Murray's Cheese Bar
Murray's Cheese Shop is a foodie mecca located in The Village. It's right behind NYU, so that insured a lot of visits to sample cheeses and view all the funky offerings sitting quietly and gracefully in glass cases. Murray's has an actual cheese cave in the basement where they age their cheese. A cave. Isn't that wild?! One of my dreams will be to go cheese spelunking with Murray's professional cheesemongers!
Right next to the cheese shop is Murray's Cheese Bar, a restaurant that serves the unique and local cheeses sold in the shop. Most of their cheese are local in the sense that they are milked from New York cows...and local in the sense that they have been aging in the cave in the basement. Their menu includes cheese fondues (savory and sweet), grilled cheeses, cheeseburgers, and most importantly, the Cheesemonger's Flight (charcuterie platters with meats, cheeses, and condiments).
We had a mixed plate of cheeses and meats and condiments on a beautiful slate slab. Our five cheese were: Petit Billy, Hudson Flower, Vendeen Michonne, Idiazabal, and what the cheesemonger wrote as "Soft Wheel, Twig Farm". The meats were speck, creminelli tartufo, and D'Artagnan Tasso ham.
The Petit Billy is a goat cheese (like a billy goat...haha) and is ever-so-slightly tangy. It was the first cheese I tasted and it got my mouth a little puckered and my tastebuds eager. The Hudson Flower was an interesting-looking wedge of sheep's milk cheese: the rind was encrusted with herbs. It certainly looked and smelled like a funky cheese on the outside, but the funkiness was tempered by the swirl of the herbs as they migrated around my mouth. The Vendeen Bichonne and Idiazabal were similar in texture, both firm cheese that tasted mellow, like a Swiss cheese. Finally, the Twig Farm cheese on the end was a bit gooey, like a nice Brie. Although my tastebuds aren't sophisticated enough to distinguish the intricacies and subtleties in cheesemaking, I definitely enjoyed this course.
The meats were also a yummy accompaniment to the dairy (uh-oh, so un-kosher!). The speck was sliced thinly, almost like a prosciutto and similar in taste. I would have had exactly zero idea what "speck" was just based on the name, except that in Italy sometimes speck is a pizza topping and I finally realized by process of elimination after getting a pizza in Florence with speck, chickory, olives, and mushrooms what speck actually was. The little sausage up next was flavored with black truffle. Mmm, truffle. The funny thing was these sausages resembled Chinese sausages (lap cheong) in appearance and texture. I loved the addition of the truffle, though, which lent a mushroomy, earthy flavor. Finally, the ham was rubbed with cayenne pepper to give it a Cajun spin. I'm not sure if I have had Cajun food before...but this ham was definitely a step up from the typical cold cuts I usually get.
After our Cheesemonger's Flight, Alex and I shared the Rarebit Burger. The giant fist-shaped-and-sized burger was perched atop a crisp bun and next to pickles and homemade potato chips. The piece de resistance was the gravy boat filled with...the sauce. Rarebit sandwiches, a typical Welsh dish, have a cheese sauce of cheddar, Worcestershire sauce, and stout reduced into a viscous bubbling cauldron of goodness. The proper way to have the Rarebit burger is to have your waiter pour it over the meat until it looks like you're eating a ball of cheese, apparently. Alex was a little put off by the flavor, I think, and I was taken aback at first too, I must admit. I don't think I've ever had such an intense cheese-beer sauce. It really makes me think back to that episode of 30 Rock where Liz makes Jon Hamm a cheese and beer soup because she is an amazing woman. However, I gave the Rarebit sauce another chance and felt that the taste really grew on me. The stout is definitely pronounced, but sort of in the background. I would say the flavor is very sophisticated and unusual. I'll leave it up to you to decide whether those qualities are good things or not. What actually most surprised me about this burger was that I actually liked it. Background note: I don't really like hamburgers or hamburger meat at all! I find most burgers to be too dry or too greasy or too...something. This burger, with meat from Ottomanelli's famous butcher shop across the street, was delicious. The meat was sweet and juicy and really stood out even when enrobed in cheese sauce.