We don’t know what your procrastination techniques might be, but ours usually involve window shopping at grocery stores. It’s “research,” right? We’re not really goofing off. So while we should’ve been hard at work on all the details of the Dairy issue that’s due to the printer in about 20 minutes, we figured it was a good time to check out Beecher’s Handmade Cheese, the Washington State import that hit the corner of 900 Broadway near Union Square last summer. (The original, from Pacific Northwest cheesemaker Kurt Beecher Dammeier, opened in Seattle’s Pike Place Market in 2003.)
Naturally in a city as big and as obsessed with eating as ours, we couldn’t fit every amazing cheese, milk, yogurt or whey-related Manhattan story into the issue. There are products we’ve missed, tastemakers overlooked, stores we’ve skipped. One of those is Beecher’s.
The operation makes plenty of excellent artisanal cheeses (and we show a few of them above) but their big deal in our market –at least to our minds–is their Cheddar cheese curds, aka squeaky cheese. Those are a specialty that’s sold everywhere in the midwest, northeast and Canadian cheesemaking territories, but are still hard to find here. Some places stock them from Vermont or Upstate New York, and they can be frozen with semi-decent results–but Beecher’s now makes them on-site, and that’s pretty special for curd-lovers, since curds are supposed to be eaten soon after they’re made.
So, since we’d not yet been to Beecher’s ourselves, we thought we’d spend part of the day checking out the massive, pristine space and their in-store cheese curd making operation in particular. If you haven’t been either–it’s a little like Disneyworld for cheese curds–check out our photos above–there’s a huge stainless steel vat of milk destined for curds, and you can take a little staircase up to tables and chairs next to the it, with a view of the crew making the curd. (You can also take a seat by the window on a row of old milk pail set up as stools on the ground floor, right next to the counter where some seriously creamy mac and cheese is sold.)
We bought a little tub of fresh curds (a small 6-ouncer is $6) and ate nearly all of them before…um, we’d even gotten out the door. Before we left, a nice saleslady said to us that she was surprised to hear that Beecher’s was the only place in the city making fresh cheese curds, and we’re pretty sure she’s right? Though if you know of any Canadian expat enclaves up hidden in Yorkville or Mott Haven or Flatbush where some family has been making their own curds for three generations, we really want to know about it.