I love wandering the main hall of Grand Central Terminal this time of year. With its painted ceiling mimicking the constellations, its quaint shop windows displaying fun wintry items, and its throngs of people rushing to and fro to make their trains, the atmosphere is festive and lively. What you might not know, though, is that just beyond the hallowed hall with the giant clock lies Grand Central Market, which houses one of the best cheese haunts in the city: the Midtown outpost of the venerated Murray’s Cheese.
The other day, after taking a moment to enjoy the station, I stepped into Murray’s and immediately spotted my friend Wilson Mazariegos, one of the managers. He is a super cool guy who knows every single cheese and accompaniment they sell like the back of his hand. I asked him what was special that had just arrived for the holidays; he smiled and said, “I’ve got a couple of new things.” One item he was excited about was the White Truffle Salami, part of a limited-edition gift set from Creminelli Fine Meats; another was the Apricot Almond Panforte from Napa Cakes. But this is Murray’s, the We Know Cheese people, so I pressed Wilson to tell me his favorite cheese of the day. He mentioned a few of his favorites, then I saw him glance at the countertop and get a particular gleam in his eye. I knew he had made his choice.
He asked the monger to cut a piece of the Bio Urchrüter, an organic raw cow’s milk cheese from Canton of Aargau, Switzerland that had been aged for about one year. The sign described it as an after-work-beer-in-hand cheese, and I certainly liked the sound of that.
Since it had been displayed above the case, it was at the ideal room temperature. It is a firm (but not hard) cheese with a bit of cheese oil around the rind and just a touch of a hay smell to it. I took a bite and was pleasantly surprised by how vibrant the flavors were. It has the notes of toasted grain that I love in a Swiss Alpine cheese, as well as floral notes and hints of hard herbs like rosemary and sage. I would serve this cheese as the “firm cheese” component on any holiday cheese plate. Murray’s suggested adding it to fondue, something I will definitely try now that winter is upon us. And since I knew it would taste great melted, I took a small chunk home and grated it on top of my veggie stew – perfection.
When coming up with great beverage pairings, I remembered Murray’s beer-in-hand description, and a Swiss-style lager called Hürlimann immediately came to mind. Many ales would also pair nicely, as would an unoaked Chardonnay wine that has a bit of acidity to it. I’m even planning on (boldly!) pairing it with a medium-bodied red wine while entertaining some friends this weekend.
Needless to say, I’m looking forward to using the Bio Urchrüter in my cooking this season, and I’ve got to hand it to Wilson for introducing me to such an exceptional cheese.