While it’s astounding what can be culled from a Brooklyn rooftop nowadays (we’re on tenterhooks waiting for Thousands Win’s debut this fall) there are some seriously delicious developments taking shape underground too.
You wouldn’t know it to look at the Monti Building—a sprawling, commercial complex in Crown Heights—but it’s built over a series of labyrinthine lagering tunnels (remnants from its former life as the Nassau Brewery), that are currently being transformed into Brooklyn’s premier cheese-aging facility. Because while Crown Finish Caves won’t be the first of its kind in the city, the 70-foot space will certainly be most ambitious—Saxelby’s Red Hook ‘cave,’ for one, is scarcely larger than a walk-in refrigerator.
Husband-and-wife team Benton Brown and Susan Boyle have spent the last three years renovating the tunnels, consulting with experts like Matteo Kehler, of the Cellars at Jasper Hill, and French master affineurs Hervé Mons and Ivan Larcher, who eventually turned them onto Clauger — a French refrigeration and ventilation company that helped install top-of-the-line cooling and humidity control systems.
By May, Crown Finish will be ready to officially begin storing and aging product, including a 15,000-pound shipment of Tomme-style raw cow’s milk cheeses from Parish Hill Creamery in Vermont, none of it over two weeks old. And while Crown Finish wont include a retail component, cheese aficionados will still be able to purchase their locally fermented goods at locations all over the city. So keep your eyes peeled for Caciocavallo-style Suffolk Punch or semi-soft, cider-washed Humble Herdsman at restaurants like The Pines and Marlow & Sons, or West West Blue Gorgonzola at specialty shops like Stinky Bklyn (which, incidentally, eventually plans to construct their own cave).
A dearth of farmland and dairy cows may continue to inhibit Brooklyn’s ability to actually produce cheese, but we sure are making our presence known in the time-honored art of aging.