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.

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

“Love looks not with the eyes, but with the tongue,
And therefore is fromage best sampled blind.”

– Shakespeare’s Midsummer Night’s Dream, adapted

Let’s get the disclaimer out of the way first: this is not an unbiased review. We first met Tia Keenan, mistress de fromage, virtually via Twitter. It was love at first tweet as we instantly sensed a kindred spirit in cheese. So when Jill and I realized the stars would align for us to meet midsummer in New York, Casellula was top on our agenda. On a night when the biggest and brightest of the professional cheese trade were in town, many also visiting this intimate cheese and wine cafe, Tia was a warm hostess and generous with her time and talent.

As cheese junkies, it is futile to ask what kind of cheese we like best. Would you ask a mother to name her favorite child? Well, right now we can, but that’s only because we each have only one. But back to the point, we prefer to do the asking when at a cheese shop or ordering a cheese plate, and our best finds are often those when we relinquish control and let the cheesemonger surprise us. This was certainly the case at Casellula, where we selected the New York flight as the most likely to contain cheeses we weren’t familiar with, and were delighted when Tia made a few adjustments for us. New York’s 3-Corner Field Brebis Blanche (so fresh!) and Red Meck were certainly delicious, but we were totally smitten with the Pipe Dreams chevre log and sweet pea puree pairing. Lazy Lady Farm’s Bipartisan, a fresh goat cheese ball dropped into a washed-rind cow’s-milk cheese, was a most welcome treat. The cheese plates Tia lovingly prepares are truly inspired, with pairings ranging from a typical mustard to pickled ramps and coconut macaroon balls.

While the rest of our trip was meticulously documented in photos, tweets and tasting notes, we declared ourselves off duty and simply savored our wine, cheese, plate of fresh anchovies with fennel and pickled shallots, blue cheese-laden endive salad and mouth-watering desserts. So we can’t tell you what wine we drank, other than that it was a lovely full-bodied white Czech tokai, but we can tell you that the parsnip cookies with Pipe Dreams chevre filling are simply not to be missed. Aside from that, entrust the wine suggestions and cheese selections to Tia’s capable hands, and you’re sure to walk away refreshed and inspired.

Casellula
Hell’s Kitchen NYC
401 W. 52nd Street
5pm – 2am, 7 days a week (reservations not accepted)
212.247.8137
Casellula Cheese and Wine Cafe on Urbanspoon