For Your Next Holiday Party, Murray’s Cheese and Wine
By Jennifer Shanteau
Its officially party season, and what is easier and more classic than throwing a Wine and Cheese party? So where do we start? In New York, every time I speak of the magic of cheese, Murray’s Cheese comes up. Everyone knows it, and no one ever disputes that Murray’s Cheese in the village is the end all be all go to store for cheese here. It is every cheese lovers Mecca. Once about every five years, after having thousands of conversations about cheese, I find some poor slob who isn’t familiar with the splendor that is Murray’s Cheese. Shock instantly overwhelms me, and I am rendered speechless with horror. These are always non-foodies, for never ever have I met a New Yorker who loves food, and isn’t aware of this blessed palace. That’s how amazing Murray’s Cheese is.
Upon entering Murray’s, you find yourself surrounded by more types of cheese than your mind can fathom. They carry things most of us have never heard of. Your new favorite cheese is right there, waiting for you to discover it. The last time I sought out Murray’s Cheese was for my Thanksgiving dinner. I could think of nothing better than to begin or end the most important meal of the year with the best fromage I could get my hands on. When you go to Murray’s, always, always, always ask for recommendations. The staff is quite knowledgeable, and you are sure to reap the benefits of their experience.
This year, I wanted something different, something so special that I couldn’t get anywhere else. The Cave Aged Collection was recommended to me. It was everything I was looking for, exclusive, different and delicious. It comes in an adorable wooden box. Its really like receiving the best present ever. Inside the box is everything you need to throw a wine and cheese party, jam, crackers and four types of amazing cheese. It’s basically a party in a box……just add wine, which we did.
Let’s begin with the cheese. Inside the box was a perfect combination of cheeses: hard, and soft, mild and strong. The Cave Aged Collection included two soft cheeses. One was a creamy Valencay, a pasteurized goat cheese from the Loire Valley. Its definitely the most interesting looking cheese in the collection. Appearing in the shape of a grey pyramid, its not something you see on a cheese platter every day, and for sure a conversation starter.
The second was a buttery Champlain Valley Organic Triple Cream which reminded me of its well-known cousin brie, but way more interesting. It was the first of the four cheeses to be devoured, and my three year old daughter’s favorite. She shoveled it into her tiny mouth as fast as she could. One bite for you, one bite for me, and that is pretty much how it went until it was all gone. We may have shared a piece or two with everyone else, but the lions share found its way into our bellies. It paired perfectly with my favorite type of wine, Chardonnay. I don’t know if you’ve been informed, but all moms are required to like Chardonnay. My hands are tied. Though I typically choose chardonnay from Sonoma, Little Black Dress’ fruit forward version, with flavors of apples and pear, tasted quite wonderfully with it. In case you’re wondering, Little Black Dress also makes a very interesting “Diva Red” comprised of mostly Syrah and Zinfandel, and a lovely Rose that has a bouquet of peaches and strawberries. I tried all three of these bottles, and was quite happy with all of them. You really can’t go wrong. Now I think I’m going to have to try everything else they make.
The last two cheeses were hard, one made from cow’s milk and one from sheep’s. The Project X is a raw cow’s milk cheese which is coated in herbaceous fennel pollen and repeatedly bathed in Gewuztraminer from New York’s Finger Lakes, making it the perfect cheese to eat while sipping some white wine. An Alpine style white was recommended, and rightly so, but I found the Luna Nuda Pinot Grigio we had on hand was also delightful. As a side note, this particular bottle of Pinot Grigio is one of only two Pinot Grigios I like….its that good.
Last was the Hollander, a hard sheep’s milk cheese from the Pyrenees. I loved this one! It was the largest chunk of cheese in the bunch, so I had some left over to experiment with afterwards. Let’s just say, it makes for a really scrumptious twist on your classic Mac and Cheese. It’s very versatile. Along with the four cheeses came a box of Urban Oven Olive Oil Crackers and the best Blueberry Jam I have ever had. When the jar of jam was almost empty, I scooped a dollop of Talenti Tahitian Vanilla Bean Gelato into it, transforming it into an amazing blueberry gelato! Why I’ve never thought of doing this before, I don’t know. I don’t think I’ve ever liked a jam enough to be inspired so. I highly recommend you give it a try.
So, there you go! It’s a party in a box! During the busy holiday season, anything that makes life easier works for me. Murray’s Cheese is definitely my “go to” for both easy and interesting party food……just add wine.