In another life, the long, narrow bar facing a glass-enclosed display case might be serving up sushi, the room Zen-quiet with the murmur of Japanese and wooden chopsticks. In this moment of affineur mania, the bar is white marble and the treasured slabs behind it are the aged, fermented milk of goat, sheep and cow. The single line of tables against a tiled wall are packed with noisy revelers who have come for a flight of cheeses, a charcuterie plate, a cheeseburger dowsed in Alpine fondue or a grilled cheese with bacon. Order one of six suggested flights ($14 to $16), or construct your own plate from the à la carte menu, arranged from fresh to soft-ripened, washed rind, semi-firm, firm and blue. A short list of meats offers a counterpoint, including a meltingly soft speck and a chewy, spicy chorizo. And the tight selection of wines bridges the hipster aesthetic of West Village bianchello and bobal drinkers with more classical cheese mates like Huet Vouvray Pétillant (a no-holds-barred match for the Nettle Meadow Kunik, a soft, creamy goat and cow’s milk cheese from New York State), or a Niepoort 10-Year-Old Tawny Port (with the Mitibleu sheep’s cheese from Spain). Murray’s cheese shop is right down the block, where it has supplied the neighborhood with cheese since the 1940s. Rob Kaufelt, the third owner of the store, has been building the breadth and diversity of his caves since the 1990s, when fromage was still considered fussy. Now that American farmstead cheeses can stand with the best from Europe, his cheese bar feels right at home on Bleecker Street.
264 Bleecker St., New York, NY
This story appears in the print issue of April 2013.
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