The cheese stands alone at Flushing Town Hall event

By Suzanne Parker

New York Epicurean Events, the folks behind last August’s Catskills Comes to Queens foodie festival, is at it again.

This time, however, they’re putting on an event with a narrower focus—Cheddar, Swiss, Provolone and the like—at the Great Northeast Cheesefest on Dec. 5 at Flushing Town Hall.

The event will bring together top local chefs with luminaries of the artisanal cheese world.

Guests will be able to sample a spectrum of local handcrafted cheeses and a bounty of cheese-centric dishes that they inspired. A selection of local fermentations and brews will be on hand to wash it all down, along with a beef jerky bar.

One of the participants is the Vulto Creamery in Walton, N.Y., at the foothills of the Catskills about 150 miles from Queens.

The Vulto Creamery is concealed behind an unmarked door of a nondescript commercial strip in the heart of Delaware County’s dairy country, a stone’s throw from a gigantic Kraft factory.

It was founded by Jos Vulto, a man once given the title “Brooklyn’s favorite urban cheese maker.”

Vulto came here from his native Holland in 1990 to take advantage of a grant he received from PS1 in Long Island City to pursue his metal sculpture.

He moved to Brooklyn, and when not working in metal, began making cheese, as a hobby at first.

His reputation as a cheesemaker grew, seemingly faster than his reputation as a sculptor, and he eventually decided to move his cheese making closer to the source of his most essential ingredient—raw milk.

He now turns out about 15 to 20 thousand pounds of cheese per year.

To start the process, Vulto, with hair and beard restrained by separate nets, adds microbial rennent—an enzyme that curdles the milk—to warm, locally sourced raw milk, to coagulate the curds.

By using microbial rennet instead of animal rennet, he ensures that his cheeses are vegetarian friendly. That also makes them theoretically kosher, although he has not sought that certification.

Once the curd begins to form, Vulto and his two assistants spend the next half hour or so bent over with their arms submerged in the vat, continuously agitating the contents, until the curd and whey have had a thorough parting of the ways.

When the coagulation is complete, the whey is drained as the curds are collected in plastic colander-like containers of various shapes and dimensions, each one appropriate to one of the five types of cheese produced. The aging process is now ready to begin. Cheese made from raw milk must be aged a minimum of 60 days.

Vulto makes five different types of unpasteurized cow’s milk cheeses, including Miranda, a small rosy button of cheese washed in Meadow of Love, a locally produced absinthe. Miranda was named for Jos Vulto’s late wife. Vulto’s cheeses are served at the celebrated Gramercy Tavern in Manhattan, and can be found in Queens at Astoria Bier & Cheese.

“Everybody from bona fide curd nerds to cheese enthusiasts will find something to enjoy,” Joe DiStefano, vice president of New York Epicurean Events, said. “And, in a nod to the diversity of Queens itself, Will Horowitz will pay homage to the pungent Tibetan cheese soup served at the renowned restaurant Phayul in Jackson Heights.”

Will Horowitz of Ducks Eatery/Harry & Ida’s Meat & Supply Co. will be joined by some of our borough’s most renowned chefs, including Michelin-starred Queens chefs Hugue Dufour of M. Wells Steakhouse and Danny Brown of Danny Brown Wine Bar and Kitchen, and Alfonso Zhicay of Casa del Chef.

Desserts will be provided by two Queens confectioners: Chef Judy Lai of Silk Cakes in Forest Hills, who will be showcasing her cheesecakes, and Chef Rudolf Merlin of Creme Bakery in Flushing, who will be preparing delectable French pastry using artisanal cheeses.

“A lot of diners are familiar with European cheeses, but it’s important for people to learn about and enjoy all the wonderful gems the region has to offer,” said David Noeth, president of New York Epicurean Events. “In order to sample this many cheeses of such a high quality in one evening you’d have to own a cheese shop.”

If you Go

The Great Northeast Cheesefest

When: Saturday, Dec. 5, at 6 pm

Where: Flushing Town Hall, 137-35 Northern Blvd.

Cost: $60/per person, $150/VIP includes early access and special demonstrations

Contact: (718) 463-7700

Website: www.flushingtownhall.org

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