My (L’s) birthday was on Sunday–21, finally! I went home to celebrate with my family that evening, so my celebration with C was scheduled for Wednesday. We decided to go into New York for a day of deliciousness.
Our original schedule was a bit…ambitious. We had planned on going to The Bagel Store, A.P.C. Surplus, Beacon’s Closet, F.S.C. Barbershop, Murray’s Cheese Shop, Angelica Kitchen, The MoMA, The Museum of Arts & Design, Lula’s Sweet Apothecary, and Counter. What actually happened was:
On our way to The Bagel Store, we decided that it would be ridiculous to not check out the Bedford Cheese Shop, so we popped in.
The Bedford Cheese Shop:
First of all, the store is beautiful. Carefully laid out, simple and rustic, but still elegant. I tasted a few incredible cheeses, and was tempted to taste a few salamis, but decided not to. C’s veganism was revealed (!) when he was offered a cheese sample, for which he received an admittedly spurious apology, ha-ha. I ended up purchasing a beautiful chunk of Colston Basset Stilton: incredibly buttery, with a clean bite. Attributing to its layered flavor profile is the use of traditional animal rennet (no longer used in any other Stilton production)…sorry, C! I wanted to buy at least three others, but remembered that later in the afternoon we would be stopping at Murray’s.
The Bagel Store:
Yes! The most amazing bagels. I had a poppyseed bagel (poppyseeded on BOTH sides, thank GOODNESS), toasted, with bacon and cheddar (WOW!) cream cheese. Couldn’t have been happier; couldn’t have asked for a better breakfast to jump-start this wonderful day. C had a plain bagel, toasted, with sun-dried tomato tofu cream cheese. Lady Gaga was playing in the background; perfection.
CLOSED! What a bummer. But upon this discovery we decided to walk down to the water and marinate in the view of the Brooklyn Bridge. On our way back up the street, we decided to duck into a very pretty store that neither of us had heard of: Moon River Chattel.
Moon River Chattel Mercantile:
BEAUTIFUL. Really gorgeous selection of home furnishings, from restored antique and vintage-inspired furniture to handmade french soaps to carefully selected books on gardening, decorating, art, and everything else, to handmade ceramics, to the most darling children’s toys. Lots of weathered wood, handblown glass, and antiqued metal. I wanted everything. We left inspired, and headed towards Beacon’s Closet. Lots of potential, but nothing fit. Oh, well! After that, we headed back up to Manhattan for a look at Self Edge to feed C’s fine denim obsession (comparable to my love of fine cheese?) and then onward to F.S.C. Barbershop for C’s haircut.
Today was just full of aesthetically pleasing establishments. F.S.C. Barber blew me away. And C walked out with a perfect trim; I didn’t think he could get any more handsome, but…! Oh! And while we were waiting for C’s appointment, we walked over to ‘Snice for a quick snack. Super-cute vegetarian restaurant with lots of vegan-friendly options to share. We got a quinoa salad with avocado, black beans, tomatoes, arugula…I don’t remember all of the ingredients, but I remember it was tasty! Topped it all off with a vegan apricot bar. Pretty delicious! Upon arriving at the barbershop, C and I realized that there was no way we would be able to make it to the MoMA or the Museum of Arts & Design, so we decided to go straight to Murray’s and then onto Angelica.
Murray’s Cheese Shop:
Oh, I could go on for hours…Murray’s is pure heaven for me! This was only my second time in the store, and even after having already experienced it, I was completely overwhelmed. Where to start? I just sort of stood at one end of the cheese counter, trying to absorb description after description of the most gorgeous cheeses until finally choosing one to begin with: Salva Cremasco. What a sight to behold! Firm and white, with a dark rind, this raw cow’s milk cheese was entirely unexpected. Murray’s describes it as, “Gentle, milky and herbaceous, with the slightest hint of a tangy finish…” and I would have to agree. The texture was creamy, slightly flaky, and I wanted it to stay on my tongue forever.
After that, I was offered something “between Camembert and Brie,” the name I can’t recall, and I responded, “Maybe…something stronger, please?” to which the Big Cheese responded with a taste of Gres des Vosges: a washed-rind, soft but not runny, pasteurized cow’s milk cheese that is part of the Munster family and for me sweetly recalled Epoisses. The texture was perfect, exactly what I wanted and expected upon looking at it: pasty, long…but not sticky. The flavor evolved, first an earthy saltiness, then a comforting round yeastiness, finishing warm and full.
Before I could even finish absorbing that, I was presented with a bit of Persillé de Malzieu–WHOA. I can’t believe I had never tried this cheese before! Murray’s calls it the “Roquefort Loophole” because its flavor is intensely similar but it is produced –just– outside of the Roquefort region–making it an inexpensive but equally delicious alternative to that beloved “Big R.” I don’t think I have the words for this one, so I’m just going to let Murray’s professionals speak: it definitely has what they describe as that “spicy, earthy kick of the silky, giving paste.”
Following this, I was given a sample of l’Ami du Chambertin–strong, sharp, intense, but so very buttery. A soft, soft cheese, ripening from the outside, there are parts so liquid you can only hope they’ll make it from the little wheel up to your mouth on the tip of your knife. I haven’t any good bread, but that’s what this cheese calls for. Something subtle but toasty to round out those fierce flavor-edges.
Finally, I asked to try (I really didn’t need to, I already knew it was going to be good) the Hudson Valley Red. This cheese is special–one, because it it absolutely divine, and two, because it is made at Twin Maple Farms in Ghent, NY by Doug Ginn, a Hampshire alum! Last semester our cheesemaking class got to take a field trip to Columbia County, NY, where we visited the Old Chatham Sheepherding Company and Hawthorne Valley Farm‘s cheesemaking operations, and finally, Doug’s small setup at Twin Maple Farms. We got to check out his Hudson Red before it even reached fromageries’ shelves! How could I not support a fellow Hampster? College connections aside, this cheese really is phenomenal. Washed rind, teeming with b.linens (the bacteria that are all over you but REALLY all over this cheese, giving it that stinky-feet aroma and pinkish-red hue), this cheese is dangerously easy to eat. Full of flavor, but as Murray’s describes it “without a shark-like bite,” Hudson Valley Red acts as a crowd-pleaser while standing its ground. A great cheese to end with. All in all, Murray’s was perfect.
Oh, Angelica! The farm I worked on for the past two summers, Blooming Hill Farm in Blooming Grove, NY, delivers their beautiful organic produce to this restaurant (among others) weekly. I was always impressed by the variety of vegetables and herbs that Angelica Kitchen ordered–they really took advantage of the more unique produce that we offered. Last night, I ordered their Dashi and Noodles. I have a weakness for hot brothy noodle dishes–definitely one of my favorite comfort foods–and this being Angelica Kitchen, my expectations were high. And rightfully so! The broth was perfect. Salty, earthy, sweet but only slightly, piquant, and bursting with umami. The noodles were fine, nothing to get too excited about, but pretty tasty. The vegetables were, of course, perfect…but the mushrooms, ohhh, the mushrooms. Those shitakes were divine. They were cooked exactly right; the texture was craveable. C had the tempeh Reuben–I had a bite; I don’t like caraway…yes, C, I could taste the caraway…but every bit was gobbled up, so I guess it was good! On to Lula’s:
Lula’s Sweet Apothecary:
Alright. So, this is the first post on The Vegan and the Cheesemaker, and since we don’t have our little bios up in the ‘About’ section yet, I feel the need to explain something quite obvious, given the title of the blog: C is a vegan; I (L) am an aspiring cheesemaker (an unlikely pairing). In the last blog I wrote, FoodUprooted, I wrote a downright rambling post singing the praises of butter. In other words, I’m not just ‘not vegan’, I am Not Vegan. I am -obsessed- with cheese. And butter. And ice cream–which brings us to Lula’s! Here’s what we got: 2 scoops, one mocha and one cookies ‘n’ cream, with hot fudge and a cherry on top. Entirely vegan, entirely homemade in-store…ENTIRELY DELICIOUS. I’m telling you, I love ice cream. And I think that I might have loved this stuff, too. The texture was exactly like that of top-quality ice cream. Dense, rich…velvety…I could not believe it. If no one told me the stuff was vegan, I don’t know if I would have guessed…it would have, at the very least, taken me a while. I mean, there is a certain creaminess (duh) intrinsic to real ice cream; a flavor that is unique to that milk-based delight…but I’d definitely go so far as to say that Lula’s treats are creamy. I was skeptical, too! But…flaws, I could not find. Lula’s is go, 100%!
I was searching the internet for a place in New York that might serve organic alcohol, since I just turned 21 and wanted to celebrate in sustainable style, when I came across Counter, which some foodie sites mentioned as having an incredible organic wine list. That would have been enough for me, but then: “Counter is honored by Wine Spectator for having one of the most outstanding wine lists in the world,” read a quote on the restaurant’s website. Wow. And to top it all off, not only do they have an incredible organic wine list, but all of their wines are organic, sustainably produced, or biodynamic. And they infuse their own vodkas! And their menu looked amazing…had I not filled myself with Dashi and Noodles at Angelica Kitchen, I would have ordered one of their flatbread pizzas. That being said, nothing stopped me from ordering (and eating most of) their pommes frites with harissa mayonnaise (yum!) and house-made ketchup (which I was psyched about, but…well, I could have done better).
The first glass of wine that I ordered was interesting. Incredibly earthy, almost mushroomy in that sense, and rich…but not what I would call a drinking wine. I would have enjoyed it more if I had been eating something meaty-savory with it. The second wine, however, which the bartender recommended to me after I expressed my desire for something sweeter, lighter…was perfect. Smooth and fruity (but not too fruity) and delicious enough to make me ask for another glass…I walked back up to the bar and said, “Can I just have a little bit more? I don’t need a whole glassfull…” moments later, the bartender brought it to me, only slightly less full than a regular glass would be, and told me it was on the house. Perfect. Absolutely perfect. I wish I remembered (or thought to write down) the names of the wines; when I find out, I will edit. I will definitely be going back to Counter–next time, for a little bit of food to go with my wine! Oh–and, only after I was halfway through their website did I realize that they are customers of Blooming Hill Farm, too! I usually make a point to try places that the farm delivers to, but this worked out on its own and I couldn’t be happier about that. What a way to end the day.
What an adventure! Both of our palates, vegan and absolutely-non-, were pleased beyond pleased.
I couldn’t have asked for a better birthday celebration, nor would I have wanted to spend it with anyone else.
A great start to The Vegan and the Cheesemaker!
-L (The Cheesemaker).