Monday, October 26, 2009

If Video Killed the Radio Star...

If video killed the radio star, then the old interweb revived it, zombie-like, and plunked radio down into another dimension.

This week's episode of 'Cutting the Curd' on the Heritage Radio Network was all kinds of intertwined. I interviewed Chris Gray, of Consider Bardwell Farm, about the unlikely intersections of cheese and rock and roll. For Chris, it wasn't a far leap from a career in beautiful music to a gig with farmstead cheese. The permutations that technology and craft are undergoing are mind boggling, yet sort of straightforward in the end. Mr. Gray loved music for it's independent, artistic, and expressive underpinnings. When the label he worked with for many years became co-opted by industry bigwigs, he was left in a little bit of a spiritual lurch. Suddenly the artists that he admired and sweated for for so many years were no longer 'viable' in that terrible, flattening, economical way that renders FM radio largely unlistenable today.

In an unlikely turn of events (oh, aren't the best things always so!!!) friends and fellow urbanites of Chris Gray and his wife Laura Brown bought a house in the podunk town of Pawlet, Vermont for weekend respites from the crazy life. Chris wended his way to Consider Bardwell Farm after a couple of innocent drives past the farm whilst weekend-ing, and is now a bonafide cheesemaker and professional farmers' market man/nomad/gypsy that would make the old world equivalents blush.

On the show, what began as a silly question ('Is there a connection between cheese and rock and roll? Beyond that British ex-Blur singer who now has a dairy??') soon evolved into a lively and deep discourse about the nature of craft. Where big business squelches the goodness out of cottage industries, new opportunities mutuate and create mutuality between lovers of homespun, authentic things.

The moral of the story? If the dairy industry killed the cheese as we knew it, the radio stars are ready to step in and take a (milk) stand. Listen in and see for yourself!

A side note worth your eyes' attention for one more minute this Monday morn. From here on out, Saxelby Cheesmongers has decided to feature one cheese per week at a special price to further the gustatory delight of fromage lovers across the city. This week's cheese has a special connection to rock and roll, as it's name was spawned by a classic Aerosmith song....

Mixed Emotions
(raw goat and cows' milk. Lazy Lady Farm, VT)
regularly $26.99/lb, now $20.99/lb

Laini Fondiller, our resident poet laureate of goat cheese, was inspired to name this cheese after making another called 'Sweet Emotions.' If the sweet one was all cow, surely the combination of the milks could be dubbed 'Mixed Emotions.' Our feelings on the cheese however are crystal clear! It is by turns sweet, musky and earthy, exuding an essence of freshly overturned soil and mushrooms. From the gray tomme style rind to the ivory interior, we're all kinds of infatuated.

Till next Monday, may cheese, rock and roll, and all the other arts inefficient by nature inspire you.

Monday, October 19, 2009

In the Wise Words of 'They Might Be Giants'

'Even old New York was once New Amsterdam... Why they changed it I can't say. Guess someone liked it better that way!!!'

Saxelby Cheesemongers at the New Amsterdam Market!
Sunday, October 25th
11:00 am to 4:00 pm
South Street between Beekman and Peck Slip
click here for a map

We at Saxelby Cheesemongers, agree with the immortal words of 'They Might Be Giants'. New Amsterdam is just fine by us! (No offense to the Brits reading this) Our great city has grown a lot since this here map was drawn, but that original market spot, just south of Wall St. (see ye olde dividing line on the map) stands as a testament to the commerce and trade that made New York, in the words of famed explorers, 'the key to the continent.'

There's plenty of comestibles and delectable sundry to be unlocked and gobbled this Sunday, October 25th at the second incarnation of the New Amsterdam Market. The first market was a resounding success; tables were heaped to the breaking point with piles of oysters, sinful sweets, robust meats, and wheels of cheese. This time should be no different... We're bringing along a brand new cache of cheese to whet marketgoers' collective autumnal appetite. From stout and caramelly sheeps' milk cheeses to sweet milky cows' milk tommes to tangy and silky chevres, Saxelby Cheesemongers is putting out the best of the best. Bike, walk, or subway it on down to the waterfront this Sunday and help make this New Amsterdam Market the best yet!

For more information on the market, including special events and a list of vendors, visit

See you this Sunday!

Monday, October 12, 2009

Community Rocks

Greetings and salutations this Monday morning from Saxelby Cheesemongers! Today's email isn't about the latest and greatest American farmstead cheeses, rather it aims to pay a bit of respect to the community of people who make this crazy cheesy world tick. From the farm to the table, there are a myriad of people at large in this community called cheese that make my life, and I'm sure many of yours too, very special. I'm going to aim to illustrate some of those concentric circles of community, in a much less elaborate (and hopefully more whimsical way) than Dante did.

The first and most important ring in that equation is you. Yes, you. Without cheese lovers out there willing to test their waistlines and brave the potential cholesterol-ic consequences of delicious dairy products (though I am not sure how heartily I believe any of those doctors claims... remember all those demonizing things they said about eggs back in the 90s?) my job would be pretty dang boring. The Essex Market is a testament to community that I live and breathe every day. And let me tell you, sometimes the trade winds are gentle and fresh smelling, and sometimes they are rife with pungent and unsavory storms. No matter what the weather, no matter what the mood, the market is a fantastic place to carry out our day-to-day cheesing. And you all make up the fabric of the shop, weaving together our collective dairy obsession. It's a good club to be a part of. And much tastier than a knitting circle.

Another spherical line can be drawn around our restaurants and chefs. Without their reverent support of farmstead cheese, American cheesemakers wouldn't be nearly as far along as they are today. Because chefs are willing to slice our native fromage up there with the best of the world, cheesemakers and their labors are given their just desserts. Where once it was rare to see an American cheese grace a cheese plate or roving cheese cart, it is now a common occurrence, and thankfully so. We should also thank them heartily for their non-cheese related work too... I for one, would live a much more ascetic life were it not for all the incredible edibles here in New York.

And now we come to the cheesemakers! Duh. The most obvious and crucial circle must be right on the farm. And I'm not talking crop circles. I'm talking groups of people like the Vermont Cheese Council and the New York State Artisan Cheese Guild, bodies that bring cheesemakers together to support one another, troubleshoot, and elevate their craft to new levels of gastronomic delight. Farms like Jasper Hill have taken their love of cheese to astounding heights, going so far as to build infrastructure (read: giant cheese caves) help develop and nurture the craft of cheesemaking through special on-farm workshops, enable young cheesemakers to get into the game, and to take care of the aging, packing and selling of some of Vermont's finest farmstead cheeses. This week on 'Cutting the Curd', my show on the Heritage Radio Network, I interviewed Mateo Kehler, owner and cheesemaker at Jasper Hill Farm about the vision and mission of this burgeoning bovine (ok, ok, and ovine, and caprine) community in Vermont's Northeast Kingdom.

Last but not least, there is the community of cheese sellers across the world. We were lucky enough to spend some time with many of them this past September at the Slow Food Cheese fest in Bra, Italy. Institutions like Neal's Yard Dairy in London, Herve Mons' caves in France, and the Cravero and Guffanti families in Italy are all working toward a common, singular goal: to keep good cheese coming to market, and to promote the agricultural patrimony behind that cheese. We may be the merchants, but I hope that we can also act as translators between the worlds and experiences between the pasture and the plate.

Till next week, love your community. It's where you're at!

Sunday, October 04, 2009

Pickle Day is Back!

Saxelby Cheesemongers join the LES Pickle Day!
Sunday, October 4th
11:00 am to 4:30 pm (we'll be pickling from 11:00 to 1:30)
Municipal Parking Lot just south of Delancey, between Essex and Ludlow

After traipsing around Europe for the past week and a half, it's good to come home to a local yokel gastronomic fĂȘte. The Italians may celebrate the truffle and the snail, but New Yorkers revere the grand cornichon. That's right folks, Pickle Day is right around the corner, and you better all be there this Sunday to munch on all of the fermented concoctions lining the streets of the Lower East Side! Saxelby Cheesemongers, Hot Bread Kitchen, and Rick's Picks are teaming up to give you a one-two-three punch of cheese, tortillas, and of course, pickles.

Pickle Day was started nine years ago by Nancy Ralph, director of the diminutive but fascinating New York Food Museum. Back in the day, the Lower East Side could have been paved with pickles (what a squishy, vinegary affair that would've been!) Ms. Ralph, being the resident culinary historian that she is, wanted to create a festival to pay homage to one of the city's favorite snacks. Each year, Pickle Day grows and grows, and this year has bubbled and fermented to take over the entirety of the parking lot just below Delancey Street between Ludlow and Essex. We'll be taking the early shift this Sunday, cooking up some love at the Rick's Picks tent from 11:00 to 1:30, so come on by and get some grub!

Rick Fields, proprietor and head goof ball behind Rick's Picks put it to us this year to come up with a tasty, savory something or other to show off his latest pickle, Handy Corn. And just what is Handy Corn, you may ask... Nothing more and nothing less than a delicious pickled corn relish: sweet, vinegary, and laden with that magic combo of aromatic spices that set all of Rick's Picks a head above your average gherkin.

For this year's Pickle Day, we decided that we'd pit corn against curds, smush it all between a coupla Hot Bread Kitchen Tortillas and make a quesadilla like none other. In a bout of recipe testing last night, the thumbs were all pointing skyward for this cheesy, toasty, pickley treat. Just in case you can't join us for the most mouth puckering celebration of the year, here is the key to making the perfect Handy Corn Cheese Quesadilla... Happy munching and hope to see you Sunday!

Saxelby Cheesemongers' Handy Corn Quesadillas

You will need:

1 8 oz container of cheese curds
1 package Hot Bread Kitchen corn tortillas
1 jar of Rick's Picks Handy Corn
a bit of butter

Toast tortillas in a dry, medium-hot skillet. Toast tortilla for 30 seconds, then flip and toast the other side. Put toasted tortillas on a plate and cover with a towel to keep them warm.

When all tortillas are toasted, butter your skillet, lay one tortilla down, cover with a modest (or not so modest depending on how cheesy you feel!) handful of cheese curds.

Spoon one generous spoonful of Handy Corn atop the curds and cover with second tortilla.

Toast quesadilla over low-medium heat (covering the skillet if you want meltier cheese quicker) one one side for about 1-2 mins. Flip the quesadilla and toast the other side.

Last but not least, sprinkle with a dose of Tabasco for a little extra kick!

If only all dinners were this easy....

Till next week! See you on the Lower East Side this Sunday for some fermented fun!