July 2009

While we may be done recounting our New York cheese tour, I’m not quite done with New York yet. My cheese of the week, Ouray, is New York born and bred. Well, I guess “aged” would be the proper term, right?

Ouray is one of the many raw cow’s-milk cheeses created at Sprout Creek Farm, a 200-acre farm in Poughkeepsie that also serves as an educational center for kids and adults interested in learning more about farming and environmental stewardship. The milk for Sprout Creek Farm cheeses comes from grass-fed Jersey, Guernsey, Milking Shorthorn and Brown Swiss Cows, and the cheeses are made following European artisan tradition. The Web site features a step-by-step photo gallery of the cheese-making process, a practice more cheesemakers should adopt for us nosy cheese lovers.

Upon tasting Ouray, it’s obvious that the milk comes from grass-fed cows because the grassy, almost floral flavor is very prominent. The cheese has a lightness to it that is very pleasing on a summer evening, but its saltiness keeps it from being so light that its flavors disappear from your palate within a few seconds. Try it with a Cabernet Sauvignon and some apple slices for snack, or add a green salad and bread for a light dinner.

Special thanks to Benjamin at the Cheese Shop at France 44 (and the St. Paul Cheese Shop) for his help in bringing Ouray to Minneapolis for me!

While the official cheese tour may be over, I have one final cheese purchased in New York to share this week, the Italian Fiore Sardo. We purchased a hunk of this crumbly, hard cheese at Stinky Bklyn, and greeted it again at the Fancy Food Show where it was displayed in all its full-size glory.

Fiore Sardo is a pecorino hailing from the island of Sardinia, a D.O.P.-protected, raw sheeps’ milk cheese with a dark rind. It is flaky, sharp and salty, with the fragrance of a fruity olive oil and a little smokiness. It would be wonderful grated on some hot pasta — in place of the ubiquitous pecorino romano from your grocery store, perhaps — or is perfectly suited to snacking. It is yellower in color and fruitier in flavor than the Pecorino Foglie, which hails from cooler northern Italy, and the two are an interesting illustration of the variations one can find even among cheeses of the same type.

The fourth and final installment in our New York Summer ’09 cheese tour — though we’re already counting down to our next visit.

I actually heard about Barnyard first on Twitter, and made a mental note to add it to our chzday09 adventure. When we staggered across town from Murray’s to Barnyard’s front stoop, we were frankly a little tired and cranky and more concerned with resting up for dinner than with looking at yet another cheese case. So we were almost relieved when we didn’t spot any cheeses from the list that we hadn’t yet sampled. Had this been our first stop of the day, we likely would’ve spent more time chatting with the friendly staff in this inviting, yet cozy, neighborhood shop.

While the selection was not abundant, Barnyard did have a noteable array of  foreign and domestic picks that ranged from the classics (Beemster, Roquefort) to newer and regional choices (Roaring 40s, Consider Bardwell).

They also make (and deliver!) fresh deli sandwiches and soup, and offer all the critical cheese complements from olives to crackers, plus some farm fresh eggs and meat products in the deli case. While I may not make a special trip over just to visit the shop, I’ll be certain to poke my head in should I find myself in the neighborhood. And if you’re in the neighborhood, be sure to peak around the corner at their affiliated wine shop for something else to take home with your cheese.

149 Avenue C
Alphabet City
New York, NY 10009
212-674-BARN (2276)
open daily, check website for hours
Barnyard on Urbanspoon

Despite our patriotic leanings, one of the good things about undertaking the Wine Spectator 100 challenge has been taking the time to meet or get reacquainted with classic European cheeses. Unfortunately, our local cheese shops tend to share our pro-American bias, so some of the Europeans on the list have been harder to come by. As Jill mentioned, Portuguese cheeses have been particularly hard to find, so we were lucky to find Nisa at Stinky Bklyn on our chzday09 adventure. This lovely Italian cheese, Pecorino Foglie de Noce, we picked up at Murray’s for that photo shoot in the park:


thats it, work it...

that's it, work it...

(That’s the pecorino on the right, gabietou on the left.) Incidentally, while labeled foglie de noce in the shop, online Murray’s lists this cheese as “foja de noce.” A traditional raw-sheep’s-milk pecorino, this hard cheese is crumbly but not sharp, sweet and lightly salty, with muted grassy, earthy, almost woodsy notes from the walnut leaves the cheeses are layered with to age, after being “bathed daily” for three weeks. It has just a bit of the trademark oiliness of  sheep’s-milk cheese, but smooth-flavored all around.


A lovely cheese for snacking, I took this one on a second picnic date with my son where we enjoyed the leftovers with some fresh-picked Virginia raspberries and blackberries. I’m thinking it would be a great dessert with some sweet wine and yes, lots of summer berries.

Colleen and I ate a lot of goat’s-milk cheese while we were in New York, and one of our favorites was Chabichou du Poitou. We picked it up at Murray’s and enjoyed it in the nearby park where we staged our outdoor cheese photo shoot. Remember, this was Pride weekend, so a cheese photo shoot was likely the least unusual sighting in New York that day.

A relatively young cheese (aged six weeks), Chabichou must be made from pasteurized milk to be imported to the United States, and I can’t say the pasteurization detracted from its taste. Though it had the typically goaty smell, the paste wasn’t too goaty. Instead, it was firm and chalky with notes of flowers and grass. Chabichou is AOC-protected, which guarantees that the cheese you by with this name will have come from the Poitou region of France. It’s a good cheese to seek out if you don’t think you like goat cheese – its clean flavor may convert you!

Of course, wines from nearby Loire Valley would make an excellent match for Chabichou. Artisanal recommends Pouilly-Fume, Sancerre, Muscadet and Sauvignon Blanc. The more the cheese matures, however, the more likely it would pair well with a red wine.

The third in a series of tasting notes from our New York Summer ’09 Cheese Tour. Though chzday09 actually took place on Sunday, June 28, Colleen and I did a practice run, so to speak, in Brooklyn the previous day. After spending some time at the Brooklyn Children’s Museum with the extended dccheese family and feasting on pastrami at Junior’s Deli, we made a quick stop at Stinky Brooklyn before I headed into Manhattan and Colleen went to the No Doubt concert at Jones Beach (lucky!).

A slip of a shop in the Carroll Gardens neighborhood, Stinky Brooklyn nonetheless packs in a large variety of cheeses, meats (you can’t miss the selection of hams with hooves still attached) and all the classic accompaniments into its four walls. While the bus of visiting cheesemongers in town for the Fancy Food Show made the shop very crowded, we managed to squeeze our way in to pick out a couple of cheeses from the Wine Spectator list that we had yet to sample. Colleen and I usually like to take time to chat with the cheesemongers, taste a few (or several) cheeses and poke around the non-cheese items, but the volume of hungry customers made it impossible this time. Hopefully, we’ll make it back another time for a more leisurely visit and tasting session.

We were excited to see one of the two Portuguese cheeses on the list at Stinky Brooklyn – Nisa, a raw sheep’s-milk cheese made in the country’s Alentejo region. A creamy, yeasty cheese, Nisa seemed lighter than the Gabietou, though it had a similar consistency. We noticed a less pronounced “sheepiness” (i.e. oiliness) to the cheese but still enjoyed its drier texture and herbaceous flavor. Being Portuguese, Nisa is a can’t-miss match for Port or a light-bodied red wine.

As someone who attempts to eat mostly locally, particularly during the summer months, I generally look the other way when purchasing cheeses shipped by plane, train and auto across the Atlantic or from the West Coast. Sure, I have plenty of fine, local cheeses to incorporate into my weekly all-local meals, outside of the scope of our “100 Great Cheeses” list. But as the French national holiday Bastille Day approached, I began to wonder, is there anything France can do that we haven’t tried in the US? Would an all-American cheese and sparkling wine tasting leave us wanting something more?

With the grudging assistance of my cheesemonger, aghast at my proposal of “ignoring 2,000 years of French cheesemaking history,” I assembled four all-American cheeses made according to French recipes:

  • Jasper Hill Farm‘s Constant Bliss (Vermont), made in the raw-milk tradition of chaource but with only the uncooled evening milk of their Ayrshire cows, this rich, buttery cheese seems like a double- or triple-creme, and pairs perfectly with a sparkling wine.
  • Roth Kase‘s Grand Cru Gruyére Reserve (Wisonsin), another raw milk pick, is as smooth as any French gruyére, with fruity, nutty notes. I loved this with the chocolate and both the bubbly and beer.
  • Sartori Raspberry BellaVitano (Wisconsin) is a cheddar-textured cheese soaked in New Glarus Raspberry Tart Ale for a decidedly American flavor. As smooth as a comté, the added berry tang makes this a nice match for sparkling wine.
  • Salemville Amish Blue (Wisconsin) is a very mild, sweet buttery blue that would not be my first choice among American blues. It was actually almost too sweet for the ale, but was mild enough not to overpower the sparkling wine.

I paired the cheeses with homemade pickled sour cherries (following a French recipe), Taza Mexican-style chocolate from Massachusetts, Thibaut-Janisson sparkling wine from Virginia, and Southampton Abbot 12, a Belgian-style ale from New York. Not exactly a 100-mile cheese board by any means, but still entirely sourced from the Eastern half of the United States.

The Constant Bliss and Thibaut-Janisson were just as sweetly matched as chaource and champagne, while the more sweet than tangy American blue was more appreciated by the blue cheese-adverse than those of us with a weakness for Roquefort. All in all it was a solid showing by the Americans. And what did we eat following the tasting? All-American buffalo dogs on the grill and a cherry pie for dessert. Vive la Revolución Américain!

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