January, after the hustle and bustle of the holidays, sometimes all we want to do is retreat into a cave and hibernate! Of course, if I had my pick of caves in which to spend a sleepy weekend, it would definitely be one filled to the brim with ripening cheese! In that spirit, this month I’m featuring Brooklyn’s Crown Finish Caves in our cheese selection. Crown Finish is an affineur – a company that buys very young cheeses from cheesemakers, carefully matures them in temperature and humidity-controlled conditions, and then sells them on to cheese shops and wholesalers once the cheeses have reached an optimal ripeness and desired flavour profile. Located in converted 19th century lagering tunnels in Crown Heights, Crown Finish works primarily with regional cheesemakers in NY and VT – though they make an exception to that norm with a very special cheese – which we of course had to include in our selection!
Grafton Village Cheese Company, VT
Sheep Milk, Pasteurized ($42/lb)
Named after a famed 19th century ram, Bismark is a sheep’s milk clothbound cheddar made at Grafton Village Cheese Company in Brattleboro. After its arrival at Crown Finish, the cheese is rubbed in smoked lard from Indianapolis-based cured meat company Smoking Goose, and aged for 4-6 months. With its crumbly texture and sweet caramel notes, Bismark is a definite contender for our new favourite dinner party cheese!
Consider Bardwell Farm, VT
Cow and Goat Milk, Raw ($40/lb)
Goatlet is a mixed milk, Italian toma-style cheese made by Consider Bardwell, a small goat farm in Rutland County, VT. A Crown Finish exclusive, Goatlet is made with 20% goats milk and 80% cows milk, released at 4-6 months of age, and took a first prize in its category at the 2017 American Cheese Society competition.
Characterised by a pleasing, moreish saltiness, Goatlet would be my pick this month for a table cheese, lunchbox addition, or pre-dinner appetizer. And if you’re looking to put together a light meal, this cheese would be an ideal companion to cured meats and pickles!
Quattro Portoni, Bergamo, IT
Buffalo Milk, Pasteurized ($36/lb)
Bufarolo is a semi-soft, natural rind buffalo milk cheese made in Northern Italy by Quattro Portoni – a name which some of you may remember from last month’s selection. In December, I brought in Madame Bufala – a cheese made at Quattro Portoni, but aged by Italian stagionatore CasArrigoni. Made via a similar collaboration between Quattro Portoni and Crown Finish, Bufarolo is the only Italian cheese aged there. Bufarolo arrives at Crown Finish completely rindless, and forms its colourful natural rind over the course of 6-8 weeks in the caves. I love its fudgy texture and clean finish, and would recommend it with a prosecco or other sparkling wine.