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The City’s Great Cheese Chase

The thing about cheese is that it just keeps getting better.  Once upon a time you had to go to Italy if you wanted fresh, homemade mozzarella.  But these days, restaurants and shops are spinning their own freshly mozzarella.  They’re buying domestic and aging cheese in-house, not to mention the incredible selection of cheeses from all over the world.  There’s red wine-soaked cheeses, like the Drunken Goat, and pungent California cheese, like Humboldt Fog.

Lucky for us, New York is full of restaurants and specialty cheese shops doling out all kinds of the ooey gooey goodness.  We love the housemade cheeses at Beecher’s, the daily cheese specials at Danny Brown’s and the fondue served up in Artisanal’s cheese cave.  Whether you’re a fan of domestic cheese or imported, goat or blue, we sampled the city and picked a few places that serve it up best…

Beecher’s Handmade Cheese
Address: 900 Broadway, at East 20th Street
Phone: (212)466-3340
Beecher’s Handmade Cheese is relatively new to the New York cheese scene, but it’s certainly not new in the world of cheese mongering.  It’s just been hiding over in Seattle for the past eight years.  Luckily for us, Beecher’s set up shop in the Flatiron district last summer and has quickly become revered as a cheese mecca, with a cheese-making factory, retail store, and restaurant all rolled into one space.  We really like their selection of grilled cheese sandwiches (our favorite is the fig and cheese), but the best thing on the menu is their Mac & Cheese.  Hands down.  They’ve elevated the classic by adding things like chunks of fresh crabmeat, pieces of crispy pork belly, and curried cauliflower florets.  If it’s a sit-down meal you’re looking for, venture down to the Cellar, the restaurant.  There you can enjoy a glass of wine while you check out the cheese caves where Beecher’s Flatiron cheese, which is only available in New York, is ripened to perfection.  Oh, and order some cheese while you’re there.  You can’t go wrong with the “Hoja Santa,” an herbaceous mozzarella from Texas or Beecher’s “No Woman” cheese made with Jamaican Jerk spices.

Murray’s Cheese Shop
Address: 254 Bleeker Street, btwn 6th & 7th Aves.
Phone: (212)243-3289
This spot is for fromage fanatics who understand what goes into the art of affinage, that’s French for cheese-making.  The shop is furbished with wall-to-wall cheese counters packed with cheeses from all over the world, and plenty of jams, pickles and olives to pair with them all. . Murray’s also ages most of their cheese offerings in-house.  (There are five temperature-and-humidity-controlled caves where wheels of cheese are carefully ripened.) While you probably won’t get to explore those caves for yourself, you can sneak a peek from a window on Bleecker Street next time you’re strolling through the West Village.  Still, it’s not really the caves you’re there for anyway, so head to the cheese counter and start sampling.  Try the nutty cave-aged Chevrot or the mildly fruity (one of our favorites!) Drunken Goat cheese from Spain.  If you get hungry while you’re shopping, sample one of their pressed-to-order panini, like the ham and cheese sandwich made with ham, creamy brie, Dijon mustard, and cornichons.  If you’re really serious about it, you can join Murray’s Cheese of the Month club.

Address: 401 West 52nd St.,, btwn 9th and 10th Aves.
Phone: (212)247-8137
The word has long been out on this cheese-driven wine bar in Hell’s Kitchen, but we’ve yet to grow tired of it.  Casellula may be small (yes, you’ll have to be okay rubbing elbows with the guy next to you), but it’s definitely not lacking in the cheese department,with over 40 handmade cheeses from around the world.  Their menu features everything from cheese flights to a gussied up mac & cheese.  But what keeps us coming back is their impeccable cheese pairing skills. We’re not just talking wine. They match each cheese with unique condiments, like candied popcorn, truffle honey, or peanut brittle. They also pair wines, of course.  No matter what you order, cheese will be the centerpiece of your meal here.

Danny Brown Wine Bar and Kitchen
Address: 104-02 Metropolitan Ave., at 71st Dr. (Queens)
Phone: (718) 261-2144
With a wallet-friendly menu and an affable vibe, Queens’ only Michelin-starred restaurant, Danny Brown Wine Bar and Kitchen, is definitely worth a visit.  It may be located in Queens near the Forest Hills Gardens, but thanks to its award-wining wine list and chic bistro style, you’ll feel like you’re in the middle of Soho.  Chef Danny Brown’s menu is studded with inventive bar snacks as well as an eclectic mix of American and Italian classics. There’s a variety of cheeses and even a cheese daily special, all of which come with housemade condiments like fig compote, smoked tomato jam , and red currant preserve.  But the cincher here is dessert: mascarpone cheesecake.  It’s light and airy, encased in a sumptuous walnut crust, and finished off with a few fresh strawberries — a little slice of cheese paradise.

Artisanal Fromagerie, Bistro and Wine Bar
Address: 2 Park Ave., btwn. Park & Madison Aves.
Phone: (212)725-8585
Not many restaurants boast their own cheese cave.  Factor in the phenomenal selection of over 160 wines by the glass and you’ve got a pretty compelling reason to visit Artisanal in midtown.  If you really want a unique experience, you can even dine in the cheese cave with the smell of well, perfectly stinky cheeses in the air.  But our favorite part is the fromagerie, an in-house cheese shop brimming with cheeses from all over the world, like nutty Gruyère, pungent Tomme au Marc, and Monte Enebro.  Want more?   Sample a few things off the cheese menu and definitely try one of their three blended fondues, which comes with plenty for dipping, like pear slices, crudités, and kielbasa.  Our favorite dish is the “The Big Cheese,” a godsend sandwich made with Fontina, Taleggio, Gruyère, and Emmenthaler.  Add bacon and you’ll see why this is one of our go-to spots for all things cheese.

The Jakewalk
Address: 282 Smith St., at Sackett St. (Brooklyn)
Phone: (347)599-0294
The Jakewalk is so devoted to cheese they’ve teamed up with Stinky BKLYN, Brooklyn’s foremost authority on all things cheese.  They show off their cheese chops with an eclectic fromage and charcuterie section of the menu, which includes categories, like “washed and stinky” and “blue vein.” There are some milder choices under “old and bold,” like a cheese fondue made with five-year cheddar and cave-aged Swiss fondue.  Served inlittle  personal cauldrons with apples and salami for dipping, it’s the perfect snack to nibble on while you sip one (or three) of their uniquely named cocktails, like the “Tony Danzig” and the “Damsel in Distress.”  The Jakewalk’s very laidback and great for a table for one and a cheese & wine evening.

Address: 510 West 52nd St., btw.n 10th & 11th Aves.
Phone: (212) 247-9191
This sexy wine bar in midtown is a great option before or after the theater.  Afterall, a late-night cheese plate and a bottle of wine by a wonderful way to end the evening.  Ardesia offers a mix of old and new world wines here, from crisp Sauvignon Blanc from Italy to semi-dry Riesling from the Finger Lakes region.  And their cheese menu is just as worldly, featuring a rotation of cheeses from places like Scotland, Holland, France, and even Greenville, Indiana.  Their creamy burrata come served with pesto and thick slices of toasted bread from Amy’s Bread..  But it’s their goat milk ricotta that stole our heart.  Made in-house, it’s so simple, and yet packed with flavor.  Want to learn the secrets behind their cheeses?  You’re in luck – their chef offers hands-on cheese-making classes and wine & cheese tastings every so often.

‘inoteca Vino e Cucina
Address: 98 Rivington St., btwn. Ludlow & Orchard Sts.
Phone: (212)614-0473
This teeny Lower East Side Italian has been packing diners in nightly for years.  They continue come for the extensive list of Italian wines, small plates and affordable prices. We come because so many dishes on the menu incorporate cheese in some way.  There’s several great panini, like the prosciutto with mozzarella and pesto, and the soppressata with goat cheese.  Or try one of their cheese-topped bruschette.  Our favorite is the Gorgonzola Dolci drizzled with miele pepato (peppered honey) and quartered figs.  You may need something other than crackers to cut through all the rich cheesiness here, so go ahead and order one of their 600 bottles of wine.  You are in an enoteca afterall.

C’est Cheese
Address: 216 Main St.,btwn. Arden Pl. & E Main St. (Port Jefferson)
Phone: (631)\ 403-4944
Need an excuse to stop by the charming town of Port Jefferson this summer?  Well C’est Cheese may be just the push you’ve been looking for… especially if you’re a cheese aficionado.  For starters, they have close to 100 cheeses on tap, like the “Purple Haze” and the “Drunken Goat.” And they’re available in flights already paired with wine for you.  When they make it that easy, how can you resist?  C’est Cheese also features a large list of sandwiches, all of which are made with some form of cheese, like the “Clucker” with grilled chicken and Fontina, or the “Dakota,” piled with peppered roast beef and Blue Cheese. And it doesn’t stop there.  There’s quiche, mac & cheese, and mini devils food cheesecake.  If you can’t get your cheese fix here, then we don’t know what to tell you….

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