I spent a few days this past week in New York… my fifth trip to Murray’s Cheese in the West Village this year and probably my twentieth since landing my “dream job” of spreading the curd throughout the Kroger Enterprise. This trip was an “Orientation” for new Murray’s Cheese Shops we will be opening in the next several weeks.
Included in our “Orientation” were Kroger Associates from the Atlanta Division, Mid-South Division and King Soopers in Colorado. Part of training when a new Murray’s Cheese is opening in Kroger is to bring the new Cheese Master and store management to New York to “experience” Murray’s; get to know the program and those of us who will be helping them on the ground in their stores. It’s a fun time and a great bonding experience for all of us.
We eat a lot of cheese and I had the pleasure of taking the group through a Cheese Plate 101: introducing them to some of the best selling cheeses in our Murray’s Cheese Shops:
When you are building a Cheese Plate there are a few “rules” in deciding the order of tasting and also in choosing pairings:
1. “Mild to Wild”: start with your mildest cheese and introduce your palate to the strongest cheese last.
2. “Things that grow together, go together”: when pairing, cheeses and other items from the same region usually pair well together.
3. “Likes together”. Pairings that have similar taste profiles usually work well together.
4. “Opposites attract”: Again, pairings that have opposite taste profiles work well together, such as sweet and savory.
5. 3 to 5 cheeses featured on your plate; you don’t want to overwhelm your guests and an odd number of cheeses plates “prettier” than an even number.
This is the cheese plate we shared with our new cheese friends:
I began with a French Double Creme; buttery, mild and creamy. The pairing was dried bing cherries from Michigan. The tartness of the cherries created a nice contrast to the mild brie. (“Opposites attract”)
Next on the plate was Allison Hooper and Bob Reese’s Fresh Chevre; tangy without being goaty. This is one of the first goat cheeses that I came to love. You can never go wrong putting Vermont Butter and Cheese Chevre on a cheese plate.
Following the Chevre we served Murray’s Branded Exclusive Young Manchego. In the past couple of years, Rob Kaufelt, the Big Cheese at Murray’s, has been traveling the world looking for special small batch/small producer versions of some of the great cheeses of the world and making deals to exclusively sell them at our Murray’s Cheese Shops in New York and Kroger. This DOP-Protected Manchego is one of them.
The Cat and I discovered early in our “cheese journey” that many of our favorite cheeses were made with Sheep milk. Manchego is made from the milk of the Manchega Sheep in the LaMancha Region of Spain. Rob scored this one from a small producer and it’s a winner… nutty with just a hint of sheep and a creamy finish that lingers. We paired the Manchego with Quince Paste and Marcona Almonds; both from the same region of Spain. (“Things that grow together, go together”).
Another Murray’s Cheese Exclusive was the Estate Gouda that we tasted next from the Kaamp Estate, one of the last family-owned Farmstead Cheesemakers in Holland. This cheese is made using Holstein-Friesian milk from cows that graze on clover, giving this cheese its name “Klaverkaas”. The father and daughter who make this cheese wash the rind with a caramel rinse which adds a sweet, custardy profile. And like the Manchego we tasted, you can only find this cheese at Murray’s… lucky us. Learn more by reading Spaulding’s review of this cheese.
The last cheese on the plate was Black Label Cambozola, a German triple creme cheese that is also a blue cheese (“Cambozola” is a blended word from “Camembert” and “Gorgonzola”). For those wary of blue cheese and fear of its strong flavors, this is a great “Gateway” cheese for an introduction to this family of cheeses; it’s mild, it’s creamy’ not too salty and the blue flavor is not pervasive like a Roquefort or a Stilton. It is cold-ripened in special caves and has a natural gray mold rind. We paired it with a wildflower honey… a bit of heaven on earth; the saltiness of the blue pairing perfectly with the sweet honey. (“Opposites attract”)