Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Nostro Salvatore!

This Week at Saxelby Cheesemongers

So, it's Tuesday again. Yikes! How'd that happen? It's funny how those Mondays go careening on by until suddenly they're just gone. Eh hem. Well, I hope the cheese loving population out there will excuse my tardiness and love the cheesy news to come all the same...

This week's tale of cheese and romance and swashbuckling adventure started in a little kitchen in Brooklyn, and ended up all over the map, including in our very own cheese cave! Salvatore Ricotta began as a labor of love after Besty Devine and Rachel Marks encountered the ricotta of one Mr. Salvatore whilst traveling in Tuscany. They took time out of their vacation to learn from the master and brought their new craft home to their Brooklyn apartment kitchen. After many trials (and even a few errors) they managed to tame their wild American curds into a light, creamy, and fluffy mass of delectable cheese that Mr. Salvatore would be proud to behold.

Salvatore takes ricotta appreciation to a whole different level, as I've come to find while consuming many a furtive spoonful behind the counter. It is dense, rich, and yet somehow cloudlike in the end, with a lingering lemony zest that somehow steals the spotlight from all the other ricotta in the room. Assuming you suddenly found yourself in a room full of ricotta. (and wouldn't that be great?!) To make their Salvatore, Betsy and Rachel use Hudson Valley Fresh milk. Hudson Valley Fresh comes from a small network of farms upriver from us city folk that decided to buck the conventional agribusiness system, and band together to make and distribute their own milk. The quality and sweet, fresh taste shines through this ricotta and is the bedrock, so to speak, of this incredible spreadable cheese.

Salvatore Ricotta will be available at Saxelby Cheesemongers starting this Friday! So come on in and get yourself a lovin' spoonful. You know what they say... the first one's free... and then you're in trouble. I think I may smell some good brunch fare coming on with this one.


Tuesday, January 22, 2008

The Art of Affinage

This Week at Saxelby Cheesemongers

Good morning moldy cheese! It's back to the grind after a lovely long weekend. And what better way to get reacclimated to the work week than to rendezvous with a lovely chunk of cave aged cheese? The old coffers at Saxelby Cheesemongers are full of goodies thanks to the wonderful folks up at Jasper Hill Farm, who are aging cheese from all across the great state of Vermont.

The art of affinage, which is still on the upswing in this country, is the tradition of aging cheeses and coddling them along to perfection, washing them, turning them, and brushing them as they mature. For most farmstead cheese makers, this means strapping on their coveralls and rubber boots and heading down to their caves after an already long day of milking, cheese making, cleaning, and farm chores. Not that they don't love to do it, but let's face it, cheese makers are already some of the busiest folks on the planet. That said, the idea of having a dedicated cheese TLC person is quite an attractive thing indeed... kind of the equivalent of pooped parents hiring a babysitter for the night to give them a chance to rest and relax a bit.

That's where Jasper Hill Farm enters the picture. Over the past year they have been constructing the largest series of cheese caves in the country in order to mature all manner of cheese from small farms across Vermont. From young and creamy cheese to old and moldering cheddars, the folks at Jasper Hill have the know how and passion to age it to the perfect point of ripeness. So now, nestled beneath the hills of Greensboro, Vermont, lie hundreds (soon to be thousands!) of wheels of cheese that are among the most delicious and exquisite in the world.

The first cheese to be moved into their caves to get the mold rolling was the Cabot Clothbound Cheddar (see picture above!) The wheels are made at the Cabot Creamery, about 15 minutes away from Jasper Hill, and then trucked up the road to the cellars at Jasper Hill Farm where they will spent the next 10 to 18 months luxuriating in the damp humid air, growing mold, and getting tastier with each passing day. And that's just the beginning. Over the next few months, more and more cheeses will be moved into the caves, ensuring a wonderful and delicious cacophony of queso for us to nosh. In addition to the Cabot Clothbound Cheddar, we've brought back some little mixed milk tommes and stinky goat cheeses from Twig Farm, and rich and buttery washed-rind cows' milk cheeses from Dancing Cow Farm, all aged at Jasper Hill. Which brings it back to you, cheese people. After the long Tuesday is done, I suggest you get yourselves over to the cheese counter to try a wedge or two fresh from the caves!

And just in case you need more cheesy fun for the weekend, the ever passionate Mark Bello, pizza guru and sometime cheese monger at Saxelby will be teaching a pizza making class this Saturday, January 26th. The class is a full day, including a market tour to shop for ingredients and a hands on pizza making class at Great Performances, a beautiful kitchen space in the West Village. For you pizza fanatics out there, you've met your match. For those of you who feel lukewarm about pizza, Bello'll make a believer out of you!

For more details visit www.pizzaacasa.com

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Grilled Grayson Sammies!

This Week at Saxelby Cheesemongers

Here Comes It!

Grayson and B&B's Grilled Cheese Hits Saxelby Cheesemongers... Hard.

So, I've been waiting for this moment for some time now. Seeing as Saxelby Cheesemongers is all of 120 square feet, trying to add one tiny piece of equipment is enough to be the straw that breaks the camel's back. Lucky for us, we've got a stalwart little camel of a cheese shop and have just acquired one new wonderful apparatus. A panini press. Yeah, I know that paninis are about as new on the scene as sliced bread, but still, the thought of grilling up some Grayson gets me going like we were the first folks to ever make a grilled cheese sandwich.

It all starts with Grayson. A pungent, beefy, washed-rind cheese from Meadow Creek Dairy in Virginia. The golden yellow paste and pumpkin-hued rind make it almost too pretty to grill, but then again, what could be prettier than the sight of a well-sated tummy after a good grilled cheese? So, we take our little slices of Grayson (cue in Food Network/Bob Ross style demo voice here...) and we place them ever so gingerly on a sliced Sullivan Street Bakery ciabatta. Now, I must confess... these sandwiches will not look 100 percent like the picture above... d'oh! We'll be using ciabattas instead of ye old pullman bread, but hey, this picture dates back to our first grilled cheese fest ever, Pickle Day 2006, and I thought it to be an appropriately fetching image.

Next, we pluck a few pickled pickles from Rick's Picks. Their sublime B&B's to be exact, which are bread and butter slices pickled with dried ginger and dried cherries straight from the northern climes of Michigan. For those of you who don't know, northern Michigan produces some of the best cherries in the biz, and they are absolutely phenomenal in this pickle mix, adding just a tiny bit of sweetness to offset the gingery kick.

Last but not least, we slather the bread with a little (ok, or not so little) butter from the Evans Farmhouse Creamery and it's time to ready, set, grill! Yikes. The smell of these sandwiches alone is enough to set off the drool reflex.

Insert huge asterix here*!

These sammies, though lovely and delicious, will not be on line until Tuesday.
I repeat, Tuesday!

So hold your horses just a little bit, and then break into a full out sprint for grilled Grayson and B&B paradiso.

Monday, January 07, 2008

Saxelby Cheesemongers Required Reading

This Week at Saxelby Cheesemongers

Saxelby Cheesmongers gets bookish this week with our list of required reading. It seems like there are a proliferation of food books out there, but some particularly inspiring ones spring to mind for you foodish booky folks out there. We all have our own particular favorites, and this list is by no means exhaustive, but these are some books that have provided me with much food for thought over the past couple of years. Pull up a chair and a good piece of cheese and nosh on some knowledge this week!

The Omnivore's Dilemma by Michael Pollan

For anyone who hasn't yet read this book, whoa. You are in for a treat. A whirlwind spectacular view of our current food system as seen through four separate meals. Mr. Pollan jumps from a McDonald's meal inhaled in the back of his car to a meal entirely foraged by him in his native Northern California. Along the way, he provides much insight as to how our food system works, and how our seemingly limitless choices in the grocery store today aren't so limitless after all.

The Cheese Plate by Max McCalman

The maitre fromager of Picholine and Artisanal speaks up, without the slightest twinge of snobbery, on the virtues of our favorite dairy-derived comestible. Cheese. This book is a real page turner (remember this is coming from a cheese geek), and takes the reader on a nice little ramble through the different styles of cheese, complete with historical anecdotes, and serving and pairing suggestions. The Cheese Plate doesn't read like an encyclopedia, rather it serves as a field guide and novel to some of the world's tastiest cheeses as seen through the eyes of someone who got hit, hard, by the cheese cupid's arrow.

The Taste of America by John and Karen Hess

Written in the seventies, I found this book very much by accident while combing the aisles of the Blue Smock Shop, a thrift store institution in the town where I grew up. The cover wasn't beguiling, in fact I have no idea why I picked it up in the first place, but man am I glad I did! This little book was my first glimpse into the wonderful history of American cookery and regional food traditions, and the systematic levelling out of said traditions over the past generation by strip mall food-ism and the taste bud-washing of industrial agriculture. Karen and John Hess write with biting wit and humor about the state of the Union's pantries, and what we, as eaters, can do about it.

The Atlas of American Artisan Cheese by Jeff Roberts

A thick and thorough guide book to our American cheese makers, from Alaska to Maine. Mr. Roberts chronicles each region of the country, profiling cheese makers and their farms. The Atlas is the perfect thing to throw in your car should you ever feel inclined to take a cheesy little trip of your own.

The Unsettling of America by Wendell Berry

An amazing treatise-cum-prophecy written by Mr. Berry in the seventies, when our food system was summitting the agribusiness Everest, so to speak. Berry argues for the preservation of the small way of doing things, from communities to farms to jobs. In a nutshell, Berry's vision of staying small maintains integrity because folks are held accountable for their actions and their actions' impact on the community and environment in which they live. Very potent and very inspiring stuff.

Happy page-turning, and don't forget the snacks. That's what we're here for...