we are definitely a cheese-loving family. j and i used to have cheese only dinners, and even now we sometimes resort to that when we are just too tired, or lazy, and i will say it is always a very very popular choice with the kids (though i think they just use cheese as an excuse for crackers but whatever). when we used to live in manhattan, we frequented all the major cheese players but we kept going back to zabar’s for consistently fresh, amazing selection of high quality cheeses (and this was in spite of the huge crowds and less than enjoyable shopping experience). murray’s cheese shop was good of course; but at least when they were in their smaller space, their selection was not as vast as it might now be, fairway was fine but not exciting, and dean & deluca was and is just over-the-top expensive. we also used to go to a small cheese shop that had been located on 9th avenue in the 40s that seemed to disappear a few years back.
since our move out to brooklyn, we have our own local cheese shops like stinky bklyn which we frequent. however, i have been tracking the manhattan cheese improvements and saxelby cheesemongers has been high on my list to check out. founded by anne saxelby in 2006, anne had previously worked for murray’s cheese shop as well as at cato corner farm (where she worked as a cheesemaker). for a great profile on anne see this interview by serious eats (oops, i see she loves lucali, oh well, maybe she’ll still let me eat her cheese).
back to the cheese. in addition to experiencing saxelby’s influence on casellula, i also stopped by saxelby cheesemongers recently, and i was a happy clam. first, i really love how local and seasonally focused the cheeses are — most are from farms in upstate new york, vermont and connecticut and a few other surrounding states. second, the range is really excellent from the super stinky to the more mild and creamy. third, the shop is tiny (really just a countertop within essex street market), service is great and the staff is infinitely patient with tastings. although the physical shop is small, saxelby’s has somewhere between 30 to 40 or so local purveyors at one time which allows for that range. some of the cheeses that appealed to me included the demitasse, which is a creamy, tangy mix cake of goat and cheese milk by lazy lady farm in westfield, vermont, the cabot clothbound cheddar by jasper hill farm out of greensboro vermont, and specially for j the maple smoked gouda made from raw cow’s milk by taylor farm in londonderry, vermont. i was also especially taken by the other dairy products. i took home with me a big chunk of cultured butter by evans farmhouse creamery which was delicious in a rhubarb pie, and if we lived closer i would be tempted to get their milk on a regular basis.
finally, it seems that anne has lots of cheese facts to share. in addition to what looks like a weekly cheese blog called the saxelby almanac (a recent post is all about summer appropriate cheeses), she also recently started to cohost (with nathalie jordie) cutting the curd, a biweekly program on heritage radio network. just wish i could download that as a podcast! saxelby cheesemongers, essex street market, 120 essex street between delancey and rivington streets, manhattan, new york, 212.228.2204.