Monday, March 30, 2009

Ahoy Landlubbers! Here Come the Pearls from Maine



Just one look'll tell you this ain't your typical pearl, though they do come from one of the most oyster-ridden states in the union. From the great state of Maine to your dinner table come Saxelby Cheesemongers' very own land lubber Pearls; delicious little cheeses made from a mix of goat and cows' milk and steeped in the most American of all spirits, good old fashioned bourbon. The wholesome part comes from Maine, and the bourbon part, well, we're guilty of committing that measure of corruption. Eh hem. I'll explain myself...

Spring has truly sprung in the cheese world, and these Pearls are here to prove it. For the past three weeks, as we New Yorkers have been groaning and kvetching about the cold weather, Barbara Brooks and her girls (the goats that is...) up at Seal Cove Farm have been going like gangbusters. If you think a walk to the subway in the snow is tough, try birthing over 200 kid goats in cold and blustery coastal Maine! Spring is certainly one of the most interesting times on the farm, as mother nature hits you a one-two punch of weather and hormones. First she smacks you with one last wallop in the weather department, and just to add some flavor, she elbows you in the gut with birthing (kidding, lambing, or calving) season.

All that craziness is truly worth it, and these little Pearls are a testament to the richness and decadence of spring milk. Barbara shipped our first installment about a week back, and we set about ripening them immediately. Our own little touch (the corrupting part) was to take these fresh, creamy cheeses and wrap them in grape leaves which we'd steeped in spicy, caramel-esque bourbon. As the Pearls ripen, they develop a thin and wrinkled bloomy rind and get gooey right down to the core. The overriding flavor is certainly fresh, tangy, and light... all the things we love most in a delicate goat cheese. The bourbon however, adds a bit of subtle spice to the mix, infusing the cheese with a heady aroma that brings out the more musky qualities of the goats milk. As it turns out, cheeses, like people, get a little more brash with a liberal dose of bourbon.

Monday, March 23, 2009

A Monday Smorgaasbord

This week, we've got a small circus of things to report. From cheese paired with various libations to goat cheese superstardom, it's all here. Unfortunately, our tightrope walker canceled on us, but we'll keep trying him for one of these weeks coming up...

First, the goat starlets...



Our very own Nettle Meadow Farm, makers of the delightfully sinful Kunik, are going o be featured on the new Food Network show, 'Will Work for Food' next Monday, March 30th, and again on April 5th. Check out the calendar at saxelbycheese.com for air times. Nettle Meadow, a beautiful and rustic creamery nestled in the southern Adirondack state park, is as unlikely a cheese story as your bound to find. Started by Sheila Flanagan and Lorraine Lambiase in a zany online real estate transaction from California, Nettle Meadow has blossomed into a 24 hour a day, 7 day a week cheese operation. Kunik, their signature cheese, is a rich triple creme crafted from the milk of their herd of goats and spiked with a bit of Jersey cream from a neighboring cow dairy. See what it takes to be a cheese maker and goat herd! Who knows, you might get bitten by the farmstead cheese bug and want to try it out for yourself!

Second course of the smorgaasbord...



Send some cheese to somebody you love! For the month of March, Saxelby Cheesemongers presents The Malt and the Mongers, a special selection of cheeses perfect for pairing with yummy craft beers. The $39 selection features three of our most brew friendly cheeses: Harpersfield with Ommegang, Cabot Clothbound Cheddar, and Bayley Hazen Blue. Check out saxelbycheese.com for more information and mug shots of delicious cheese.

And last but not least! Some icing on the cake...


For anyone who's thirsting for some good cheese, good wine, and tall tales, Saxelby Cheesemongers is teaming up with Discovery Wines for a tasting on Sunday, April 5th. We'll taste seasonal cheeses made in this period of flux between winter and spring, and discuss how seasonality and terroir exist in the cheese world too!! Some of our heartiest winter cheeses, especially those made from sheeps' milk, are nearing their twilight for the year. On the other hand, the goat cheeses are stirring... and we'll be more than happy to eat them! For reservations ($45), call Discovery Wines at 212-674-7833.

Monday, March 16, 2009

Calling All Grayson Lovers!



The Ides of March. Stinky Cheese. What the heck do these two things have to do with each other? In the world of Grayson, our beloved odoriferous cheese from Meadow Creek Dairy, they have quite a bit to do with one another.

When most people think of the Ides of March, they think of the unfortunate death of Julius Caesar way back when. At Meadow Creek, however, the Ides means something a bit different. In Rome the date was marked by a sense of conspiracy, chaos, and a general sense of tumult. At Meadow Creek Dairy, located in the Blue Ridge Mountains of southwestern Virginia, the tumult is more of the moo-ing variety as their herd begins the yearly ritual of calving. This mid-March day also marks the beginning of the end of last year's production, and the promise of buttery young cheese come summer.

Meadow Creek Dairy is one of the only purely seasonal cow dairies that we at Saxelby Cheesemongers source cheese from. Goats and sheep, as I've mentioned in previous missives, are both pretty stubborn when it comes to breeding and giving birth to their young. Mother nature made a schedule, and they're sticking to it. Cows, however, are a bit more malleable, and most herds are milked year round as different groups calve at different times of the year.

Not so at Meadow Creek Dairy. One of the basic tenets of Rick and Helen Feete's farming philosophy is making cheese that is based on pasture. That means that they only make their succulent raw cows' milk cheeses when their ladies (er, lady cows that is) are outside eating grass, from about late March until November or December. The theory being that grass-based cheese is inherently better: better for the land, as the cows move from pasture to pasture enriching the fields as they go, better for the farmer as they don't have to be as reliant on grain and feed purchased from other sources, and better for the cheese because it is imbued with the subtle complexity of flavor bestowed by the native grasses of Virgina's Appalachian mountains.

And before old Caesar had to go and get himself whacked, the Ides had a different significance... the day marked a festival to the Roman god Mars, who had the distinction (among other things) of being the deity protector of cattle, fields, farmers, and fertility. Seems to be right up our cheesy alley!

So it's time to celebrate the rich and often quite rank wheels of Grayson that were made late last year. The cheese has reached its pungent crescendo, and we've got a nice little cache of it in the cave at Saxelby Cheesemongers. In just a few short weeks it'll go on its yearly hiatus as we wait for the new spring wheels to ripen. So come on it and snatch some up to melt over potatoes or make yourself a damn good cheese sandwich.

For more pictures of Meadow Creek Dairy, visit saxelbycheese.com and click on our 'Say Cheese!' photos link. Until next Monday... eat cheese and be merry!

Thursday, March 12, 2009

The Malt and the Mongers



Just in time for St. Patrick's Day, Saxelby Cheesemongers Presents...
The Malt and the Mongers!
$39.00 plus shipping
(includes three half-pound wedges of cheese)

To the Irish, a tall pint of beer is like mother's milk. We couldn't love the lactic comparison more! Go truly green this St. Patty's day with a selection of farmstead cheeses from Saxelby Cheesemongers! Try out our beer pairing guide or match 'em up with your favorite local brews and you've got yourself a party. Each selection includes three half-pound wedges of our most beer-friendly fromage: Cabot Clothbound Cheddar, Harpersfield with Ommegang, and Bayley Hazen Blue. We've heard that in addition to being delicious, the proper ratio of beer and cheese can also ward off those pesky Leprechauns...

Cabot Clothbound, the sweet and grassy wunderkase from Jasper Hill Farm and Cabot Creamery is a perfect match for India Pale Ale style beers like Dogfish Head's 60 Minute IPA. With aromas of pine needles and fresh cut grass, a sip of this IPA is like a taking a deep breath in the middle of a Vermont pasture. The sensuous earthy notes in the cheese go toe to toe with the biscuity, maltiness of the IPA.

Harpersfield with Ommegang has a leg up on this pairing! Harpersfield is made just down the road from Cooperstown New York, home of the Ommegang Brewery. The new wheels of cheese are steeped for a week in frothy fermented goodness. The bright and lactic cheese has a decidedly yeasty rind, and cozies up just right with the warm, spicy flavors of a toasty Belgian-style beer like Ommegang's Abbey Ale.

Bayley Hazen, the rich and brazen blue from Jasper Hill Farm boasts a sweet and savory meld of flavors, touching on rich dark chocolate, toasted nuts and a wee bit of barnyard. Throw it in the ring with a dark and heady beer like Brooklyn Brewery's Black Chocolate Stout. The dark, bittersweet flavor of this Imperial-style Stout can stand up to beautifully to the strength and complexity of the blue.

To place an order, visit saxelbycheese.com. May the luck of the Irish shine upon you and your St. Patrick's Day cheese plate!

Monday, March 09, 2009

The Old Brabander and Other New Cheese

The Old Brabander and Other New Cheese

It's about time we rolled out the red carpet for a few new cheeses at Saxelby Cheesemongers. It's been a while since we chronicled any of our new arrivals, and they seem to have sprouted up like mushrooms. We're working with some new farms and other of our tireless cheese makers just keep coming up with new innovations which we most delightedly munch on. So take a gander at what's new and stop by for a bite or two!

Brabander
(Raw cows' milk. Fallsdale Farm, PA)
This one might be a little rough for first thing Monday morning... A piquant, sharp, brass tacks cows' milk cheese with a musty cave-aged rind from the Pocono region of Pennsylvania. Brabander is made from a mix of Jersey and Guernsey milk that Dick and Carol Barrett source from select local dairy farms and aged anywhere between 4 and 12 months, garnering more gumption and bite as it goes. Each petite wheel literally embodies the word sharp, leaving a bright zesty zing on your palate long after the cheese is gone. Cheese thrill seekers, meet your match!

Smokey Ricotta
(Pasteurized cows' milk. Salvatore Brooklyn, NY)
Smokey goes down the mountain and into the fridge at Saxelby Cheesemongers. And if you play your cards right, we might just let you have a little bit of it. Salvatore Brooklyn Ricotta already crafts the richest, most delectable thing going in the land of fresh curds and whey, but cheese maker Betsy Devine felt that she had to up the ante and go for smoked. The result: a fabulous, rich and heady cheese, with a sultry scent of cherry wood smoke and an incredible loop de loop of flavor. Try it with a dollop of honey and fresh ground black pepper for a crostini to drool for.

Fuzzy Wheel
(Raw goat and cows' milk. Twig Farm, VT)
Hooray! The first batch of fuzzy wheels have rolled into town with a load of late winter cheese from the Cellars at Jasper Hill Farm. These fuzzies are still young, but are ripening and musk-ifying with each passing day. By week's end, they'll be absolutely prime, the perfect balance of buttery silken cows' milk and low down, goat goodness. The Fuzzy Wheel gets its name from the signature mold that grows on the outside of the cheese as it ages... something the French affectionately refer to as poile du chat, or in American, cat hair. Yum. Don't let the name fool you though. The beloved poile du chat is responsible for ripening some of France's most noble cheeses, including St. Nectaire, lending robust and earthen aromas and flavors.

Tuesday, March 03, 2009

In Like a Lion, Out Like a Lamb

I guess cheese mongers should be like the post office, writing emails through rain, hail, sleet, and snow, but during yesterday's storm my dang computer just wouldn't cooperate with me. After a morning of internet badness and watching kids and dogs frolic around and be generally insane out my window, I decided to chuck the project and head out to get a little snowy myself.

On this crispy and cold morning, I hope everyone is enjoying the snow (or whatever weather you might be seeing today) and relishing what with any luck will be the last dregs of winter. As the old saying goes, March has come in like a lion and (fingers crossed!) will go out like a lamb. In the world of cheese, that saying has double significance. Though we don't have any lion cheese (I double dog dare the farmer who wants to try that one), from right about now through the end of the month, we're entering what in the farming world is referred to as lambing or kidding (if you've got goats) season.

Sheep and goats are seasonal breeders, meaning that they like to breed in the fall, as the days grow shorter, be pregnant all winter long, and give birth in the springtime, when the promise of new grass and long summer days looms on the horizon. When goats and sheep first have their young, they are nourished from their mothers' rich, thick milk which is called colostrum. Generally after a few weeks nursing with their mothers (or in the case of some farms, like Three Corner Field Farm, who keep their lambs with their moms for a good couple of months) the young are weaned and the milk begins to be used for cheese making.

So when the lambs come out (quite literally) at the end of the month, it means that there'll be fresh cheese on the horizon... Which, on a chilly late winter morning, gives us all something to look forward to!