Monday, March 29, 2010

This Monday's email is a smorgaasbord of miscellany. A mixed bag, job lot, ragbag melange of all the happenings at and around Saxelby Cheesemongers. Tastings, events, radio shows, and new trinkets will all find their home in this Monday's email. So pick and choose and see (or hear!) what you like.

First and foremost, we are very proud to introduce our Saxelby Cheesemongers tote bag to the world! Check it out at saxelbycheese.com, or swing by the shop and pick up one of these little beauties. Now you can schlep your cheese in style!

After a little winter hibernation, we have a trio of fabulous events coming up and want you to come out and celebrate cheese, spring-style, with us! We'll be chewing the fat and talking cheese at Jimmy's no. 43, Back 40, and Beer Table in the month of April. Mark your calendars and stay tuned for more information as the weeks go by. Also, our Day A-Whey season is about to begin! More info on that VERY soon...

Tuesday, April 13th
Spring Cheese and Beer Dinner at Back 40

$55 per person, for reservations call Back 40

Chef Shanna Pacifico has created a four-course fermented feast, bringing Saxelby Cheesemongers and Chelsea Brewing Company to the same dinner table. Taste a spring selection of Saxelby cheese in all it's glory, from fresh faisselle from the Vermont Butter and Cheese Company to pungent melted Oma served up in a Back 40 tartiflette!

Tuesday, April 20th
Beer, Cheese, and MILKimchee at Jimmy's no. 43
$25 per person, for reservations call Jimmy's no. 43

Going back in the annals of culinary history, in the West, there wasn't much in the culinary world to rival the funk of cheese. In the East however, there was a little stinky pot o' pickle called kimchee. Join Anne Saxelby and Lauryn Chun of MILKimchee for three pungent, spicy, and inspired pairings of cheese, different varieties of kimchee and beer.

Monday, April 26th
Stinky Cheese and Stinky Beer at Beer Table
$35 per person, for reservations purchase tickets online or call Beer Table

Join Justin Philips and Anne Saxelby for five pairings of off the beaten path beers with odoriferous cheeses. We'll run the gamut from milder mannered to downright bawdy. We'll spin some yarns about the cheese makers and brewers responsible for these wonderful fermented foods.


So you want to be a cheese maker?! This week on Cutting the Curd, I interviewed Veronica Pedraza, cheese maker at Jasper Hill Farm, to get the skinny on what it takes to go from milk to curds and whey. If a 4:30 am wake up call followed by a day of cutting, stirring, and hooping curd sounds like your cuppa tea, or if you just want to be inspired by how tough cheese makers are, tune in! (and maybe if you're brave, sign up! Veronica manages the intern program at Jasper Hill Farm. Only the tough need apply...)

'Till next week, eat cheese and be merry!

Monday, March 22, 2010

Karma is a Boomerang

Karma is a boomerang. Those words were written on the tip jar at one of my favorite coffee sipping haunts. After staring at it for so many mornings, it stuck in my head, and I've come to think of it as one of the world's great truths. Funny where you encounter wisdom sometimes. Scrawled on the sides of mailboxes, stickered onto the crosswalk, watching some little kid do something funny.

Now I don't want to get too up in the clouds about it, but I do feel that there's something afoot. This past weekend I attended a conference in Sullivan County dedicated to connecting farmers with markets. And not just with the kinds of markets you'd think. Of course it's good for farmers to sell to shops like Saxelby Cheesemongers, but if we're going to feed everyone the good, real food that is part of our collective history over the past few millenia, we're going to need to reach out and stretch our arms and our aims a bit. We've been preaching to the choir long enough, and I guess our voices have started to carry because there are more and more business people out there who want to support good food. Call it what you want: local, regional, organic, sustainable, so long as its good, clean, and fair, its what should be on our tables.

At this conference were doers. Farmers, foragers, market and CSA organizers, and entrepreneurs of all ilks: from owners of tiny shops, cafes, and restaurants, to distributors and bigger supermarket chains that stretch across the tri-state area. Everyone there, and I imagine most other Americans out there want the same thing. To see our farmers and farmland thrive, to eat better and tastier food, and to re-create a community around one of the basic tenets of civilization: the table. It certainly won't happen overnight, but it's heartening to know that these go-getters are going out and getting more regional produce, dairy, meat, grains, beans, nuts, and fish. New connections are being forged, and new solutions are being created.

One of the main battles we face in doing this is of course, cost. But, on this Monday morning, after the historic passage of the health care bill, I think it's a good time to reflect on that. In the early 20th century, Americans used to spend upwards of 20% of their income on food, and virtually nothing on healthcare. Now, that ratio is the exact opposite. We only spend about 6% of our income on food, and about 20% on healthcare. As that boomerang wings and whistles around out there, it's an interesting thing to keep in mind.

'Till next week, eat cheese and be merry!

Monday, March 15, 2010

There's a New Cheddar in Town

Cheddar. For hundreds of years, it's been the world's number one cheese. What began as a humble, sturdy farmhouse cheese in rural England is now available in most parts of the globe and is revered by countless millions. In the old US of A, cheddar (along with fishing nets and various tools) was one of a short list of staples that settlers brought with them to the new world to ensure their survival over the long, hard New England winters. Cheddar was our nation's first official cheese, and it's easy to see why it registers as comfort food in most of our brains.

There's a new cheddar in town at Saxelby Cheesemongers, and we'd love for you to stop by and try it out! Shelburne Farm, one of our favorite Vermont institutions, makes a 2 year old cheddar from the milk of their Brown Swiss cows on the shores of Lake Champlain that is an absolute delight. Sharp as a tack, with a lively fruity flavor that tickles the tongue, this creamy white cheddar is the perfect thing for your grilled cheese sandwich, afternoon snack, or most decadent mac and cheese recipe. Mention this email at the shop for a 10% discount on your first chunk o' Shelburne cheddar this week!

Yesterday on Cutting the Curd, I interviewed Diana Pittet, a self-proclaimed cheddar-aholic, about the historic hows and whys of this iconic cheese. Diana has traveled the globe in pursuit of cheddar, from Tasmania to the Isle of Mull, and has culled an impressive block of knowledge that she was willing to share with us. Tune in as we tarry back and forth across the Atlantic, discussing how cheddar has changed over the years, and who is making strides to save, revive, or reinvent the world's favorite fromage.

Monday, March 08, 2010

British Brews, American Cheese, and Lady Mongers

Ah, the first tell tale days of spring in New York have arrived. Days when people throw open their windows, get the ghetto blasters cranked up good, and pour out into the streets to shed some layers and soak up some vitamin D. It's been a fun couple of days, and it shows no signs of stopping as we get into warmer weather, more tastings, and more trouble on the Heritage Radio Network. Yesterday on Cutting the Curd, I was joined by not one, not two, but four awesome lady cheesemongers from three cities on both coasts! We got into why we all fell into such a weird and cheesy profession, and shared some of our favorite (and most bizarre) stories from behind the cheese counter. Formaggio Essex was in the house with Ayse Gurdal and Brooke Little, Formaggio Kitchen from Boston was represented by Erin Tevlin, and Katrina Vahedi of Berkeley's Pasta Shop threw in her two cents about cheese on the West Coast. It seems like this show will be the first of many because let's face it, 30 minutes is just not enough time to get all those whoppers and tall tales on the air! Aspiring mongers, cheese heads, and just about everyone else will have a bit o' fun listening to this show... Check out the the archives at heritageradionetwork.com

On the tasting front, Saxelby Cheesemongers and Jimmy's no 43 have a deal for you that can't be beat. Next Tuesday night at Jimmy's no 43, we'll be offering a tasting of 3 beers and 3 farmstead cheeses for $10! We'll pair the best the Brits can brew with some fine American farmstead cheeses made in the style of those from the British Isles. Bring a bunch of friends, commandeer a table, and get a round of cheese and some tasty beer. Tag it on as a course after dinner, or just come for the cheese!

Saxelby Cheesemongers and Jimmy's no 43 present:
British Brews and American Cheese
Tuesday, March 16th
7:00 till we're out of cheese!
Three pairings for $10


Call Jimmy's to reserve a table at 212-982-3006.

'Till next week, eat cheese and be merry!

Monday, March 01, 2010

Late Winter Doldrums

This week's entry comes from a contribution I made to the New Amsterdam Public Market blog. Visit newamsterdampublic.org to learn more about this year's upcoming markets, as well as a special Winter Banquet, to be held on Friday, March 12th.



Looking at the invitation, which features a Pieter Brueghel painting of late winter, black bird sitting in a snow-dusted tree, I got to thinking about what this time of year is like on the dairy farm. A time I've referred to in the past as the doldrums.

Now, most of the farms that I work with are in the northeast, so the long hard winter is acutely felt. From upstate New York to Vermont to Maine, late February and early March is a time of nesting, a time of fomenting, when the bottled up pressure of winter cabin fever prepares to give way to the hooting, bleating, birthing insanity of spring. In my mind, that stark black bird is casting a knowing eye over the barn, looking down over the sleepy calm, knowing that springtime, and life are about to erupt within its walls.

Most people aren't aware of it, but cheese making is a seasonal thing. It is part of the economics of nature. At the crux of that economic system is the sun. Making milk is hard work for an animal. Just like us humans, calcium and other nutrients are leached from the mother's body to fortify the milk. Why would mother nature, in all her infinite wisdom, ask that a cow, goat, or sheep, try to make milk when there's nothing for them to eat in the pasture outside? She does no such thing. Instead, she bides her time, waits, incubates. All those swollen bellies side by side in the barn, chewing their cud, eating dry hay and grain, resting up for the big event.

Spring is a time of rebirth. Of kid goats, of calves, of lambs. The quiet winter barn quickly transforms into a non-stop, 24 hour a day nursery, full of fragile, then sturdy, beautiful, and extremely vocal newborns. The first flush of milk comes just as winter ebbs away, as the green shoots of grass poke their way up out of the earth again. The tide of new life stumbles collectively out into the sunshine, ambling namby pamby over fields and rocks, kicking and playing and eating and drinking. Milk.

We have to be patient. When the young are weaned, then the milk can be collected to make cheese. There is nothing sweeter or more refreshing than the first taste of a light, fresh goats' milk cheese after a winter's worth of dense, heavy cheeses that are fit for the fondue pot. We are what we eat. For the cheese lover right now, that means mostly dense, aged cheese of varying degrees of pungency. But there is that light at the end of the tunnel. I saw it today in Brooklyn out over the harbor. A more lingering sunset, full of warm purple and stark yellow. A promise of longer days, more sunshine, and green grass in the pasture. Perhaps a little bit like what the black bird saw on that winter day way back when.

Till next week, eat cheese and be merry!