TLC in NYC: a cave-aged artisanal selection from the affineurs at Murray's Cheese
Walk along Bleecker Street in Greenwich Village until you're standing on a glass window. Peer into the glass. If you see cheese, you've arrived at Murray's, a cheese lover’s destination since 1940.
That bird’s-eye view of the underground cheese cave is your first clue that we’re pretty passionate about cheese. Built seven years ago out of natural materials, each of our five caves re-creates a microclimate that helps preserve and ripen more than one hundred cheeses from around the world. We’ve gone far and wide to learn our homework when it comes to individual cheese care and affinage. This year we’re presenting Murray’s Cave Aged collection—a selection of cheeses aged below this city that never sleeps. Some wheels we bring in young and fully ripen them on-site; other cheeses we’ve selected from cheesemakers at a specific age and flavor profile; still others we transform in our caves with proprietary washes and treatments. For a sampling of some of the diversity and quality in our caves, order this amazing cheese plate collection, created especially for culture readers.
Quadrello di Bufala
Reminiscent of the classic washed-rind Taleggio, this newer version uses flavorful water buffalo’s milk for a twist on the Italian classic. Its creators, the Gritti brothers, have been making cheese for only six years. They defy Italian tradition by keeping their buffalo up north in Lombardy, as opposed to the southern region of Campagna, where it’s more traditional to herd buffalo. The humid environment of Cave 5 helps the Quadrello stay moist. Its distinctive grooved rind, a result of aging the cheese on straw mats, is washed regularly in water and flipped to prevent drying and cracking. At its peak Quadrello’s ivory paste tastes mushroomy and tangy, with a generous note of salt. Pair it with a bold Barbera wine or a funky, citrusy beer.
Champlain Valley Triple CreamCave 3 at Murray’s is bloomy rind heaven. Take one step inside and you’re surrounded by Loire Valley classics and new American favorites. One such is Champlain Valley’s Triple Cream, which we welcome in at one week of age and care for as the rind develops over the next ten days. We flip these cuties every couple of days to ensure even mold growth as well as proper airflow and moisture on each side. With this hands-on ripening, each becomes fluffy, buttery, and creamy—just right to pair with any sparkling wine.
We’ve got Stilton beat this season with an exceptional French cave-ripened blue—great with some pears and tawny port. Fourme d’Ambert is one of France’s most historic cheeses, having been made since Roman times. We bring this blue wonder into our caves when it’s very young, still somewhat crumbly and tart. The wheels spend a spa month in Cave 5, where they are regularly patted down, flipped to prevent collapsing inward, and brushed to prevent excessive mold growth or mite incursions. They don’t leave the cave until each wheel has a velvety mouth-feel and a voluptuous earthy flavor.
It’s the most wonderful time of the year . . . because Etivaz is in season. From spring milk that is hand- stirred in copper vats over an open flame, our Swiss Etivaz arrives around eight months later. We get these large alpine wheels settled into Cave 5. Flipped often to allow it to dry uniformly—and brushed to prevent mite damage—each Etivaz wheel develops a savory, concentrated flavor and tiny crystalline bites. It’s a tasty day in the caves when every wheel of Etivaz is sampled with a cheese trier to judge whether it has reached its peak. The wheels we select from the producer are chosen for deep fruitiness and a lingering note of smoke that comes from doing it the old- fashioned way. Enjoy this one alongside a fruity red.
Deena Siegelbaum loves cheese and works at Murray's in New York City
Photos by John Marolakos