Even a Restaurant Girl can’t possibly dine out every single time hunger strikes. On that rare occassion when I entertain at home or get hungry during a snowstorm, I have a friend with a cheese addiction, who’s eager and willing to share her shopping secrets and teach us Cheese 101 every Thursday. So without further ado…
My name is Nadia and I’m a cheesaholic. Thankfully, I live in New York City – home to some of the best cheese shops in North America – so I don’t have to look far for my next cheese fix. Two of my favorites are Murray’s Cheese Shop and the newcomer Saxelby Cheesemongers in the Essex Market. People often ask me what my favorite cheese is, but I don’t like to pick favorites (between you and me, Spanish sheep’s milk cheeses are my biggest weakness, especially a ripe Torta del Casar — a tart and grassy springtime cheese that you can eat with a spoon).
If you’ve ever appreciated a grilled cheese sandwich or insisted on blue cheese with your buffalo wings, you’re probably a cheesaholic, too. Now that wasn’t so hard to admit, was it? Cheese shops can be heaven on earth, you just have to arm yourself with a few simple tools and you’ll shop like a pro. Never be intimidated, just follow these guidelines:
• Survey the layout. To be able to really navigate a cheese counter, you have to first figure out how it’s arranged. Like most, Murray’s Cheese Shop more or less organizes by style of cheese: soft, semi-soft, semi-hard, hard and blues are each in a section of their own. Soft cheeses are the least aged and tend to be mildest. Hard cheeses can range from crumbly Cheddar to a dense Parmigiano Reggiano. Other cheese shops may arrange by country, or even milk type (goat, sheep and cow). A mix & match strategy is key whenever you’re throwing together a cheese board at home.
• Talk to the expert. If there’s a resident cheesemonger where you’re shopping, take advantage and ask him to recommend his favorite cheeses. Ask a lot of questions. Tell him your favorite cheeses and ask what else you should try. Then sample the goods. All good cheese shops will give samples, which is a great way to shop for food (and get a free lunch).
• Cut to order. The best kind of cheese is always the freshly-cut kind (from the actual wheel), so ask for your cheese cut to order whenever you can. If you’re stuck with pre-cut cheeses (Whole Foods, Citarella, etc.), cellophane-wrapped aka suffocated cheeses, there’s no need to despair – it’s still cheese worthy of eating. Search for the most recent “last wrapped on” date, but steer clear of any that have been wrapped for over three days.
You alone are master of your taste buds. There’s a cheese out there for everyone – start looking for yours. Next week stay tuned for a quick shopping lesson on cheese accessories (crackers, breads and preserves). Until then, you can always visit me for cheese-centric recipes & recommendations at cheeseaholic…
CHEESE(Y) TASTING EVENTS –
Where: The Park
What: 6 Artisanal cheeses & 3 Park wines
When: Wednesday June 21
Tickets:(212)352-3313 ext. 211
What: Summertime cheeses & Telepan wines
When: Saturday June 24
For tickets: waldemar & nadia