Even though Saxelby Cheese is located in the Essex Street Market in Manhattan, we’ve always thought of it as a Brooklyn-based business, since owner Anne Saxelby, is a long-time Carroll Gardens resident and gal-about-Brooklyn. So we’re thrilled to officially roll out the welcome mat now that’s she expanded her cheese empire to our borough with a cave and workspace in Red Hook.
If the term “cheese cave” inspires visions of subterranean rock walls and hand-hewn beams, think again. The space, as Saxelby puts, is, “Pretty basic.” Her cave is a temperature- and moisture-controlled walk-in refrigerator set to ideal cheese-aging conditions–it’s the cheese-centric set-up that makes it a cave. Eventually the cooler will be partitioned into two parts–one for wheels of firm cheeses like Cabot Clothbound Cheddar and Spring Brook Tarentaise, which favor a slightly cooler, drier environment than washed and bloomy rind cheeses like Jasper Hill’s Moses Sleeper, which thrive in a more humid climate.
The space on Imlay Street, which also houses a work room and an office, may be modest, but it will allow Saxelby to expand beyond the very limited capacity of her postage-stamp-sized Essex Street spot. “It was just getting way too cramped in there,” says Saxelby of the shop. “We couldn’t do everything we wanted to do.” With the Red Hook cave, she’s expanding her wholesale business and supplying even more restaurants around the city, including Gramercy Tavern, Minetta Tavern and Cobble Hill newcomer, Local 61. Saxelby Cheese is also now the exclusive distributor of Salvatore Bklyn, which will give owners Betsy Devine and Rachel Mark more time to make their delicious ricotta and to develop new cheeses, says Saxelby.
She’s also launching an invasion of France from her cave. That is, Saxelby will curate and supply the cheese selection at Épicerie Boulud, the new fancy food shop from chef Daniel Boulud, opening on West 64th Street in April. The inclusion of American cheeses at one of the bastions of francophilic New York just goes to show how far local farmstead cheese has come since Saxelby Cheese first opened in 2006.
The cave is in good culinary company in Red Hook–Sixpoint Brewery, Red Hook Winery, Stumptown Coffee Roasters, the Red Hook Lobster Pound and Bittermens Very Small Batch Bitters are all neighbors. Saxelby also chose the spot because she can walk to work from her apartment, and because she’s loved the neighborhood ever since she interned for two artists who had a studio in an old suitcase factory in Red Hook while she was in college. “Red Hook feels like you’re far way from everything,” she says. “It’s like a seaside town in some random part of New England.”
Saxelby’s personal life is expanding as well–she and Heritage Foods USA meat maven Patrick Martins are engaged to be married, forming a Brooklyn food business super-group of sorts. “If we ever have a kid and he turns out to be a baker we’ll be set for life,” Saxelby says laughing. “Just open a sandwich shop and we’ll be good to go.”