A Festival of Pickles, a Mountain of Photos, and a Surfing Sheep

One of the best aspects of New York City is the random events that take place here, and the freakishly large crowds that these events attract. One such event was the Peck Slip Pickle Festivalheld a few weeks ago (Sun, Nov. 13th) at New Amsterdam Market.
 
At the Pickle Festival, the rows between the stalls were so crowded that I had to shove past hundreds of pickle gobblers just to grab a sample of a simple bread & butter. Who knew that so many people liked pickles? Accompanied by my pickle-obsessed partner, I wove through the crowds and located Saxelby Cheesemongers, who were serving up the perfect compliment to the surrounding pickles: Traditional Swiss Raclette. 


Anne Saxelby (bonappetit.com)
Sophie
I waited for at least 20 minutes in a long line while Anne Saxelby melted each raclette serving on an industrial sized raclette machine. When it was finally my turn, I excitedly introduced myself to Anne and her fellow cheesemonger Sophie. The two lovely ladies somehow remained relaxed and present amidst the crowds, chatting warmly as each customer eagerly awaited their melted raclette. They made a painstakingly slow process truly enjoyable, adding even more quality to their already-exquisite product.


I suggest that you read this article from New York Serious Eats to learn more about Anne Saxelby, and then go meet her and see just why they label her the "local champion of American artisanal cheeses."

Ian and Leah, Fellow Cheesers, enjoying their Raclette
That day, Saxelby's was featuring Reading Raclette, produced by Spring Brook Farm in Reading, VT.
I first tasted raclette in Geneva, at a traditional swiss restaurant with the creative title "Chalet Suisse". There, they made their raclette on a huge cast iron machine that rotated in from of a large fire. They refilled our plates about six times throughout the meal, so that the cheese remained constantly hot and melty. We paired it with pickled onions and cornichons (mini pickles), the reason for Saxelby's stand located at the pickle festival.

Last winter marked Reading Raclette's debut, and cheesemongers from all over quickly gobbled it up. The flavor is the perfect blend of nutty and creamy, with only a small hint of the farm from which it came. It tastes great melted on anything from bread to potatoes to veggies, or simply sliced for a snack. Reading Raclette is yet another example of a cheese inspired by European tradition and infused with American originality.


Oh Reading Raclette, I hereby crown ye Cheese of the Week.
      *Clap*Clap*Clap*Clap*Clap*Clap*Clap*Clap*Clap*Clap

Here's to a huge week filled with stories and cheese that are traditional, water-free, and farmy.



Huge:
Raclette wheels can weigh up to 13 pounds, and in a traditional Swiss restaurant they're heated on a giant rotating cast iron machine. When eaten, it sometimes makes you feel like your stomach has grown so large that it might explode. A cheese this big would make a good treat for an elephant after a hard day's work cleaning up the damages from the recent floods in Thailand.






Traditional: The art of raclette was developed by cow herders who would melt the cheese by the campfire while moving their cows through the alps. Erik Kessels seems to have taken a cue from the Swiss, choosing to represent Flickr images through traditional photographs, not digital files, in his newest art installment. 


Water-Free:
You don't need water while eating raclette, and in fact the Swiss warn that you shouldn't drink it in order to avoid a stomach ache. Contrarily, christmas trees do need water, but don't have enough. The worst Texas drought in decades has led to christmas tree crops with growth-aches that only Charlie Brown would enjoy.


Farmy: It's rare to find a cheese this farmy in the middle of a big city, but it's even more shocking to find an animal this farmy in the middle of the ocean. Hang hoof, dude.


Now go out and eat some cheese.