Say Cheese

Two New York City women make culinary waves with their artisanal ricotta.



Say Cheese smaller |

One of those specialty stores is Saxelby Cheesemongers, a small shop on Manhattan’s Lower East Side that’s influential in spreading the gospel of artisanal American cheese. Its proprietor, Anne Saxelby, is unstinting in her praise of Salvatore Bklyn’s fresh, lemony flavor and distinctive texture, noting that Devine’s practice of straining the cheese results in a denser, creamier consistency than most ricottas have. “It’s in a league of its own,” Saxelby says.

Devine’s ricotta-making method is deceptively simple. She uses only local, hormone-free milk from the Hudson Valley Fresh cooperative with lemon juice and salt, which she combines and heats for two hours, strains, then chills for 12 more hours. The current output? Some 200 pounds of cheese a week (there’s a part-time employee to help).

Delivering the final product, which both women do using Mark’s brother’s 1981 sky-blue Mercedes-Benz, is one of their biggest challenges (they’ve got the parking tickets to prove it). While the logistics of parallel parking in “the longest car you’ve ever seen” are problematic, Mark says, hand delivery to appreciative customers is one of the biggest pleasures.

The daunting state of the economy may pose difficulties for any specialty product, including artisanal cheese. Though the women’s business hasn’t been affected yet, “everyone we sell to has a look of fear in their eyes,” Devine says. “The thought has crossed my mind that this might not be the best environment to grow a boutique cheese company in. But we’ll see.”

Prudence hasn’t kept the couple from thinking about expansion, though. Some of the ideas they’ve been tossing around include a Salvatore Bklyn mozzarella and a storefront in the tradition of old-school latterias that sold only cheese. “My grandma still talks about the ricotta guy she would go to on Arthur Avenue,” Mark says, referring to an Italian-American stretch of the Bronx.

And yes, they’re still in touch with old Sal, their business’s namesake. “He’s so psyched,” Devine says, laughing. “He thinks we’re absolutely crazy.”

Tags: Business