Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Cheese Lover's Romp through Soho

Mrs. Quicke's English cheddar and French Fourme d'Ambert from Murray's Cheese

Calling all cheese lovers. Ever wonder why some cheese is so stinky but still tastes mild and sublime? Or whether any local cheese farms have storefronts in Manhattan? Or just looking for an excuse to eat more cheese? Then the Institute of Culinary Education has a walking tour for you.

A selection of Consider Bardwell's award-winning cheeses
Led by local cookbook author and culinary historian Alexandra Leaf, 'A Cheese Lover's Romp' this past weekend was a 4+ hour tour through the West Village and Soho where we sampled everything from freshly made mozzarella (still warm) to velvety Fourme d'Ambert, one of France's oldest blue cheeses dating back to Roman times.

As we sampled away, we also learned the basics of types, terrior, storing, and serving methods.

The tour started at venerable Murray's Cheese on Bleecker St., NY's oldest cheese shop, and culinary treasure trove.

Next up was the Abingdon Square farmers market stand of Consider Bardwell, a charmingly named Vermont farm, whose award-winning handmade cheeses work with the seasons.

Nostalgic Soho institution
Try the Mettowee fresh goat cheese - mild and cream cheese-like, available now through October. Look out for Bardwell stands at the city's many farmers markets, or at some of the country's finest restaurants including Per Se and Napa Valley's French Laundry.

Tiny Joe's Dairy on Sullivan St. was easy to miss until we tasted the handmade fresh mozzarella made before our eyes. Soft, creamy and unforgettable. And a walk back in time.

Joe's Dairy fresh mozzarella - a tour highlight 
Valley Shepherd Creamery, also on Sullivan St., is new to the neighborhood. The NJ-based farm recently opened up its first city store in Soho and sells a variety of artisanal cheeses from its 700 sheep, cows and goats. It also sells yogurt, gourmet products and pour-it-yourself olive oil. Sign up for cheese making classes at the creamery.

I fell in love with the Nettlesome, flecked with bits of nettle, giving it a slightly pungent taste, and perfect for grilled cheese sandwiches.

Indulge in a selection of more than 20 cheeses
A few doors down, our final stop was newcomer Ba'al Cafe + Falafel for its feta and basil flatbread drizzled with olive oil. Delicious!

Ba'al Cafe's delicious za'atar and feta flatbreads - a steal at $3
We left in a cheese coma and a sense of pride in the amazing quality of American artisanal cheese today.

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