Tuesday, March 29, 2016
Murray's Cheese, at 254 Bleecker Street in Greenwich Village.
My brother Thom and sister-in-law Karen invited family over for dinner on Easter and I thought it would be nice to bring some cheeses so I headed down to Murray's Cheese on Bleecker Street, which is a delightful destination. Murray's Cheese was founded by Murray Greenberg in 1940 so it has been in institution in the Village for more than seven decades. Rob Kaufelt bought the business in the early 90s, and has expanded it with a branch in Grand Central Station and shop-in-shops in local grocery stores across the country. Additionally, the store is committed to education, offering cheese classes and a cheese bar next door.
It's always fun to go and shop there. The people who wait on you - yes, they are called cheesemongers - are very helpful and knowledgeable, and they give you little tastes of the cheese. And there is a huge case of selections to choose from –
Ok, so I have read in magazines that for a cheese platter, you offer a soft cheese and a hard cheese and something in between, which is what I told the guy who was helping me. I think it was his first day on the job. But he was very eager to please. We started with the soft cheeses. He suggested a brie and gave me a little taste of it on a small wooden knife. It was ok. He offered a taste of another, and I asked for something not so soft. The young woman working next to him suggested the Fromage d'Affinois, which was creamy and mild and buttery. Wonderful. He took out a big knife and cut off a piece and wrapped it in paper and attached a detailed and descriptive label of the cheese.
Then we moved to the hard cheeses –
A customer standing next to me was tasting a hard cheese and she said, "It's like golden light." I said, "I'll have what she had." It was Beaufort Alpage, which an eighteenth century gourmand named the "Prince of Gruyeres." The descriptive label on this cheese said, "Enormous 85 pound wheels are trundled down from the Savoie Alps at the end of fleeting summers where indigenous cows have feasted on sloping meadows of flowers and grass." Delightful!
We moved on to blue cheeses. I tasted a couple. Another cheesemonger suggested Chiriboga Blue, which was moist and earthy and a little mineraly. I got a wedge and as I was waiting, more of it was sold - it must be a popular blue. Then I got some crackers to accompany the cheeses. I picked up Firehook Sea Salt Mediterranean Baked Crackers, which are crisp and dry and speckled with sea salt. I like a little fruit with cheese so I also got dark Kiwi Natural Artisan Crisps with Date, Walnut and Fennel.
At the party, I put the cheeses and crackers on one of Karen's platters with cheese knives.
We drank a cold pale pink rose wine. It was all delicious. Stop by Murray's in New York or one of the branches if you can. The service and the product are great. It's a wonderful local business, which is getting rarer and rarer here in New York City. Many of our neighborhood pleasures have been crushed by escalating New York City rents (Restaurant Florent, Camouflage, Mxyplyzyk, our sushi place) and our neighborhood grocery store is closing because the landlord is TRIPLING the rent. Hopefully Murray's Cheese will be around for a long time.