I used to imagine that being allergic to shellfish would be pretty damn awful because it would mean you’d never hold a soft, warm lobster roll in your hands or taste the velvety sweetness of lobster bisque on your tongue, but recently, because of a friend who is lactose intolerant and gets horrible gas when he eats cheese, I have to change my answer. Not being able to eat cheese would be the worst thing EVER.
Which is probably why my lactose intolerant friend does what I would do in the same situation, and that is completely disregard his body’s inability to deal with dairy (and his friends’ inability to deal with his flatulence) and eat it anyway. If your friends love you, they’ll love you even when you’re gassy, I suppose.
All of this crossed my mind last week when a friend (of the lactose tolerant variety) and I ate at Murray’s Cheese Bar, the restaurant/bar spinoff of perhaps my favorite store in all of Manhattan, Murray’s Cheese Shop. Murray’s, which I’ve proclaimed my love for before, is basically a cheese wonderland. They have every color, smell, texture and type of cheese you could ever want and the new Cheese Bar, just a couple of doors down, showcases a lot of those cheeses in different forms including cheese plates, dips, spreads, sandwiches, desserts and more.
My friend and I started with the fried Ellsworth Creamery buffalo cheese curds, quirky, squeaky chunks of solid, soured milk that go into the cheese making process. These looked like tater tots or boneless chicken wings in their bright reddish orange coats of tangy, hot buffalo sauce and to complete the look, they came with celery sticks and a thick, chunky Black River blue cheese dip. The way I see it, you just really can’t go wrong with cheese-on-cheese action.
In a half-hearted attempt to be healthy, my friend suggested the bibb lettuce salad from the greenmarket portion of the menu. If all salads included juicy nectarines, fat, crunchy marcona almonds, fennel, Rogue Creamery smoky blue cheese and perfectly crisp pieces of prosciutto, everyone would eat more salads and I’m pretty sure the world would be a better, happier place because of it.
To round out the savory part of our meal, we also split the rarebit cheddar burger, an openfaced, fat hunk of Ottomanelli meat topped with a thick, dark sauce made of Prairie Breeze cheddar and Left Hand Milk Stout (beer AND cheese? GENIUS.) which came in a little gravy boat of sorts so that it could be poured on to your heart’s content. (My heart was well beyond content and I’d be lying if I said the thought of pouring the sauce directly down my throat hadn’t crossed my mind.)
Finally, for something sweet, we shared the coeur de creme, made with Vermont Butter & Cheese Creamery creme fraiche Ben’s cream cheese, and at the very bottom, a jammy, tart, red currant curd. The dessert had the consistency of a thick, whipped cream cheese (which I prefer over the regular kind) and the creamy, sweetness of cheesecake, sans the crust. The red currant at the bottom of the glass was just enough to give a very subtle, fruity swirl.
All in all, a great cheese themed dinner in a fun, cute new restaurant (also good for grabbing a drink, by the way). But the best part? Being able to enjoy it without the unfortunate gastric consequences of stinking up anyone’s air.