This is without a doubt the most mysterious and weird national food holiday on the entire calendar! What the hell is “Cheese Sacrifice Purchase Day”? There’s absolutely no consensus on the holiday’s origin or meaning that I can find on the Internet; all of us food holiday junkies are stumped. The speculation that runs around the Internet about Cheese Sacrifice Purchase Day is that, originally, people would buy cheese on this day and “sacrifice” it to their household pest problems, using the cheese in mouse traps to snare the little buggers. In modern days, however, this practice has long since been pushed to the realms of classic cartoons and history books. We no longer need to sacrifice our cheese to our rodent miscreants!
So how do we celebrate Cheese Sacrifice Purchase Day nowadays? (Well, technically, lots of New Yorkers could still probably use to get rid of their rodent problems, but I hope we’re using other methods than cheese these days.) Lots of people have creative, new suggestions for observing this food holiday: you can “sacrifice” a little of your budget and buy an expensive cheese you love, but don’t normally indulge in because of its price. Or try a new and interesting cheese you’ve been hesitant to taste. Here at National Food Holidays in NYC, I decided to highlight restaurants around the city that use cheeses you won’t normally see on the shelf at D’Agostino: non-cow’s cheeses!
Virtually every mammal on Earth produces milk to feed their offspring; and, milk, when cultured, processed, and aged, can become cheese. I’m not saying go out there and try like, cat’s cheese or anything. (God, do they even make cat’s cheese?! Don’t answer that, I don’t want to know!) But there are domestic animals other than cows that we use for their milk, and thus, sometimes make cheese out of it. The most popular non-cow cheeses come from goats and sheep. I’ve very rarely tried goat’s milk cheese, and I don’t think I ever tried sheep’s cheese, so here are some restaurants today that feature these rare cheeses for both you and me to enjoy!
Goat’s cheese has become more popular in the culinary world recently, especially in New York, where locavore trends have veered towards the small goat farms in surrounding regions (as apart from the larger dairy cow farms, which, while local, can be anathema to locavore beliefs). It tends to have the consistency of firm cream cheese, but with a tangier, almost sour taste, due to the milk having more fatty acids in it than cow’s milk. To counter that sour taste, many culinary cultures around the world–who favor goat’s milk to cow’s milk for the goat’s value as a herding animal–use honey as a sweetener, either in the blend of the cheese itself or as an added ingredient to a dish. Try honeyed goat’s cheese at Alta, a Mediterranean restaurant in Greenwich Village that makes lots of mountain-animal-inspired dishes, like lamb meatballs and mushroom risotto. They have their goat’s cheese as an appetizer, mounded into balls and then deep fried (can’t go wrong!), and served with lavender-infused honey. Deep-frying leaves a crispy crust on the cheese, which stays gooey and soft, not melty, when warmed; the honey adds sweetness to the dish, and the lavender leaves a sweet floral note. It’s definitely a different cheese experience from any cow’s milk you’ve had, so if you’re looking to pop your goat’s cheese cherry, this is the app to do it with!
64 W 10th St (between 5th Ave & 14th St)
“The goat cheese, delicately fried into light fluffy balls, couples famously with the floral notes radiating from the sunny, pale honey. The honey—Mosher typically uses the Le Querce acacia brand—is infused for about a week, filling its already light notes with a lavender nuance. That, mixed with the sharp tang of the cheese gives, the taste buds a rollercoaster ride of tart and sweet. The flavor combo so good, Mosher says, he doesn’t dare take the dish off the menu.”–MetroMix
“Fried goat cheese. with lavender-infused honey proved, as always, that you cannot go wrong with fried cheese. Or fried anything. The fried-ness didn’t bring out any gooey properties—goat cheese doesn’t gooify, it just stays soft and creamy—but eating a warm ball of goat cheese with a light, crunchy shell rolled in honey is a lot better than eating a plain ball of goat cheese.”–The Girl Who Ate Everything
Some reviews from Yelp.com:
“Fried Goat Cheese balls (fried to perfection, the goat cheese melts in your mouth. The taste will appeal to people who normally can’t stand goat cheese since the signature flavor is mild.)”–Mona L.
“Fried goat cheese – i like cheese. i like things that are fried. when you put them together it turns into some sort of heaven for me. these little balls of perfection were amazing. everything comes together nicely when dipped in the delicious honey.”–Neelam P.
Another domestic animal whose milk tends to make excellent cheeses is sheep, whose milk is usually fattier and creamier than cow’s milk. Tons of popular cheeses today originated as sheep’s milk cheese, including feta, ricotta, and roquefort, but have since become predominantly cow’s milk cheeses for sake of production and the bottom line. But you can still get some sheep’s milk cheese in New York, in some very delicious dishes. Uva, a rustic Italian restaurant in the Upper East Side, is an “old school” Italian joint–not in the way of thin-sliced garlic cloves and everything covered in red sauce, but the real Italian, serving artisan breads, freshly made bruschettas, and teensy tiny perfectly cooked gnocchi. One of their bruschetta variations includes creamy ricotta with black truffle oil-infused honey–but the real ricotta, the old-school good stuff; sheep’s milk ricotta. Surprisingly, the extra fatty acids in sheep’s milk makes ricotta taste almost sweet, instead of the bland, unappealing cow’s milk ricotta that is usually relegated to a supporting ingredient role in American dishes. But in this form, ricotta is ready to shine, its natural sweetness complementing the honey, all served for you on a slice of freshly baked Italian bread. And the best thing is, when you try it, you’re not eating a dish where sheep’s milk cheese has been crammed into the recipe to replace cow’s milk; you’re eating the cheese as it was originally intended to be consumed, the way ricotta’s made back in the Italian countryside. Definitely a great way to celebrate this national food holiday!
1486 2nd Ave (between 77th St & 78th St)
“What stands out for us was the antipasti – with these delicious meaty green olives, the gnocchi di ricotta with creamy black truffle and chive sauce (they smallest gnocchi we’ve ever seen!) and the AMAZING bruschette with sheep’s ricotta cheese and black truffle honey.”–Foodies In NYC
Some reviews from Yelp.com:
“The bruschetta selection is to die for! The ricotta and honey is maybe the best I’ve ever had. It’s a great ambiance for either a date or for getting a drink with a friend or two. It’s quiet enough that you can actually hear each other and I’ve never had trouble getting a table/seat.”–Anya R.
“Everything we ordered was surprisingly authentic Northern Italian and extremely decadent. My favorite app was the sheeps ricotta, honey and truffle oil bruschetta. I could eat those for every meal, every day. Not even kidding. I want to copy that recipe and make it myself at my next party, it was so good! The wine list was exhausting but everything I tried I loved and each glass was very reasonably priced.”–Raquel G.
Make sure you check out the updated NYC Food Holidays Map to find this most recent holiday!