Peaches, apricots, strawberries, raspberries, blackberries, blueberries, cherries (sour or sweet!) Sigh. Sometimes I wish I was like a cow and had mutiple stomachs so that I could parcel out these cravings and get more bang for my gut. But constrained as I am by my human digestive system, I settled on blueberries and made a beeline for some fresh cream to round out a delicious breakfast. Yes, breakfast. What's so wrong about having a jolt of butterfat in the morning to really get things rolling? Some folks have their coffee fix, and some folks skip the coffee and go straight for the cream. We don't judge.

In the cream department, the Evans Farmhouse Creamery is tops. Based in Norwich, New York, the Evans milk a herd of about 90 Jersey cows and are one of the only certified organic producers in their area. Dave and Sue Evans are passionate about their cows and their cows' munchies, and insist on grazing their herd as much as possible. The summer cream is thick and golden-hued, and is the perfect sweet accompaniment to all the good things mother nature is throwing at us these days. And while they are required by law to pasteurize their milk and cream, the Evans use a gentler, low temperature method of pasteurization, letting the nuances of grassy, cow-y flavors shine through.

So go ahead and spoon it over a bowl of fresh fruit, whip it up and give your pie or cobbler a proper dollop, or put that ice cream maker to use and make some fantastic frozen confection! Your tummy will thank you.

Monday, July 07, 2008

T is for Cheese... That's Good Enough for Me

T is for Cheese, that's good enough for me! (Feel free to sing along...) T is for cheese, that's good enough for me. T is for cheese, that's good enough for me, Oh cheese cheese cheese starts with T!

Alright. Cookie Monster and the creators of Sesame Street might be appalled by my flagrant misuse of the alphabet, but it seems that a great number of the cheeses stacked atop the shelves in our cave are 'T' cheeses. This week's email celebrates the arrival of Trefoil, a stinky little number from Tennessee (I didn't plan that I swear!) and cheeses from Twig Farm, back from a long winter's respite.

Trefoil is a dignified, slightly pungent sheeps' milk cheese from Blackberry Farm, a relative newcomer on the American cheese scene. The dairy was started in 2004, with a small flock of East Fresian sheep. The folks at Blackberry Farm have taken on an interesting and inventive approach to artisan cheese making, crafting different cheeses from the milk of their sheep as the seasons change. Trefoil is made during the late spring and early summer, when the sheep are grazing on the lush and aromatic pasture found in the foothills of the Smoky Mountains. This young cheese is washed as it ages, first with saltwater brine and later with Calvados, which brings out a bright and tart acidity to balance the sweet and barnyardy richness of the sheeps' milk. Trefoil is a little flash in the pan in the sheep cheese world... be sure to snap some up while it's still in season!

Twig Farm, one of our perennial favorite farms, has at long last released their crop of cheeses for the year. Hooray!! Now's the time to dig the Twig, as the cheeses that are currently ripe have been made from the first spring milk of their herd of Alpine goats. What does all this 'spring milk' nonsense mean, you ask? Well, very early spring milk tends to be a bit higher in fat, due to the fact that the does have just kidded and are packing in the nourishment (in the form of added calories of course) for their young ones. The cheeses made from this milk tend to be dense and heavy on the palate, with notes of green grass and minerals issuing forth from within the butterfatty depths. We've got Twig Farm Squares (a super-dense, field stone-looking cheese), Goat Tommes (earthy cylinders of aged goats' milk), and Soft Wheels (rich and soft washed-rind cheeses with a fruity funk) all ripe for the picking. Don't be shy, come on in and get your goat!


Or your sheep...

Don't have any riveting plans this Sunday? Need a mini-trip to help ease you back into normal life after the long weekend? Don't despair! There are still a few spots left on our next Day A-Whey trip to Valley Shepherd Creamery this Sunday, July 13th. The weather's looking fine, the sheep are looking fluffy, and the cheese is always fetching. Visit www.saxelbycheese.com for more information, or to buy tickets!

Tuesday, July 01, 2008

Cheese and Fireworks

This Week at Saxelby Cheesemongers



It's tough to believe, but fourth of July weekend is upon us. Time for that age old American tradition of strapping a wheel of cheese to a firework, lighting the fuse, and....

Wait, wait! Hold on just a second. I wouldn't have the heart to do that to one of our cheeses. Plus, I'm sure the sulphurous smell would be less that pleasant atop a juicy burger or in a big old cheese sandwich. Let's try this again, sans pyrotechnics...

This fourth of July, Saxelby Cheesemongers is here to outfit you with all your dairy needs for a weekend of food, fun, friends, and fireworks. So, in honor of good times, we've taken the liberty of composing a long weekend grocery shortlist, separated into the three quintessential categories: the red, the white, and the blue.


Grayson (the red.)
It's back and better than ever. We're having a welcome home party for this heralded cheese from Virginia, back in season after a little wintry respite. Grayson gets to be the red for it's pungent washed rind, which ranges from orange to red depending on the batch. And just a bit of Independence Day trivia for you: Did you know that more US Presidents were born in Virginia than any other state? Stinky cheese and politicians... a match made in heaven.

Evans Farm Whipping Cream (the white.)
When I think of picnics and barbeques, right after I think about the burgers and dogs, I start dreaming of the sweet stuff. Churn up a bit of the Evans' whipped cream for an absolutely decadent dessert, or even better yet, toss it in the ice cream maker with some fresh fruit or herbs (basil ice cream anyone?!) for an amazingly rich and fat-tastic treat.

True Blue (the blue. a bit obvious, but hey, why not?!)
A real gem of a blue cheese from Woodcock Farm in Vermont. One of the tangiest and most barnyardy cheeses in the case, with a piquant, gorgonzola-esque bite. Give your cheese plate a little gusto and toss in a wedge of True Blue, or keep a slice near the grill if you (like yours truly) are of the blue cheese burger persuasion.

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Cheese lovers be warned! Saxelby Cheesemongers will be closed this Friday July 4th, Saturday July 5th, and Sunday July 6th! Be sure to stock up on cheese by Thursday eve. If there's anything we can do to help you get ready for the weekend, give us a call at the shop at 212-228-8204.
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There are still a few spots left for our next Day A-Whey, coming up on Sunday July 13th! There'll be lots o' sheep, cheese, picnic-ing, and cavorting in general. For more information or to buy tickets, check out www.saxelbycheese.com

Monday, June 09, 2008

The Mother of All Cheese Trips




Summer is nearly upon us, and our thoughts are turning Vermont-ward. Why, you may ask? Well for one (rather obvious) thing, there's a lot of good cheese to be had there. And 'tis the season for cheesin', as summer pasture produces some of the best milk around...

But don't take our word for it, Saxelby Cheesemongers wants you to experience it for yourself! With our next Day A-Whey, you could help make some of that most tasty and delectable cheese with your very own hands. Yes it's true, this June we're taking a whole dang weekend a-whey to Consider Bardwell Farm, and we want you to be a part of it!

Here's all the cheesy details in a nutshell... we'll depart on Friday the 20th of June, and stay the weekend at the historic Dorset Inn. We'll romp and frolick around the farm on Saturday and Sunday, making cheese, bonding with the goats, and helping out in the cheese caves. Saturday night we'll be treated to a delicious local harvest dinner featuring a cheese tasting with Peter Dixon, cheese maker/dairy guru at Consider Bardwell. Finally, we'll (begrudgingly) return to the city the evening of Sunday, June 22nd.

So, for those of you who are truly cheese obsessed, read on...

The trip will depart from Saxelby Cheesemongers mid-afternoon on Friday June 20th. We'll drive up to Vermont, and land at the historic Dorset Inn in time for dinner and a little walk around town.

Saturday morning, we'll drive over to Consider Bardwell Farm, a 300-acre parcel that just happens to be the site of the first cheese making cooperative in the great Green State. Peter Dixon, resident fromager extraordinaire, will teach a hands-on cheese making workshop, showing us how farmstead goat and cows' milk cheese is crafted. We'll get our hands in the cheese vat, and witness the magical alchemy of cheese making from goats in the milking parlor to curds and whey, to a freshly pressed wheel of cheese!

Following the workshop, Angela Miller, owner of Consider Bardwell Farm, will
serve up a picnic lunch and farm tour, detailing the history of the land and the cheese making tradition there. Ms. Miller will also explain how she (a literary agent from NYC) and her husband Russell (an architect) transformed Consider Bardwell from a defunct dairy to a working, cheese-producing farm.

Saturday evening, after a full day of farming we'll retire to the Dorset Inn for a four-course dinner featuring a cornucopia of Vermont-grown produce, meats, and cheeses. A member of the Vermont Fresh Network, the Dorset Inn has been supporting local farms since the 1980's. For the cheese course, Peter Dixon will lead a guided tasting, showcasing Consider Bardwell's wonderful array of goat and cows' milk cheeses. To say that Mr. Dixon knows his stuff would be an understatement... he's spent the better part of his life making cheese in locales near and far, and crafts some of the best fermented food these mongers have ever tasted.

Come Sunday we'll drive back out to the farm for the final stages of the cheese making process, and have an opportunity to observe and/or participate in the myraid of events that happen in the day to day operation of the farm. In late June, there will be no shortage of activity at Consider Bardwell: the kid goats will be getting into plenty of mischeif, the morning and afternoon milking can be observed, and the mysteries of the cheese aging process will be illuminated as we help with the duties associated with the art of affinage: turning, washing, and caring for the cheese in Consider Bardwell's cave.

After a little picnic lunch, we'll get back on the road, and will arrive back in Manhattan by Sunday evening.

And who knows? After all this farming and cheese-making, you may just be tempted to start your own! Or maybe that's just our own wishful thinking...


Ticket Information:

Tickets are $750 for a double (shared) room and $900 for a single room.

The cost of the ticket includes transportation, two nights at the Dorset Inn, four-course dinner on Saturday night, catered breakfast and picnic lunch on Saturday and Sunday, as well as the cheese making workshop and farm tour. Pariticipants will be responsible dinner in Dorset on Friday evening.

Saxelby Cheesemongers will make special arrangements at a discounted price for guests wishing to provide their own transportation.

Space is extremely limited. Reservations will be accepted on a first come, first serve basis. To make a reservation, please call Saxelby Cheesemongers at 212-228-8204.

For further information, please visit:
www.saxelbycheese.com
http://saxelbycheese.blogspot.com

New Cheese on the Block

This Week at Saxelby Cheesemongers
It's a hot time in the city. And when the mercury goes up this high, who feels like cooking? A hot, sticky day like today is perfect time to grab a little morsel of cheese, a crusty loaf of bread and a bottle of crisp summer wine. Add a little salad to the mix, and voila! Dinner is served. Saxelby Cheesemongers has some new summer arrivals to whet your appetite:

Mettowee*
Consider Bardwell Farm (pasteurized goats' milk. West Pawlet, VT)

Nothing says summer like a fresh little button of goats' milk cheese, rife with tart and tangy acidity. Mettowee is one of Consider Bardwell Farm's signature cheeses, and takes its name from the lush river valley where the farm is located. The smooth and silky paste is the perfect thing to dollop atop a green salad, or to smear on toast with olive oil and herbs or your favorite fruit or preserves. If you're really feeling saucy, have a bit of Mettowee with strawberries and champagne... you won't be dissappointed!

Boucher Blue
Green Mountain Cheese Company (raw cows' milk. Highgate Center, VT)

A sweet and creamy blue that calls to mind the famous French Fourme d'Ambert. The interior of the cheese is absolutely riddled with deep green and blue fissures that taste of white pepper, wet straw, and vanilla. The finish is long and quite spicy, leaving a zinger of a blue streak on your palate.

Seal Cove Tomme
Seal Cove Farm (pasteurized goats' milk. Lamoine, ME)

We could eat a stack of these Tommes quicker than we could scarf a box of Girl Scout cookies! Such is the mysterious power of this tiny, but tasty cheese. A small, dry disc of rather terse and rigid curd with an unexpected kick of salty, sweaty, citrus fruit flavor. Cheese maker Barbara Brooks learned to make this cheese while traveling in Provence, where these little tommes proliferate. Go on, grab a whole handful, who said you can't eat goat cheese like cookies?


*You could have a hand in making some Mettowee should you choose to hop on our cheese-obsessed caravan to Consider Bardwell Farm the weekend of June 20th to the 22nd! There are still two spots left... so sign up for your Day A-Whey today. Call 212-228-8204 or check out www.saxelbycheese.com for more information

Monday, June 02, 2008

Oops! A Correction...

So, I goofed a bit with my post about this Friday's party at the Yard... I wrote that the party ends at 8:00 pm which is a positively false statement. The live music will be ending around then, but the party will still be going strong! Kelly Geary, chef extraordinaire and sometime dj will be inviting friends in to keep the tunes cranking and might even step in for a stint herself. We'll basically be up eating mac and cheese till the cows come home.

So don't worry if you can't make it early. There'll be plenty of music for all!

See details in the previous entry to check out tickets online...

What Summer Hours Were Made For

This Week at Saxelby Cheesemongers

Being a cheesemonger, I wouldn't know from experience, but a little bird once told me that come June many folks are given the magnanimous gift of summer hours, thereby kick-starting the weekend and getting everyone out into the Friday afternoon sun. Well, supposing this is true, Saxelby Cheesemongers has a really good excuse for you to get out of the office early this Friday... a Brooklyn backyard cookout, complete with live music, homemade mac and cheese, apple pie, and tasty beverages culled from the borough's best.

Even if you don't have summer hours, you should probably find a way to play hooky! It'll be worth it... we promise.


Brooklyn Mac and Cheese Cookout and General Hootenanny
This Friday, June 6th
4:00 to 8:00 pm
The Yard (388-400 Carroll St. between Bond and Nevins St.)
F/G train to Carroll St. or N/R to Union St.

Tickets $25

for more info, visit:
http://www.theyard.ws/The_Yard/Home.html

Come one, come all to a dinner party like you've never seen before! We'll be cooking up a storm and dancing our shoes off at the Yard, Brooklyn's only backyard barbeque set on the shores of the Gowanus Canal. The Yard has invited Saxelby Cheesemongers and Kelly Geary of Sweet Deliverance NYC to bake up a serious batch of mac and cheese and serve it up alongside sautéed early summer greens and some of Brooklyn's most delectable beverages, including Apollo wheat beer from Sixpoints Craft Ales and bourbon from the borough's resident expert, LeNell Smothers. And the good eating doesn't stop there... there's gooey apple pie garnished with a hearty slice of cheddar for dessert. It don't get much cheesier than that.

While everybody's busy filling their bellies, we'll work on filling your ears up too, rolling out the red carpet (not to mention the dance floor) for the Woes, a band whose sound hopscotches around bluegrass, old-time, and New Orleans jazz. If you haven't heard them, to say that you are in for a treat would be an understatement. And if you have, well, you know to bring your dancing shoes. Here's to a fun and raucous summer's eve... hope to see you at the Yard!



What's For Dinner? The Rise of Food Literacy
Tuesday June 3rd
6:00 pm
Wollman Hall, Eugene Lang Building
65 West 11th Street, 5th floor (enter at 66 West 12th Street)

In other news, tomorrow evening The New School will host a panel discussion about the state of food literacy. Panelists will be Anne Saxelby, chef Michael Anthony of the Gramercy Tavern, and Brian Halweil of Edible Manhattan. Drop by for some cheese and some chatter!

Tickets $8

for more info, visit:
http://www.newschool.edu/eventDetail.aspx?id=16058



And last but not least! There are only 2 spots left on our Day A-Whey Weekend Trip to Consider Bardwell Farm. For anyone who's been on the fence, now's the time! For more information or to reserve your spot, call 212-228-8204.

Monday, May 26, 2008

You Know it's Summer When...

This Week at Saxelby Cheesemongers



It seems as though we have finally arrived at the advent of summer! The weather is warming up, the days are becoming gloriously long, and whether we like it or not, our inner cheese barometers are shifting as well.

My theory lacks real scientific proof (any scientists reading out there? You could help!) but in the summertime people just like to eat fresh cheeses. Feta, chevre, mozzarella, you name it. Being an American farmstead cheese shop, we thought we were out of the running when it came to burrata, that magnificently creamy Italian cheese that people run across town and wait in long lines for... However, thanks to our Philadelphian friends Emilio and Claudio, we've got the burrata pipeline up and running (it's quicker than the Amtrak I might add!) and it is here for you all to enjoy.

Burrata was developed in Italy in the 1920's as a way to make use of all the 'ritagli' or little scraps left over from mozzarella making. In making mozzarella, the curd is plunged into hot water and then stretched and kneaded, much like dough is when making bread. Some ingenious family divined a way to strech their curd into a pouch-like shape, and then filled this little divit with all the ritagli, topped it off with a bit of panna (Italian for heavy cream) and then tied it off with a little knot at the top. Burrata is traditionally wrapped in leek leaves, the green color of the leaves being meant as a guarantee of freshness and quality. Mother nature generally doesn't lie, and if the leaves begin to look yellowed, it is a pretty good indicator that the cheese has passed its prime.

The Italian cheese tradition in Philly is a strong one to say the least, and Emilio and Claudio have been perfecting their burrata recipe over the last few years. That they are willing to share with us just tickles us pink, and we can't wait to pass that buttery goodness along. So grab yourself a tomato and a cheese-loving friend and split up a burrata for dinner!

And don't forget, our next Day A-Whey trip to Consider Bardwell Farm is coming up, Friday June 20th to Sunday June 22nd. It is almost full, but there are a few spots left for those of you folks who want to get your hands in the cheese vat and make some cheese! Read the blog for more details, or call the shop at 212-228-8204 to reserve a spot.

Monday, May 05, 2008

A Day A Whey Recap




It was a dark, misty and somewhat angsty morning...
(the picture above would lead you to believe otherwise, but I'll get to that part later)

A group of forty or so intrepid and moderately obsessed cheese lovers was gathered outside the Essex Street Market, rubbing the sleep out of their eyes, donning raincoats and jetting off for last minute cups of coffee before the departure of the big old bus.

After a sleepy, green-trees-everywhere, tranquil drive, the bus pulled up to Wolffer Vineyard, cloaked in an appropriately European kind of fog that would make Manhattan seem ugly and dour. However the vines took to it quite nicely, looking craggy and Sleepy-Hollowy and noble despite the inclement weather. After milling around rows of nascent grapes, talking trellises, training methods, and all aspects of viticulture, lunch was laid out, a menagerie of rich raw cows' milk cheeses, Greenmarket salad, fresh bread, cured meats and dried fruits and nuts.

Come one o'clock, the group shoved off from the vineyard to Mecox Bay Dairy... farmward ho! As the bus rambled through downtown Bridgehampton, inviting more than a few wary glances and stares from the natives (after all, nothing says here comes trouble like a giant tour-ish vehicle) there seemed to be a general attitude of warming in the skies. And just as the winemaker had promised, the mist dissipated to reveal what might be one of the most pleasant sun-streaked afternoons on record.

At the farm, Art and Stacy Ludlow, farmers extraordinaires, showed off their impressive stock of pigs, chickens, ill-tempered geese, and cows. The group of cheese lovers wove their way through the old potato barn to the milking parlor, to the cheese room, and out to the calf barn, where the newbies of the herd were housed. All aspects of the farm, from the veggie growing, to the bee-keeping, to the cheese making, fit into Art and his brother Harry's plan to re-make their fourth-generation family farm into a viable and diverse operation that serves their local community.

Last but not least, the contraband icing on the cake so to speak, Art treated everyone to a sip of raw milk from his Jersey cows. The challenge was laid out... the contenders took to their corners: pasteurized Tuscan milk from Key Foods in Brooklyn versus raw milk from Mecox Bay. Needless to say, the odds were in no way even, and when the starting bell dinged, Art's raw milk delivered a knockout punch that sent the Tuscan reeling. Poor little guy.

But wait, there's more! All of this madcap cheese love is available for you to see! Just click on the photo above or the link below to hopscotch through cyberspace to

our brand spankin' new flickr page


Till the next episode of A Day A-Whey... Saxelby Cheesmongers wishes you good cheese and good cheer.



www.saxelbycheese.com
http://saxelbycheese.blogspot.com

Upcoming Events

This Week at Saxelby Cheesemongers

Well, another week is upon us, and a rainy one at that. This musty Monday morning, Saxelby Cheesemongers would like to wish you good cheer and thoughts of cheese and sunshine in the forthcoming weeks! Yep, we're back on the cheese trail, and want to invite you out for a night or two of good old-fashioned fermented fun. So mark your calendars, ignore the rain, and get ready to eat some cheese!

The party starts tomorrow (why wait?) when Anne Saxelby and Rick Field of Rick's Picks team up for a Slow Food-style salon about the business of being local. We'll be eating some killer pickles, savory cheeses, and telling stories about the experience of being a slow entrepreneur in New York City.

Slow U: The Business of Local

Tuesday, April 29th
6:00pm to 8:00 pm
The Neighborhood Preservation Center
232 E. 11th Street (between 2nd and 3rd Ave)

Tickets are $20 for Slow Food Members and $30 for Non Members
Visit www.brownpapertickets.com (search for Slow U: The Business of Local) for tickets and more info.


And comin' round the mountain next week, Saxelby Cheesemongers and the folks over at Back Forty are rolling out the welcome mat for springtime with a stellar lineup of seasonal beers and cheeses. For those of you who don't know Back Forty, Peter Hoffman's rustic new restaurant in the East Village, you are in for a treat! We'll be serving up some hard-to-find craft beers and farmstead cheese, and discussing what makes these seasonal pairings really shine.

Saxelby Cheesemongers and Back Forty Present:
Spring Beer and Cheese Tasting

Wednesday, May 7th
6:30 to 8:30 pm
Back Forty
190 Avenue B (at 12th St.)

To make a reservation call Back Forty at 212-388-1990.



Here's to cheese, chatter, and good times!



www.saxelbycheese.com
http://saxelbycheese.blogspot.com

Monday, April 21, 2008

Earth Day

This Week at Saxelby Cheesemongers

Happy Earth Day Cheese Lovers!

Just in time for the big day, it seems that the city has turned all a-bloom and beautiful. The farmers' market is chock full of gorgeous greens and fresh asparagus, the trees are bursting out with tender buds, and the daffodils have taken over the flowerbeds. With all this growth underfoot, we've been bitten by the greenthumb bug... and want to share it with you!

Usually for me, Earth Day comes and goes without much fanfare, but this weekend I was treated to a tree planting party upstate that got me thinking, hey, this is way too easy and fun not to do more often! Well, planting things, that is. Acknowledging that trying to plant trees in the city might be a little tough, we've downsized our planting goals and asprirations to fit your New York City kitchen or windowsill.

As we look ahead to warmer weather and long summer dinner parties, we thought why not grow some accoutrements for your cheese?? Stop by the shop tomorrow and get a packet of basil seeds, compliments of your (cheese shop) truly. Because honestly, what is finer than slicing up a fresh, milky ball of mozzarella, a gushy ripe tomato, and trouncing some freshly cut basil on top? Proper tomatoes are still a way off, but we figure your basil will reach its leafiest, tastiest point just in time to make a stellar mid-summer caprese salad.

And don't forget! Our Day A-Whey to Mecox Bay Dairy and Wolffer Vineyard is right around the corner... there are just a few spots left, so if you've got a hankering for some cheese, wine, and good fresh air, jump on the bus!

Visit www.saxelbycheese.com for more details and a link to purchase tickets.

Monday, April 14, 2008

The Goat Milk Challenge

This Week at Saxelby Cheesemongers

I've got goat milk on my mind...

No, this is not a Ray Charles song, though it would be amazing to see that come to pass! It seems to be a theme these last few weeks, but goat milk is on my mind. Try as I may to focus my attentions elsewhere, I just can't seem to shake that lovely stuff from my consciousness.

'Tis the season to drink goat milk, as the animals move outdoors from their winter digs and begin to graze on freshly sprouted pasture. Saxelby Cheesemongers is lucky to have some super fresh, super sweet, organic goat milk from the Kortright Creek Creamery up in Delaware County that will make even the most staunchly anti-goat folks think twice about taking a sip or two.

Goat milk tends to get the reputation of being somewhat stinky, musky, and strange... a food embraced by back-to-the-land hippie farmers. However, good, fresh goat milk is sweet and mild and absolutely delicious. The main factor that influences the flavor of goat milk is the animals' feed. The goats at Kortright Creek Creamery graze on verdant pasture and are fed just a small amount of certified organic hay and grain in the winter months, ensuring that their milk will be chock full of vitamins, good fatty acids, and more nuanced flavors.

Also, good dairying practices by the farmers such as keeping the milking parlor in tip top shape, and making sure that the milk is bottled as soon after it leaves the goat as possible, ensure the goodness and sweet flavor of their milk. In the case of more industrial goat milk that lines supermarket shelves, chances are that the milk has been sitting in a refrigerated tank somewhere for just a little bit too long before making it into the milk bottle, compromising the flavor and quality of the final product.

With this in mind, the goats up at Kortright Creek and I implore you to give goat milk another try! You'll be singing its praises to the tune of a Ray Charles song before you know what hit you.