Best Weekend Food Events: Rutabaga Curling, SantaCon, and Cheese Festival

31 Bottles of December
GENUINE Liquorette (191 Grand Street, lower level)
Friday through December 31

For the entire month of December, GENUINE Liquorette will have 31 mystery bottles on the shelves for guests who participate in the Rough Justice program. Guests can pick one of the mystery bottles off the shelves for the bartender to create drinks will receive a final bill without charges regardless of how much is consumed.

Multiple Locations
Saturday, 11 a.m. until late

SantaCon returns to New York this Saturday, with participating venues including Ainsworth Park, Bar 13, and Webster Hall. Guests can make a $10 donation to participate in the bar crawl here.

Las Posadas Holiday Cooking Class
Dos Caminos Park Avenue (373 Park Avenue South)
Saturday, 11:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m.

Executive chef Ivy Stark will lead a demonstration on preparing Mexican holiday dishes — including bacalao, pomegranate honey-glazed ham, and flan. For $75, guests receive lunch, cocktails, recipes, and a copy of Dos Caminos Tacos. Guests can make a reservation by contacting the restaurant.

The Great Northeast Cheese and Dairy Fest
Flushing Town Hall (137-35 Northern Boulevard, Queens)
Saturday, 6 p.m. to 9 p.m.

Taste over 75 different cheeses along with wines and spirits at this walk-around tasting. The event includes demonstrations and workshops dedicated to the craft of cheese mongering. Local chefs scheduled to create unique cheese dishes include Will Horowitz (Harry & Ida’s) and Hugue Dufour (M.Wells). Tickets ($60 for general admission) can be reserved here.


In Upstate New York, Treeline Vegan Cheeses Are Making International Waves

Michael Schwarz is quick to point out that his creamy, French-style cheeses are not a vegan take on Brie or cheddar. He’s not coloring or flavoring vegan ingredients to look like plastic-wrapped slices of bright orange “American” cheese, either. Instead, he introduces his Treeline Treenut Cheese by saying, “This is cheese made of cashew nuts. It’s different than anything you’ve had before, but it’s really good.” And it is.

Schwarz grew up in South Africa, the son of Annette and Harry Schwarz — an anti-apartheid activist, lawyer, and statesmen. The Schwarzs taught their children that it was completely inadmissible to accept apartheid as the norm. This upbringing left an indelible mark on Schwarz, who later looked back on his childhood with the realization that had he made a different choice, he would have grown into an adult filled with shame. “I think it’s really important to know that you’re doing the right thing,” he tells the Voice. “Especially when you look back on your lot: Did I do the right thing or not?”

Fast-forward to the 1980s, when Schwarz was a lawyer living in Texas, observing firsthand the large-scale abuse on animals raised as food. He became a vegetarian and then, 25 years later when he learned about the similar abuses on animals raised for their milk and eggs, he embraced a vegan lifestyle. He’s not judgmental or condescending to those who still consume animal products, but Treeline is a result of his upbringing of making “sacrifices to move things forward.”

“I really believe that future generations will look back on the way we treated animals and abused the environment, and go, ‘What were you people thinking?’ in the same way we look back on our history in South Africa and America and go, ‘What was that about?’ ” Schwarz explains.

Treeline's creamy spreadable cheese

Of course, making vegan cheese makes business sense, too, since most on the market are not as appetizing to the palate as their dairy-full counterparts, which was a huge gap in a market that needed filling.

Schwarz started fiddling with recipes in his New Paltz, New York, kitchen with all the discipline his engineering and patent law experience had ingrained in him. He ground various nuts into a thick cream, and then tested which ones might develop most naturally with a traditional, French-style technique. His first great success was found in the high-fat content of cashew nuts, to which he simply added culture and salt. After moving his production to a local vegan chocolate factory, Schwarz started selling the soft, spreadable cheese to patrons there, then at a monthly vegan market in Brooklyn, “and it just took off,” he says.

Now, his line includes soft cheeses with the addition of fresh herbs and spices, like scallion, chipotle serrano pepper, green peppercorn, and herb-garlic (the bestseller). The harder, aged-nut cheese comes in a cracked pepper variation and a tangy-yet-firm, plain flavor that can easily be grated over pasta or risotto.

“We don’t use cashew milk — this is an important distinction between us and other manufacturers,” Schwarz points out. “Some vegan cheese companies extract the milk and then coagulate that into cheese. We turn the cashews into a cream by grinding them and adding the flavorings and probiotic culture to that cream, which then causes a fermentation process that turns it into the cheese that you see in the actual end product.”

This means Treeline’s cheeses are richer and creamier, as well as higher in fat, protein, and fiber — but they’re also lower in overall sodium, sugar, and additives than other vegan cheeses.

The traditional French-style packaging married with modernity

Schwarz’s products also speak to the overall ethos of his company: compassion. Using the entire nut means his product doesn’t involve waste, a differentiation especially unique in contrast to traditional dairy farming and cheese making. He sources his cashews from Brazil, which has long employed humane ways of extracting nuts and contrasts with other markets where child labor is often assumed (which Treeline “absolutely did not want to support”). He recognizes that using high-quality products that are sourced sustainably means something for his business’s bottom line, but he says, “I’m willing to forego that difference in order to be comfortable doing the right thing.”

Doing the right thing is working.

In 2013, with the company’s current packaging, Treeline started selling to larger national markets (like Whole Foods) and is now selling in 1,000 stores in all 50 states. Soon, he’ll start selling at Kroger — the largest grocery chain in the country — which will double the company’s distribution. It also might mean that Treeline breaks into selling seven figures of individual units each year — all sourced from the upstate New York production facility. There are also talks about producing and distributing in Europe, too, where his pitch (“This is cheese made from cashew nuts”) has invoked more interest and appreciation than incredulity.

But when it comes down to it, Schwarz’s singular focus with Treeline is “all about affecting change in how people eat. Whatever I’m excited about is going to relate back to that.”

Luckily for us, with Treeline’s vegan cheeses, change tastes really good.

Find out where to pick up a package (or several) of vegan cheese near you with Treeline’s store locator.


This Week in Food: Vegan Pies, ‘Fiddler on the Roof’ Sandwich, Sumptuous Sampling

Fiddler on the Roof Sandwich
Carnegie Deli (854 Seventh Avenue)
Monday through July 31

Have you ever wondered what would happen if theater met…deli meat? Cue the new collaboration between the Carnegie Deli and Broadway’s Fiddler on the Roof: “If I Were a ‘Wich Man.” This limited-edition sandwich will be available at Carnegie Deli until July 31. The sandwich features brisket and corned beef piled high, topped with swiss cheese, Russian dressing, cole slaw, and mayo for $29.99.

The Great Vegan Pie Contest
V Spot Organic (12 St. Mark’s Place)
Monday, 7 p.m. to 9 p.m.

Bakers will square off against one another at the Great Vegan Pie Contest, where they’ll battle for bragging rights by using ingredients like watermelons, truffles, and s’mores. Tickets for the bake-off start at $20 and include servings of all the competing pie entries and vegan ice cream. What’s sweeter than that? Reserve yours here.

Heirloom Foundation Fundraiser With Tapas and Wine

Doma Na Rohu (27 Morton Street)
Monday, 7 p.m. to 9 pm

The Heirloom Foundation and TouchBistro are hosting a dinner fundraiser to raise awareness about healthy work environments for people battling anxiety, depression, and substance abuse in the hospitality industry. Sausage skewers, latkes, crepes, and more will be available at the event. Tickets are $25 and include all food, as well as a beverage. Reserve yours here.

Sumptuous Sampling Event 2016

Tropical Paradise Ballroom, Banquet Hall & Catering (1367 Utica Avenue, Brooklyn)
Tuesday, 6 p.m. to 9 p.m.

The start of East Flatbush Restaurant Week will bring over sixty restaurants together under one roof for the third annual Sumptuous Sampling Event on Tuesday night. Special offers will also be on hand for Sumptuous Sampling event-goers to use at eateries during East Flatbush Restaurant Week, which runs from June 29 through July 11.

Dinners in the Dark 

Camaje (85 MacDougal Street)
Thursday, 7 p.m. 

Feast on dinner while bathed in darkness at this unique tasting event. Blindfolded diners won’t be able to see what they’re eating, but they’ll be able to experience their other senses with heightened awareness (namely taste and smell). The menus will be kept a secret until the end of the event so diners can guess what they’ve been eating and drinking. Tickets are $90.67. Reserve your spot here.


This Week in Food: Coolio’s Chili Cook Off and a Stinky Cheese Festival

Stinky Cheese Festival, Marseille/Tour de France Restaurants, 630 Ninth Avenue/Additional Locations, Monday through Sunday

Stinky-cheese aficionados can embrace their love of aroma all week long with special cheese menus at all Tour de France restaurants. Pont-l’Évêque, raclette, and quadrello di bufala are a few of the featured cheeses diners can experience in dishes such as stinky bisque and a blue cheese pastry dessert.
All participating restaurants will be offering a special port cocktail to accompany the featured, er, aromatic items.

Whisky Live, Pier 60 at Chelsea Piers, Eleventh Avenue at West 19th Street, Wednesday, 6 p.m. 

Sample nearly 300 varieties of whiskies, bourbons, and scotches while meeting both small-batch and globally renowned distilleries. Guests will have the chance to sip on spirits both straight as well as in specialty cocktail form. A dinner buffet is also included. Tickets are $125 and can be reserved here.

Coolio’s Chili Cook Off, Hill Country Brooklyn, 345 Adams Street, Brooklyn, Wednesday, 6:30 p.m.

If you’re looking to put a celebrity recipe to the test, Coolio is serving as Hill Country Brooklyn’s guest pitmaster. The author of Cookin’ With Coolio will dish out his veggie chili to guests before sitting down for a Q&A session. Admission is free, but $10 tickets guarantee a seat and include one portion of chili and one Shiner draft beer; reserve them here.

All About Armagnac, Cooking by the Book, 13 Worth Street, Thursday, 6:30 p.m.

Sample five different Armagnacs while learning all about the creation process from a brand ambassador. Snacks from D’Artagnan as well as chocolate from Ronni Sue Chocolate. A welcome cocktail is also included. Tickets are $45 for general admission; reserve them here.


Best Weekend Food Events: Sippin’ Santa’s Surf Shack, The Great Northeast Cheese Fest, and Repeal Day!

Sippin’ Santa’s Surf Shack, Boilermaker, 13 First Avenue, Friday through December 24

If you’re looking for a tropical getaway from the holidays, consider a spicy island cocktail at this pop-up inside shot-and-beer specialist Boilermaker. The bar – decked out in surf and island attire – includes festive recipes like the chocolate mint flavored “I Saw Mommy Kissing…” cocktail, with seasonal boilermakers like the Jingle Bell Wipe Out made with a seasonal ale and cinnamon shot. The pop-up will be open through December 24 and will also offer Boilermaker’s full food menu.

A Taste of Africa: Our Story Told in Flavors, Madiba, 195 Dekalb Avenue, Brooklyn, Saturday, 3 to 11 p.m.

If you’re searching for the perfect food gift, Madiba is hosting a pop-up of up-and coming African products. Hot sauces, spice rubs, and fair trade wine will all be available for purchase, with a cash bar and bites available for shoppers.

The Great Northeast Cheese Fest, Flushing Town Hall, 137-35 Northern Boulevard, Saturday, 6 to 9 p.m.

Celebrate the stinky, creamy, and delicious cheeses from New York state at this all-you-can eat affair. Creameries from across the state are teaming with chefs including Harry & Ida’s Will Horowitz to create dishes selected to highlight select cheeses, with ciders and wine included. Cheese expert Max McCalman will also be on site to discuss the latest in cheese and wine pairing news, while guests can occupy themselves with demos and workshops such as how to perfect the perfect holiday cheese plate. Tickets are $60 and are inclusive of all food and drink tastings; secure them here.

Repeal Day, Poco, 33 Avenue B, Saturday, 8 p.m. to close

Celebrate the most significant day in alcohol history by toasting legal drinking! Saturday marks the 82nd anniversary of Prohibition’s repeal, which is why Poco is offering $12 special cocktails all night long. Guests can also enjoy a $35 two hour open bar from 10 p.m. to midnight.

Battle of the Belgians, Jimmy’s No. 43, 43 East Seventh Street, Sunday, 1 to 4 p.m.

Though beers themselves aren’t competitive, this annual battle pits Belgium’s homeland offerings against American Belgian-style brews with guests selecting the winners. For three hours, guests can enjoy unlimited samples of over 20 bottled beers from Belgian and American contenders on tap. The tasting includes small batch, one-off, and classic Belgian-style beers, and food from Tito King’s Kitchen inside Jimmy’s No. 43 will be available for purchase. Tickets are $65; reserve your battle post here.



Great Northeast Cheesefest Brings Upstate’s Best Dairy to Queens

Turophiles (that’s cheese-lovers) should head to Flushing Town Hall this Saturday: In the spotlight at the performing arts center will be reps from artisanal creameries throughout the Northeast, along with top NYC chefs creating dishes from their products.

The cheese fest is the second in a series designed to showcase the bounty of New York State farms, organized by David Noeth and Joe DiStefano of NY Epicurean Events. Noeth, a chef and native of the Catskills town of Walton, and DiStefano, a food writer and authority on Queens dining, saw an opportunity to bring the two regions together.

“There are a lot of great products from the Catskills that need to be exposed and a lot of great farmers up there who need help getting their product to market,” DiStefano told the Voice.

Cheesemakers on site this Saturday will include Vulto Creamery, from Noeth’s hometown; owner Jos Vulto is a sculptor-turned-cheesemonger, whose hobby of aging curds beneath the Brooklyn sidewalk attracted so many fans that he ultimately started his own company.

Visitors should also look out for Cooperstown Cheese Company, whose products were served at the 2013 presidential inaugural luncheon. And local favorite Beecher’s Handmade Cheese will sample all of its wares, including its mac ‘n’ cheese, recently named Seattle’s best.

Also on hand will be Queens chef Hugue Dufour, of M. Wells Steakhouse (43-15 Crescent Street, Queens; 718-786-9060), who’s making a raclette featuring Vulto Creamery’s Andes cheese, and Alfonso Zhicay, of Casa del Chef Bistro (39-06 64th Street, Queens; 718-457-9000). Zhicay, whose Woodside restaurant focuses on the local and the seasonal, said that his dish will incorporate fresh produce from the Jackson Heights farmers’ market.

DiStefano said that he was especially excited that Will Horowitz of Ducks Eatery (351 East 12th Street; 212-432-3825) and Harry & Ida’s (189 Avenue A; 646-864-0967) will present his take on Tibetan cheese soup, a pungent bowl regularly served at Jackson Heights spot Phayul (37-65 74th Street, Queens; 718-424-1869). And to help the public make sense of all the triple crèmes, sharp cheddars, and smoked cheeses, maître fromager Max McCalman will parse the cheesemaking process.

The beverages are local, too: Find the best pairing with pours from Rooftop Reds, the city’s only rooftop vineyard, and Maspeth’s Descendant Cider. Tickets are $60 for general admission and $150 for V.I.P., which includes early access — get tickets here.

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Cure Your Cocktail and Charcuterie Cravings at Drexler’s: A Modern Apothecary

After opening the door of Drexler’s (9 Avenue A; 646-524-5226), you might be hit with a dose of Southern charm, but it’s the taste of meat, cheese, and cocktails that managing partner Darin Rubell and beverage director Dustin Olson really want you to notice. Beyond the décor of antique sconces and reconfigured church pews, which are inspired by cities like Charleston and New Orleans, the team behind Bushwick’s Forrest Point really just wants people to feel at home in their own East Village neighborhood.

“It’s eminently accessible, but it’s also specific in what we’re offering,” Olson tells the Voice. The “specific” Olson is talking about can be found on the one-page, checklist-style menu, where guests can select from seasonally changing charcuterie, cheese, bread, and veggies.

Charcuterie is sourced locally from Mangalitsa by Møsefund Farm, and the current menu features soppressata, coppa, and hunter-style salami. Cheeses range from a bowl of whipped ricotta with truffle honey to the creamy Danish cheese mycella, with breads such as naan available for dipping or smearing. The succinct menu depends on quality ingredients, particularly for Olson’s cocktails.

“For me, Drexler’s is an opportunity to kind of bring everybody along to the cocktail party that’s been going on the last sort of fifteen years,” Olson says. Drinks here dive into the classics, with a focus on the seasonality of familiar ingredients. Currently, barflies can choose a gin-based bee’s knees or a mezcal especial made with ginger and lime. A barrage of brown spirits is scheduled to make its way onto the menu post–October 1.

For a dose of Southern charm, beer is chilled in a bathtub.
For a dose of Southern charm, beer is chilled in a bathtub.

However, one look at the vintage bathtubs packed with canned beers makes it abundantly clear this isn’t a place full of cocktail snobbery. To help dispel the myth that serious cocktails are the solo venture here, there’s even a drink — dubbed the “Employee of the Month” — made for two. On the beer front, Kelso Brewery is working with the restaurant on a seasonally changing brew to accentuate the craft options on tap. As for the name? “It ended up being a unique name with a familiarity to it, so I think that’s what stuck most with us. There were a couple of signs that led us there,” Rubell explains. One of those signs is from an old apothecary with a similar name, a perfect fit for a space looking to provide a cure with cocktails.

Bee's knees
Bee’s knees
Mezcal especial
Mezcal especial
Downstairs at Drexler's
Downstairs at Drexler’s



These Cheesemongers Will Get You to Eat the Stinky Stuff

Humans have loved cheese for thousands of years, according to the journal Nature. Cheese is older than the Bible. Cheese is older than the Ottoman Empire. Cheese was there at the beginning of the Renaissance in Italy. Cheese was around when William Wallace began the Wars of Scottish Independence. After the humans are gone, cheese will remain.

Sure, it’s had its setbacks (Velveeta, Provel, Easy), but cheese is bigger than ever, thanks in no small part to the resurgence of cheesemongering. The art of cheese-making has come back into fashion over the past decade or so, as a sharper focus has been put on artisanal methods of preparing all sorts of food. Such is the state of the cheese scene in New York that a Cheesemonger Invitational is being held on Saturday, June 27, 2015, at Larkin Cold Storage (4755 27th Street, Long Island City), from 5 to 8:30 p.m.

Exactly 50 cheesemongers will do battle at the competition — its organizers refer to it in shorthand as the “CMI” — which is being billed as the “Fight Club meets Wrestlemania of cheese.”

Ahead of the CMI, here are two videos produced by the Voice in honor of the art of cheese-making:

“These Cheesemongers Will Get You to Eat the Stinky Stuff”
Cheesemongers Charlie Cohen and Joshua Santamaria from Lucy’s Whey on the Upper East Side have made it their lives’ mission to whet your appetite for stinky cheeses. Here’s how they get you to try the hard stuff. Video by Ana M. Rodriguez for the Voice.

“Green Grape Provisions’ Cara Warren Explains Competitive Cheesemongering”

Cara Warren is about to participate in one of the most grueling competitions that a person in her profession can endure: The 2015 Cheesemonger Invitational, a full day of work with knives, in a ice-cold warehouse with dozens of other apron-clad competitors. Each monger goes through a series of tests reminiscent of a Top Chef episode. In this video, Cara gives us a step-by-step breakdown of what each competitor must go through to be named the top monger in New York. Video by Zach D. Roberts for the Voice.

Unfortunately for any late-arriving cheese enthusiasts, the CMI is sold out! Maybe go buy some cheese this weekend to feel better.


Indulge in Fancy Grilled Cheese Sandwiches at Raclette

Croque-monsieur at Raclette

Good cheese doesn’t come cheap, unless you consider generic plastic-wrapped singles a delicacy. However, Raclette (195 Avenue A; 917-853-5377), a recently opened café specializing in all things cheesy, offers a selection of sandwiches made with fancy fromage for under $15.

Raclette serves an array of European-inspired sandwiches like croques (French grilled cheese), tartines (open-faced sammies), and its namesake dish, traditional Swiss raclettes made with Alpine cheese. The Suisse, with Grand Cru cheese and viande séchée (essentially, Swiss bresaola or beef jerky), is set atop tricolored new potatoes with cornichons and pickled white-pearl onions; at $13.78, it’s the priciest option and, like the (meatless) Savoyarde ($11.94), is served with arugula salad and a chunk of baguette.

Save for a few selections, the rest of the menu clocks in under double digits. There’s a tomato tartine ($9.18) with bufala mozzarella, cherry tomatoes, arugula pesto, and basil on toasted focaccia. The Americano ($8.27) incorporates caramelized onion, leek fondue, roasted garlic, and white English cheddar between two slices of toasted pain pauline, a peasant-style white bread. The Saint-Michel ($9.18) layers strawberry, tarragon, and black pepper preserves with bittersweet chocolate and fromage blanc on toasted brioche.

But Raclette’s version of the time-honored croque-monsieur ($9.18) is one of the best around; it’s composed of thinly sliced jambon de Paris, and nutty gruyère cheese on slightly buttery-sweet brioche bread. The whole thing is toasted to perfection, with melted cheese sealed within the crisp exterior of the bread, and creamy mornay sauce (béchamel pumped up with even more cheese) poured over the top. The result is a decadent yet reasonably sized taste of France you can hold in your hand.

Follow Sara Ventiera on Twitter, @saraventiera. Follow @forkintheroadVV.


Here’s Where to Find Good Cheese and Cheap Lunch in Williamsburg

Specialty cheese shops abound in NYC, selling pounds upon pounds of dairy from nearby farms and far-off corners of the world. Some of these are monstrous showcases of nearly every variety under the sun. Others are small and curated, with staff that offers patient one-on-one help. Williamsburg’s Campbell Cheese & Grocery (502 Lorimer Street, Brooklyn; 718-387-2267) is the second type, and it offers a nice selection of aged dairy and really good inexpensive meal options.

Read: Each item on the menu is made from high-quality ingredients yet still costs less than $10.

Bread comes from local bakeries like Bien Cuit, Amy’s Bread, and Sullivan Street Bakery. Produce is local and seasonal. Meats and charcuterie come from artisanal producers. And then, of course, there’s the cheese.

For breakfast, try a jalapeño ham & egg biscuit ($6.50) with Paris ham, cheddar, soft-boiled egg, berber mayo, and pickled chiles. Or ask for an upscale bacon, egg, and cheese biscuit with fig jam ($6.50) with Benton’s bacon, raclette, soft-boiled egg, and scallions.

Later on, you might want the ricotta and pesto ($8.75), which combines a fresh mix of roasted carrots, parsley-pecan pesto, kale, and honey-sherry vinaigrette on five-grain whole wheat bread. The basic grilled cheese ($8) goes fancy with romesco, Danish havarti, Pasamontes manchego, arugula, and red-pepper-almond dipping sauce on sourdough pullman. Ham and cheese ($9.75) includes jambon de Paris, gruyère, and mustard butter on a Bronx Baking Co. pretzel baguette. Get certified sustainable albacore tuna sandwiched with white beans, capers, kalamata olives, radish, parsley, and lemon between two halves of a ciabatta loaf. And the classic Italian ($9.75) is kicked up a notch with mortadella, soppressata, provolone piccante DOP, market greens, and spicy peppadew relish on baguette.

There are lighter options as well. In addition to soup of the day and specials, the shop also offers a few healthy(ish) salads. The kale caesar ($9.75) is topped with tomatoes, croutons, lemon zest, and high-quality parmigiano-reggiano. The buttermilk bacon ($9.50) incorporates market greens, Benton’s bacon, toasted pecans, tomatoes, and soft-boiled egg in a buttermilk-herb dressing.

Or you could fill up on cheese. We won’t judge.