Westchester Food Lover’s Guide: Cheeses
Buying high-quality cheese doesn’t have to be difficult.
Mint is not strictly a cheesemonger, but the cheese offerings (100-plus) are among the many things done well at this combination international gourmet grocer/full-service eclectic restaurant. One of the best parts about buying cheese is trying the samples—and owners Hassan and Alberta Jarane are quite generous, always making spot-on recommendations based on your palate. At the risk of sounding overdramatic, selections such as the pesto basil Gouda ($24.99/lb); Occelli (semi-soft sheep’s/cow’s milk mix soaked in grappa and covered in mixed whole fruit mostarda at $25.99/lb); Pickwick cheddar with caramelized onion ($24.99/lb); and Tuscan Briscola al Barbera (semi-hard cow’s milk cheese covered with deeply colored Barber grapes at $25.99/lb) are life-changing. Okay, perhaps I exaggerate—but only a little.
Get some candied walnuts and vanilla cherries as a companion purchase to your cheese—your palate will perform happy somersaults.
Since moving down the block in 2008, Auray Gourmet (its former incarnation was called Auray Cheese Shop) changed from being solely a cheese purveyor to a 26-seat café serving breakfast and lunch (soups, crêpes, Belgian waffles, panini, salads, quiche). But at its heart, it’s still a fromagerie, specifically European-style with accompanying charcuterie and pâtés, daily baked baguettes, and artisan cheese selections. Dutch, Portuguese, Spanish, French, Italian, German, Swiss, English, American, and Canadian cheeses dominate the choices including Camembert di Bufala ($22/lb), a creamy Italian buffalo-milk cheese that oozes like burrata; Ewephoria Gouda ($22/lb), a Dutch sheep’s milk cheese with hints of whiskey and caramel aged 18 months; Barely Buzzed cheddar from Beehive Creamery in Oregon ($28.50/lb, seasonal), with a lavender-espresso rind; and Comté from Marcel Petite in the Jura mountains of France, a hard, rich, nutty cheese aged over 24 months. According to Auray co-owner Carolynn Dilworth: “One of our best wheels.” Accoutrements? Look for loose dried figs and apricots soft as butter and Puremiel, organic orange-blossom honey from Spain ($16/8 oz).
The storefront may be tiny, but the scope of offerings at Plum Plums is anything but. And never be afraid to ask questions of husband-and-wife owners Adam and Audrey Free. Selections span the globe but tend toward European, including Prima Donna ($20/lb), a creamy, sweet, semi-soft cow’s milk Gouda from the Netherlands; Valdeon, a cow-and-goat blue cheese from Spain, wrapped in a sycamore leaf, that’s creamy leading to pungent and salty followed by a smooth finish ($24/lb); and La Tur ($12/8 oz), a cow-goat-sheep blend similar to Brie from the Langhe region of northern Italy. Feel like something a bit different? The shop has a killer Californian Humboldt Fog ($24/lb) with a dissecting ribbon of ash that adds a subtle mineral flavor. Audrey Free says her shop is carrying an ever-increasing selection of local cheeses, including ones from Old Chatham Sheepherding Company (try its sheep’s milk Shaker Blue at $28/lb); Sprout Creek Farm (its piquant smoked Toussaint at $28/lb is a pick); and Keeley’s Cheese Co washed-rind semi-soft cheeses at $28/lb out of King Ferry, New York, which are flavorful and not that stinky like most washed-rind offerings.
More Cheese: Top Cheese Stores / Mozzarella Tips / 7 Top Cheeses in Westchester
144 Larchmont Ave
Larchmont, (914) 833-2274
Mint Premium Foods
19 Main St, Tarrytown
72 Westchester Ave
Pound Ridge, (914) 764-1525
1 Stew Leonard Dr
Yonkers, (914) 375-4700
Of all the samples given out at Stew Leonard’s, the fresh mozzarella may be the most well-liked—it’s often still warm upon tasting. Prepared in-house daily since 2002, about 6,000 lbs of mozzarella is sold per week from the Yonkers location alone. All of Stew’s master mozz makers are trained by Dominick Lustombo, a third-generation mozzarella maker originally from Calabria, Italy, who has been kneading and stretching mozzarella since he was 11 years old. A single 16-oz ball costs $7.99.
Keeping Your Mozz Fresh, Not Funky: Store it in the refrigerator in a container of cold water with a tablespoon of salt added to it. Salted mozzarella will keep for about one week; unsalted will keep for just a few days.