By Amy Zimmer
DNAinfo News Editor
MANHATTAN — How much cheese is produced in New York City?
Very little at the moment, but that's expected to change on June 24.
That's the target opening for Beecher's Handmade Cheese, according to Kurt Beecher Dammeier, who is bringing the popular artisan cheese from Seattle's famed Pike Place Market across the country to an outpost in the Flatiron district.
Signs for Beecher's have been hanging in the windows at the corner of Broadway and 20th Street for nearly eight months as the company has been readying the 8,000-square-foot store, which will include space to watch cheese makers ply their trade.
"Permitting to make cheese in Manhattan has been a challenge," Dammeier said. "Inspectors aren't accustomed to giving permits for this kind of manufacturing.
"It's intense. It's like building a submarine. You don't often see a 15,000-pound vat for milk in downtown."
The company, which received a giant vat on Friday, will be getting its milk from an upstate town near Albany, roughly 2.5 hours away.
Dammeier will be sourcing from two farms, one which raises Jersey cows and another that raises Holsteins.
Beecher's makes its flagship cheese — which Dammeier described as a cross between cheddar and Gruyere — with a mix between the Holsteins' milk, which produces a "sweeter, bright white and lower fat" cheese with the Jersey's "earthier, more yellow and higher fat" one.
The company will be selling the 20 cheeses it sells in Seattle — except with local New York milk instead of milk local to Seattle — and will add one more specifically for the new store. Called the Flatiron, it will be a washed rind cheese, similar to Taleggio, Dammeier said.
The shop, which is more than double the size of its Seattle space, will include an 80-seat restaurant in "The Cellar" downstairs where cheese lovers can sip some wine and munch on Beecher's famous mac and cheese and other small plates in the glow of the cheese cave, where they can watch the Flatiron ripen.
"People can have the thrill of watching cheese age," Dammeier said. "You can't actually see it happening, but since we'll be making it every few days, you'll be able to see behind glass the different stages."
The idea for a Manhattan store began percolating when Dammeier was here four years ago on the Martha Stewart Show and thinking about his next move, as his Seattle shop was growing beyond its capacity.
"Our company's mission is to change the way Americans eat," Dammeier said, "to get people to see and start that discussion about where all their food comes from."
That's why they encourage customers to watch the cheesemaking process. Since they want as many eyes as possible, New York was a natural fit.
Also, said Dammeier, "New York has been really cheese-centric and had cheese lovers way before the rest of the country."
Manhattan has had some other Pacific Northwest imports of late, including the Portland-based Stumptown Coffee, which has a shop in the Ace Hotel, a hip boutique hotel chain founded in Seattle.