Tuesday, July 8, 2008

Saxelby Cheesemongers

Many a wave of cultural and economic change has swept through New York City’s Lower East Side in the last century. Changing with it, in step for the last 68 years, has been the Essex Street Market, situated along the stretch of Essex between Rivington and Delancey. The neighborhood’s latest wave of hipster gentrification has brought along with it a growing natural food consciousness, and given birth to yet another renaissance within the market.

Leading the whey for the last two years has been Anne Saxelby, the proprietress and cheese maven behind the counter at her eponymous shop, Saxelby Cheesemongers. Anne spent her formative years in the cheese biz working at New York’s temple to all things cheesy, Murray’s in the West Village.

Saxelby’s business is far from being just another gourmet product and cheese shop (a role already played in the Essex Market by the Boston-based mini-chain, Formaggio Kitchen). Instead, she focuses solely on American farmstead cheeses and dairy products, predominately from the Mid-Atlantic and Northeast States. Just about everything she sells comes from a farm where Anne has gotten her hands dirty, whether pitching in with milking duties or taking care of affinage.

A typical look at Anne's small but focused selection of American farmstead cheeses. The disc of Lazy Lady's "La Roche" I took home was a perfect accompaniment to a salad of spicy greens and heirloom tomatoes.

The level of personal experience that Ms. Saxelby brings to work, combined with her natural enthusiasm and generous hand with providing tastes of her goods, makes for an infectiously enjoyable shopping experience. Customers from the neighborhood as well as from out of town stop by just to say hi and chat. Invariably, they taste. And invariably they leave with something tasty. I’ve been doing the same ever since I first met Anne through mutual friends not long after she opened Saxelby Cheesemongers in May 2006. It’s now a regular stop during my New York junkets.

Always happy at work.
Parmigiano-Reggiano is Anne's only concession to old world superiority .

In addition to her duties at the market, Anne writes a shop blog. Updated weekly, it provides an easy way to stay abreast of new arrivals, seasonal specialties and her “A Day A-Whey” trips, guided tours to local dairies.

Saxelby Cheesemongers
Stall #17 in the Essex Street Market
120 Essex Street (at Delancey)
New York, NY 10002
Saxelby Cheesemongers on Urbanspoon


Nancy Deprez said...

"leads the whey" - I love it! What a great cheese shop that looks like. Thanks!

David McDuff said...

Be sure to check it out the next time you're in New York, Nancy. Great things do sometimes come in small packages.

Florida Jim said...

Several years ago a friend and I visited Formaggio's (Cambridge) and were very impressed. My pal went to the cheese counter, I went to the wine section and when I was finished, I couldn't find him. He's a big fan of esoteric cheeses and apparently had done the mind-meld with the owner, who had taken him down to the basement.
Turns out they age cheeses down there until they feel they are perfect. My buddy bought several and we went back to a local's house for dinner.
We had the cheeses to start and they stunk to high-heaven, ran all over the plate and were the best dairy product I ever put in my mouth.
That place is off the charts.
Best, Jim

David McDuff said...

Hi Jim,
Thanks for the good words regarding your experience at Formaggio. I haven't been to the Cambridge original but the depot in the Essex Market definitely has some good stuff. Just to be clear, it was not my intention to belittle their work, just to draw a clear contrast between what they do as compared to the more specialized focus at Saxelby's. It does seem odd, on the surface at least, for two specialty cheese shops to take up residence in the same market.

Little_Jewford said...

Hey, where is my T-shirt?

David McDuff said...

Sorry, LJ. Forgot your shirt size(s). Wouldn't want you to end up with a halter or a tent.

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