Autumn has arrived, my friends, and as the crisp, chilled air overtakes our fair city, there is nothing I look forward to more than a cheese night at home. We are undeniably fortunate here in North Brooklyn to have access to some seriously special cheese shops. This time of year, I begin favoring bolder, heartier cheeses over the more delicate varieties. I visited our three cheese shops and worked with the cheesemongers to discover some fun and funky cheeses that either just came into stock or are just exceptionally well suited to our autumnal cravings.
You may have heard that the Bedford Cheese Shop (265 Bedford Avenue) has moved to a larger location on the corner of Bedford Avenue and North 1st Street. What it lost in coziness, it gained in convenience. Gone are the days of winding around a tiny space and struggling to browse the cheeses beyond your fellow shoppers. Enjoying my new and improved browsing vantage point, I immediately honed in on Nostrale di Stroppo, a semi-soft cheese whose description said, “It is a cheese we know little about.” I love a good mystery, don’t you? This cheese is funky, tangy, and earthy. It has a dirt-like taste but in a really good way. My favorite part of this cheese is the strangely beautiful, porous rind that resembles pumice or coral.
Next, I selected the Nababbo; sweet, heartbreakingly delicious Nababbo. This is a soft goat’s milk cheese that’s been cave aged and has a washed rind, similar to Taleggio—but better! Can you believe such a thing exists? Notes of both sweet and sour will play off of each other as this cheese coats your tongue seductively. Yes, this is one sexy cheese.
After bundling up my bounty, I moved on to my home away from home, Greenpoint Cheese and Meat (192 Driggs Avenue). The cheesemongers here are exceptionally friendly and I love the smaller, curated selection of local cheeses. A smile widened on my face as I noticed plenty of new selections in their display. “Have you had our water buffalo cheese?” asks the cheesemonger, knowing just how to pique my interest. The Bufarolo, made in a Bergamo, Italy and aged at Crown Finish Caves in Brooklyn is bright with a lovely acidity that you don’t often find in cheeses. It has a crumbly, rubbery texture and a nice chalky color. As I tasted the bright timothy grass and closed my eyes, I was warmed by memories of childhood summers on the farm.
I moved on to a beautiful soft and squishy cheese that was calling my name with its adorable chubbiness. Grayson has a to-die-for salty rind that encloses a funky, pasty, golden bundle of melty goodness. This cheese is ideal for smearing on some crusty French bread.
The insightful cheesemonger recommended the Bismark, a bold sheep’s milk cheese, which is truly a conversation piece. The rind is very bitter when you first bite into it, but it evolves into an herbal complexity that is divine. After finishing your first bite, go back in for another but close your eyes, breathe in, and search for the hazelnut flavor and you will find it. What a super-interesting cheese.
Last but not least, I visited North Greenpoint’s Eastern District (1053 Manhattan Avenue). After making a bee-line for the onion-fig jam, I permitted the cheesemonger to direct me to Cornerstone by Parish Hill Creamery. This is a washed-rind cheese, which has that lovely saltiness on the outside that pops in your mouth. The inside is soft with a mild, earthy funkiness and sweet and sour notes. This is a terribly pleasant cheese to eat and is the perfect choice to bring to a party as it is easy to love.
Finally, I was offered a taste of the Oriskany from Cochran Farm 1790. This cheese is the belladonna performing at the jazz club for the night; the beauty tapping an off-beat; goat cheese with jazz. I loved it. In addition to the creamy richness found with most soft goat cheeses, this has a funk to it. It has a lovely layered appearance—like an ice cream cake—and pleasant citrusy flavors shining through the barnyard notes.
In addition to our three fabulous cheese shops, we are also fortunate in North Brooklyn to have Vulto Creamery (Walton Umber, how do I love thee) at the McGolrick Park farmer’s market on Sundays and Consider Bardwell Farm (their Slyboro is washed in cider!) at the Greenmarket in McCarren Park on Saturdays. There’s nothing better than exploring the world of cheese and being able to do so right here in our own fabulous neighborhood. It never ceases to amaze me the variety of shapes, smells, and flavors that can be produced from cow, goat, sheep, (and water buffalo!) milk. I challenge you this fall to find the strangest, smelliest, most thought-provoking cheese you can at any one of our wonderful shops or markets, pair with a hard cider, some old French Jazz, good company and enjoy.
Bedford Cheese Shop is located at 265 Bedford Avenue. They are open Monday through Friday, 9am – 9pm; Saturday, 8am – 9pm; and Sunday, 8am – 8pm.
Greenpoint Meat and Cheese is located at 192 Driggs Avenue. They are open Tuesday through Saturday, 11am – 8pm; Sunday and Monday, 11am – 7pm.
Eastern District is located at 1053 Manhattan Avenue. They are open Monday through Thursday, 11am – 8pm; Friday and Saturday, 11am – 9pm; and Sunday, 12pm – 6pm.