Thursday, June 30, 2005

Murray's Cheese Fuels Little Marlins!

Behold the Murray's Marlins - our favorite T-ball team in NYC! Murray's has sponsored youth sports for the past 10 years and are very proud of them. Maybe it's the cheese that makes them strong and active. Way to go team!

Wednesday, June 22, 2005

Sasha Diaries Entry #2: Sasha Makes Her Pilgrimage to Mons

When I first met with Rob Kaufelt, the owner of Murrays Cheese in NYC, to discuss the possibility of running the cheese caves at the new Murrays I had one demand on my mind: training. After all- I had entered the cheese world in a fast and furious way by going from affinage intern to cave manager at the Artisanal Cheese Center (the other large scaled cheese maturing operation in the US, also conveniently located in New York City).

Rob isn’t someone who appreciates demands from anyone (not that most of us do). Lucky for me, before I got to bring mine up, he made it clear that to be the affineur at Murrays I would need training. “We would have to send you to Mons,” he said meaning Herve Mons of course, one of the most revered affineurs in France. I signed on.

In April, I took my trip to spend a full week working at Maison Mons. Herve’s caves are out in the country- about 20 minutes by car from Roanne a mid-sized city that is just an hour and a half northwest of Lyon. In a general sense, his facility isn’t so different from ours; he has a set up different “environments” (temperature and humidity controlled spaces) to suit the cheeses he stocks, there is a large production room for filling orders that go to retail shops and restaurants around the country, and he is conducting affinage. Same as Murrays, right? Upon closer inspection, I found that although it is only different in a handful of ways- the differences are important ones.

My expectations for the trip were that I would be learning a million specific affinage routines and tricks, procedures for receiving cheese and properly organizing our workspace. While I did learn a lot about all of those things, the more interesting and in some ways useful part about the trip was the opportunity to consider the reality and the future of affinage in the US. The best part about the trip was getting to discuss these concerns of logistics and even culture with one of the best affineurs in France.

Herve is probably the most efficient and passionate person I’ve ever encountered that was still normal and charismatic enough for me to genuinely enjoy his company. He is a living example of all the lists of the top ten things you need to do to excel in business. If he comes across a situation in his affinage where no tool exists to do what needs to be done, he designs and builds a new tool. Essentially he agreed with me that there is a tremendous amount of work to be done to make affinage a success in the US and yet he believes that it can be done... with good organization. The Herve Mons mantra is this, “Il faut que tu as des bonnes organizations”- it translates to “ You must have good organization.” Every time I would ask a question this phrase would weave its way into his response. And this would be so easy to mock except that Maison Mons is so successful and impeccable organization is so clearly the fundamental reason why.

So what are these important differences that make the world of cheese and affinage a different endeavor on this side of the pond? For starters Herve has about 75 cheeses on his order form at any given time; Murrays has 170 cheeses in our permanent collection and then approximately another 75 cheeses that rotate on and off the list seasonally. Mons also focuses exclusively on French products while we are sourcing and bringing in cheeses from all over Europe and the US. This means that Herve knows the maker of every product he carries and also that they are all arriving by truck having traveled a distance of 500 miles maximum- often by drivers he knows well or by his own delivery person. At Murrays we are bringing cheeses to our store by boat, airplane, and delivery services- many traveling thousands of miles to get to us. Some of the cheeses delivered to Murrays just from within the US endure a more taxing journey than that- i.e. 3,000 miles by plane followed by truck delivery. All of these challenges are compounded by the customs and FDA regulations.

These challenges could make the situation seem discouraging and I’d be lying if I didn’t admit that I was a tad jealous about the setup at Mons. I returned to our caves with a healthy balance of excitement and overwhelm that is so typical for me when I’m at the beginning of something big. There are big plans at Murrays to do more targeted affinage which could be things ranging from sourcing Cheddars that match a specific flavor profile to determining the exact age we would like to buy each cheese at and then working with cheese makers to arrange that. There is also an enormous possibility for us to work with American cheese makers to alleviate some transportation issues by sending cheese to us at younger ages (when things like delicate rinds are less vulnerable) and allowing us to bring them to maturity in our caves.

Stay tuned for updates from me on our affinage developments and hopefully reports on my “bonnes organizations”!

Sunday, June 12, 2005

Teri Lynn Paul - Murray's Sultry Chanteuse

Perhaps you've seen Teri behind the counter at Murray's but did you know that this talented cheesemonger is also a talented chanteuse during her off hours? Check out the latest reviews of her caberet show at The Encore:

Read her Back Stage review here:

Want to tap into her talents? You can email her at:

Tuesday, June 07, 2005

Sasha Diaries Entry #1: Sasha Davies, Murray's Affineur, Heads to Sprout Creek Farm

Honey, let’s get a kid.

This is what I said to my husband when I got home from Sprout Creek Farm. Not the human, the goat kind. At Sprout Creek Farm there must be about 15 of them, all less than three weeks old. I don’t know how the people there are still getting work done. I’m telling you that there is no cure for the when-will-spring-finally-come-to-new york-kind of blues like sitting down in a pen with 15 baby goats. You can see from the photo below that I was unable to keep up my cool exterior- I just look stupid happy, exactly like I was.

Although the baby goats were an unexpected highlight they were not the main purpose for my trip to the farm. I went for the cheese. More specifically, the cheese making and to spend the day making cheese with Brent the cheese maker.

Sprout Creek is an incredible place. It is on a beautiful stretch of 200 acres in Poughkeepsie New York and belongs to the nuns of the Order of the Sacred Heart. The farm is dedicated to education- they see 5,000 plus kids come through each year. Not only does this mean that the staff are all patient and generous in answering question after question but also that the majority of the animals are accustomed to high levels of human interaction.

So my old colleague from Artisanal, Tyler Hawes, and I kicked off Saturday morning by helping out in the barn. We milked some cows, pushed them out of the barn to graze on pasture, scratched under the chins of a few barn cats, and then shoveled poop. It had to be at least noon right? No way- just shy of 9:30am. After a quick clean up and clothes change we headed over to the cheese making room to work with Brent and his team of assistants.

The crazy thing at Sprout Creek is that they use one recipe to make three different cheeses: Toussaint, Ouray, and Barat. We were there at a very interesting time because the farm is considering changing from pasteurized to raw milk to use resources more efficiently. The pasteurizer accounts for 60% of the well water that they use on the farm. Switching from pasteurized to raw milk is an enormous change for a cheesemaker- the milk can act differently for all kinds of reasons including bacteria being present that are normally not there, and also things that may have been masked by heat in pasteurization (butterfat separation for example) can show up in the vat.

Brent was a terrific person to go through these changes with- he talked us through everything he was doing- from acidity testing to curd cutting. Of course we also did a fair amount of tasting- including some nibbles of the experiments they have going with goats milk- a new addition to the farm. Sprout Creek’s cheeses illustrate one of the more miraculous aspects of cheesemaking: the impact that size and shape has on the development of texture and flavor within a cheese. The Toussaint, Ouray and Barat all have distinct flavors and different textures- I encourage you to join me at Cheese Day on Saturday, June 11th to sample all of these cheeses and see the magic of milk happening on this farm for yourself!


Get Cheese Day details here: