I first met Anne Saxelby in 2008 when I was 23 and working part-time selling cheese at Brooklyn’s Greene Grape Provisions. I was picking up shifts on my days off from cooking at The Good Fork, where I had just gotten an internship that quickly became a job. I needed to pay my rent, but moreover, I needed to feed my insatiable appetite for all things culinary. Cheese was always something I adored, so the Greene Grape gig was a pleasure. My coworkers and I regularly geeked out about new arrivals and Anne’s name came up daily. Her young cheese stall in Essex Market may have been small, but—just like Anne—it was mighty, and even then I could tell she was unstoppable.
Just about everyone in the cheese world seemed to know Anne. She was disrupting the American dairy industry in the best way, by showcasing domestic cheeses that could hold their own among the European stalwarts. Anne was larger than life, warm, charismatic, and of course, so excited to talk about cheese. She gave me my first taste of Harbison. She introduced me to Jasper Hill, and her beloved Cato Corner Farm. She taught me all about clothbound cheddars, washed rinds, and triple creams. She showed me how to make mozzarella with cultured curds from Pennsylvania, and then, even better, how to turn that mozzarella into stracciatella the next day. If you loved cheese even an iota as much as Anne did, you were an instant friend. She welcomed me on several occasions—beaming with pride—into her little cheese cave in Red Hook, feeding me slivers of whatever wheels her team was portioning for wholesale that day.
But Anne wasn't just a knowledgeable cheesemonger and affineur. She led a cheese revolution. Her passion gave a platform and a spotlight to dairy farmers doing incredible work. She educated her customers and a new generation of cheese makers and mongers and, gradually, she changed the way the world regarded American farmstead cheeses. She mentored and loved so many, and championed the little guys out there, going out of her way for everyone in her orbit.
When Anne passed away last fall, she left behind a legacy of education and sustainable agriculture. No one had integrity quite like Anne, and I can’t think of a more fitting way to honor her life and work than to continue celebrating her mission and passions.
I’ve put iterations of my chèvre cheesecake on menus since 2012, and it's become one of my signature desserts. I was honored that Anne came to taste this dish over the years in various establishments—most recently at Gage & Tollner, where the tangy goat cheese serves as a seasonal canvas and a creamy endnote to dinner. This cake pairs with anything that is lucious and in season: Jammy late-season plums for early autumn; roasted pears and maple later in the season; candied citrus in the doldrums of winter; and macerated berries, cherries, and peaches as spring turns to summer. I hope you’ll make this beauty at home, with a good-quality goat cheese that Anne would approve of. Anne, this cheesecake is forever for you.
For the filling:
- 20 oz. fresh goat cheese, softened at room temperature
- 1¼ cup sugar
- 1 Tbsp. finely grated lemon zest
- 1 vanilla bean, split lengthwise, seeds scraped and pod reserved, or 2 tsp. vanilla extract
- 1 tsp. kosher salt
- 1 cup heavy cream
- 4 large eggs
For the crust:
- Nonstick baking spray
- ¾ cup all-purpose flour
- ¼ cup whole wheat flour
- ⅓ cup light brown sugar
- ½ cup coarsely ground hazelnuts
- ¼ tsp. kosher salt
- 5 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
For the roasted plum compote:
- 1 heaping pint ripe plums (about 1 lb.; choose a mixture of varieties and colors)
- 1 Tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil
- ½ cup granulated sugar
- 2 Tbsp. fresh lemon juice
- 4 thyme sprigs
- ¼ tsp. kosher salt