Critics’ choice: Where the cheese lovers go
Murray’s Cheese Bar; Bar Pastoral; Cyril’s
Murray’s Cheese Bar New York
Cheese devotees have a new Manhattan mecca, said Ligaya Mishan in The New York Times. Murray’s Cheese Shop of Greenwich Village has opened a sit-down outpost just doors away from the “venerable and encyclopedic” mother ship. The cheese bar is a place where patrons can settle in at a small table or the long marble counter and sample from “the voluminous archives” that Murray’s maintains in its caves below Bleecker Street. Though the kitchen sends out entrées in which the main attraction has been melted, baked, or fried, the reason to visit is the curated cheese plates. If you’re feeling adventurous, give the cheesemonger on duty permission to surprise you. “River’s Edge chèvre, made in Oregon and wrapped in smoked and bourbon-misted maple leaves, might be paired, mind-bendingly, with pickled kimchi.” A refined Swiss Challerhocker (“HOL-ler-hock-er”) might be coupled with chipotle carrots, “like the princess eloping with the stable boy.” Or you might get a warm pan of juustoleipa (“YOO-sto-lay-pa”), a cheese the consistency of bread that Finns like to dunk in coffee. “Impossible but true: It tastes like hot ice cream.” 264 Bleecker St., (646) 476-8882
Bar Pastoral Chicago
“You can’t eat at Bar Pastoral if you’re lactose-intolerant,” said David Tamarkin in Time Out Chicago. “Cheese is not part of the experience—it is the experience” at this new restaurant created by Chicago’s beloved Pastoral wine and cheese shop. You can simply ignore the entrées that are included on the menu created by former Top Chef contestant Chrissy Camba. Camba handles small plates with flair: Try her pork rillettes, topped with sweet-potato puree and crème fraîche; they’re the best in town. But venture into large-plate territory and you’re likely to get stuck with a “boring” trout chowder or an “aggressively salty” ham, smothered in melted raclette. Focus instead on the “bar” in “Bar Pastoral.” This is a place for drinking wine, for sampling the cheeses selected by Bryan Bland, and for nibbles like those rillettes. 2947 N. Broadway, (773) 472-4781
Cyril’s Portland, Ore.
Portland offers its own version of “cheese heaven,” said Benjamin Tepler in Portland Monthly. Though Cyril’s is “many things”—including a gourmet retail space and a tasting room for the adjacent Clay Pigeon Winery—it is foremost the vision of a husband-and-wife team who specialize, respectively, in wine pairings and curated cheeses. “Take a seat at the white marble bar supported by old wine-barrel staves” and “nerdy, affable Michael Claypool” will elucidate the wine options while his wife, Sasha Davies, busies herself with a 53-pound wheel of Montgomery’s cheddar. Chef Laura Dirshan has created “a seasonal, vegetable-driven” menu of wine-friendly bites, like a wedge of leek-and-squash bread pudding that comes smothered in Gruyère. But Davies, who trained at Murray’s in New York and under Portland cheese guru Steve Jones, always has other ideas—perhaps Ossau Vielle, a “nutty” sheep’s milk cheese aged in the Pyrenees, or a “buttery” Ardrahan. Whatever her choices, they make Cyril’s a welcome addition to Portland’s culinary scene. 815 SE Oak St., (503) 206-7862