Murray’s Cheese has opened its first restaurant. We venture deep into the aging caves to uncover the best, funkiest cheeses making their way onto the menu.
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“We didn’t want to be just a wine bar with great cheese,” says Tia Keenan, the chef at the new Murray’s Cheese Bar, a few doors down Bleecker Street from the famous cheese shop. “We wanted our first restaurant to be an expression of what we do, which is to provide America with some of the best cheeses available.”
That mission comes to life on the menu in the form of classics like mac and cheese and fondue, but also in some surprises, including an over-the-top serving of Buffalo fried cheese curds with blue cheese dressing and a cheeseburger-meets-English-rarebit: a grass-fed burger on bread with a rich, melted cheese sauce to pour on top.
To make the decadent dishes, the team pulls its cheese from Murray’s system of caves beneath the store. There are five caves, each behind a wooden door and each tailored to the specific needs of different cheeses. We took a tour of the underground lair and uncovered some standouts, all of which appear on the Cheese Bar menu.
• Zimbro: If you want to wow the cheese connoisseur, this will do the job. Zimbro is made in Portugal from raw sheep’s milk, giving it a pudding-like quality with an unctuous taste that Murray’s describes as “sour in a good way.” Paired with a sweet and spicy wasabi pea brittle, it is unlike anything you’ve ever tried…in a good way.
• Solo di Bruna: Everyone loves Parmigiano Reggiano, but this Parm is too good to grate over pasta. Handcrafted from the milk of Swiss brown cows, Solo di Bruna has a much more caramel-like character than standard Parmesan. It is an extremely obscure variety made by only four producers in Italy.
• Rainbeau Ridge Meridian: Started by a husband-and-wife team in Bedford Hills, New York, this enterprise is a prime example of the booming artisanal cheese trade in the U.S. About 10 years ago, this particular couple decided to quit their corporate jobs and buy a few goats. Now they make some of the best, crispest, and cleanest-tasting goat cheese there is.
• Uplands Cheese Co. Pleasant Ridge: This is the cheese nerd’s go-to selection, based on the French cheese recipe beaufort. The secret behind Uplands’ version is rotational grazing, in which cows constantly have access to the freshest grass, and therefore yield better raw milk. Since the Dodgeville, Wisconsin, farm started making cheese just 10 years ago (a very short time in the cheese business), Uplands has won Best in Show three times in the American Cheese Society’s Judging & Competition.
• Hudson Flower: A Murray’s creation, this cheese begins on a farm in Old Chatham, New York. It comes to Murray’s completely green (not ripe), and the cheese masters experiment on it with different washes and let it ripen in the cave. This season, they’ve rolled it in an herb mix that completely changes the flavor profile into something unique to Murray’s.