Thursday saw New York City hit by a massive storm — aka a Derecho — with ominous warnings of tornadoes and extreme rain and winds, arriving right around the dinner hour. That wasn’t enough to keep me from venturing out, useless $3 umbrella in hand, to Murray’s Cheese Bar, Murray’s new cheese-focused space a few doors down from their store on Bleecker street. Fortunately, the storm’s power was far less than expected — although it did leave one dining companion a little wetter than they might have liked, and produce some astonishing photos — and Murray’s did not disappoint on any level.
Helmed by Tia Keenan (@kasekaiserina) — formerly of Casselula and now “Director of Food Service” for Murray’s and self-described “Mother Hen” of the restaurant — the Bar offers a menu that takes full advantage of the amazing cheese caves at its disposal. You can see the full menu in my previous post.
The menu offers a carefully selected array of cheeses at their peak for ripeness, aging and seasonal availability— organized into Fresh, Soft-Ripened, Washed Rind, Semi-Firm/Firm, and Blue — available both a la carte and as “Cheesemongers choice” flights of three or five cheeses. In addition there’s a large selection of meats, also a la carte or as flights, and combo cheese/meat flights. The cheese menu includes many of Murray’s own “cave-aged” projects, such as the Hudson Flower (previously tasted at the New Amsterdam Market) and the Petit Eric and Gabietou.
For our cheese plate we went with a Cheesemonger’s flight of cheeses (Up in Smoke Chevre, Hudson Flower, Pecorino Ginepro, Zimbro, Colston-Basset Stilton, as well as an a la carte order of Nocciolo) with three meats and an accompaniment of pickles, jams candied nuts and wasabi brittle. The board featured many sheep and goat’s milk cheeses; as Tia told us, this was a reflection of the fact that mid-late summer is peak season for these. The Zimbro in particular was a delightful discovery, a thistle-renneted, cloth-wrapped pudding-like cheese, lacking in the bitterness that often marks these cheeses and with a wonderful pudding-like consistency. We also tried the recommended pairing of the Up In Smoke with a Kim Chi, which worked surprisingly well. The Hudson Flower is a collaboration with Old Chatham Sheepherding and is Murray’s spin on the classic Fleur de Maquis, and is worth seeking out.
The menu also offers a selection of cheese-centric spreads, appetizers, entrees, sides and desserts. We enjoyed the Gruyere Malakoff, Murray’s version of a Swiss specialty that is essentially a cheese beignet, light and crackling on the outside with a molten, nutty core; Spreads including a Southern-inspired Pimento, Bavarian Obatdza, and Greek Kopanisti; a bubbling Mac ‘n’ Cheese made with Tickler Cheddar, Caved Aged Gruyere and Mozzarela di Bufala; and for dessert, we shared a luscious Coeur de Creme parfait made with Vermont Butter & Cheese Creme Fraiche, Ben’s Cream Cheese and Red Currant Curd.
From the wine and beer list we were recommended one unusual choice — the Mava Roka alcoholic Kombucha. Made in Queens, this is an unusual version of the fermented beverage with a higher alcohol content and less of a vinegary bite, about which we were admittedly a little bit dubious, but quite enjoyed.
So if you’re looking for a night of cheese, whether drinks with a flight or a full meal, get yourself to Murray’s Cheese Bar! And hopefully you won’t have to race any Deracho’s to get there…
(Also, make sure to check out the painting in the back, signed by none other than Anne Saxelby. Anne got her start in the cheese world at Murray’s; this work was created during her time in the caves there.)
Murray’s Cheese Bar
264 Bleecker St
Open Daily 5pm-1am