Cheese 106-Tarentaise AND a field trip to Murray’s cheese

I have just returned from an epic trip to the East Coast of the USA, specifically New York and Washington DC. I’m sure you know what was on my mind…cheese! What goes better with a Big Apple than a Big Cheese?  Top of my list along with the MOMA and the Statue of Liberty was one of the greatest cheese shops in the world,  the legendary Murray’s Cheese shop in Greenwich Village, New York.  Murray’s has been on my radar since the inception of this blog as a true pioneer and leader in the world of affinage and cheese.  They actually have 4 of their own limestone caves underneath their shop (alas, not open to the public) and they work with many local and European producers to bring some amazing cheese to the palate of lucky New Yorker’s.  I couldn’t resist buying their shirt, “make cheese, not war,” as a child of hippies and lover of cheese, I couldn’t say it better myself!

I have to admit that my heart almost stopped beating as I approached Murray’s-yes, I’m that much of a geek.  Inside this mecca of fromage I found-to my chagrine-only a regular amount of cheese.  I was actually a little disappointed in the number and variety of cheeses present, easily under 50, and certainly nothing like the cheese shops I have been frequenting in Vancouver.  It just goes to show that just because something is well-known doesn’t mean it’s the ultimate.  As well, although the cheese was nicely displayed, I didn’t find the cheese love here that I was expecting.  It was like going to the Vatican and finding a bunch of atheists.  Weird. I tried to engage the cheese monger in some cheesey talk and they seemed a little busy.  Oh well, I did talk a stranger into trying Stilton, so my work was well done. One of the things I suspect is limiting the cheeses available in the USA is different rules about raw milk cheese, I did not see a single Canadian cheese in the shop, and did see only a small handful of raw milk, and all very aged.

Of course, I did have to eat a cheese from Murray’s.  It was hard to choose as I had either already reviewed most of the cheese there, or it was local American variety I had not heard of.  I eventually chose Tarentaise as my chosen fromage as it had a flag on it saying “staff favourite“, and I am a sucker for a little flag. Tarentaise is an organic raw milk cow’s cheese made by  Jeremy Stephenson at Spring Brook farm in Vermont, and a local take on the great French cheese, Abondance, reviewed earlier in this blog.  Tarentaise is a farmstead cheese, meaning it is made by the very folks who tend the cattle, a real pasture to cheese operation. The name Tarentaise refers to a type of cattle in France used to make another type of cheese, but this operation uses Jersey cows to make its Tarentaise.  Strange. Maybe they just liked the name.

According to their website, Tarentaise is made in the “traditional method” meaning that it is made in a copper vat, which is essential to creating this style of alpine cheese. They use the same cultures and techniques developed  in the Alps to make Abondance. The curds are cut by hand with a harp, (can this be true?) stirred, cooked and transferred in a large cheese cloth to be pressed. After the cheese enters the aging room, the rinds are rubbed by hand with a culture.

Each Jersey cow on this certified organic farm has its own name, and they milk these cows by hand with buckets, which, I don’t think ANYONE else does these days, that’s very old timey. This cheese continues its good karma as the farm is actually used as a location to allow city kids to learn about being around animals and working on farms, so it’s all pretty far out here.  Organic cows, hand milking, copper pots and urban kids getting a feel for the country, but what about the cheese?

Tarentaise  is a handsome Alpine type cheese, strong and firm and well aged.  Oh, and did I mention that this one is CAVE AGED?  Oh yes, I do love me some cave aged cheese.  It is a pale yellow cheese with a natural dark brown rind, the paste gets darker and it approaches to rind as is common in Alpine cheeses.  It’s very mild in odour.  It waits for me in the hotel room in New York, it’s impatient, and so am I.

Here goes…

Hmmm.  Well, it is an alpine type cheese, no doubt about theat, it actually reminds me of the Alpindon cheese made here in BC I reviewed a little while back. It’s little spicy and also fruity. It’s a mild sweet cheddary cheese with a creamy toothsome paste  There is a delightful tyrosine crunch in this cheese which I adore, it’s like little pop rocks in the cheese paste and denotes a great affinage in a cheese. As with all Alpine cheeses, I just wish there was a little more salt, but that’s just me.  Tarentiase, I appreciate your dedication to the art of cheese, and you really do win for hand milking, but as for taste, I can get me a good raw milk alpine cheese here in Canada, and none of your ilk are salty enough for my palate anyway, but it was nice to meet you.