When I try to put how I feel about Murray’s Cheese into words, I’m left utterly speechless. It is my Disney World. The cheese selection, is, of course, outstanding. The made-to-order grilled cheeses make me go weak in the knees. I can spend 10 minutes just debating what flavor of artisanal ice cream I want to take home. Don’t even get me started on the yogurt.
So, yes, this place knows its dairy. And while the actual cheese shop has a bake-it-yourself variety, I recommend moseying down a few storefronts to try the hot and bubbly mac and cheeses at Murray’s Cheese Bar, their full-service restaurant. This week, I was lucky enough to partake in a tasting of all four of their offerings while having dinner with Murray’s owner Rob Kaufelt, who is probably one of the coolest humans I’ve ever met. I urged him to consider writing an autobiography, so stay tuned on that front.
Now, on to the macs:
This is the mac that sailed a thousand ships. When I asked what cheeses were included, Rob looked at me grimly and said he’d have to kill me first. BUT! I can tell you that, among others, there is Comte and Irish Cheddar in the mix. All of Murray’s macs use what looks like radiatori pasta, which is an uncommon choice. But, the shape is really rather ingenious because all of the ridges can hold a lot of sauce (and Murray’s sauce is rich and thick, so it clings well). Murray’s also bakes their pastas, so the texture veers towards a softer bite, which is extremely satisfying when you have nugget-like pasta like a radiatori. The classic is probably the mildest out of all the varieties on offer.
Looking for something a little heartier? This carnivorous mac features tender pulled pork with English Tickler Cheddar and pimento. I am a big advocate of salty, powerful cheeses in my mac sauce and this is a wonderful marriage of two superb specimens. But, hey, I would expect nothing less from a restaurant that sources its cheeses from the preeminent cheese shop in the city (the world?). It’s also especially mouth-watering when cheese sauce is as orange as this one.
Roasted Ramp Pesto
I may be one of those pesky foodies who gets all hot and bothered about ramps. But, seriously, have you tried them in pesto? So, this limited-time mac (ramp season is woefully short) combines two of my great loves. It nearly brought me to tears. While the sauce is pesto-based, it’s still spectacularly cheesy, and gets a nice sharp kick from the garlicky alliums. I’ve never had a mac quite like this one. Go try this now, before it’s off the menu.
Cinco de Mayo
Another limited-run creation for the holiday, this featured chorizo, cilantro, pico de gallo and avocado. Unconventional? Yes. But the chorizo, not too spicy and very flavorful, imbued the cheese sauce with spices that you’re unlikely to find in other mac sauces. It was creamy, tangy, spicy and, of course, cheesy. I’m not sure what the cheese blend in this variety was exactly, but I’d guess there was some sharp cheddar in there. It doesn’t matter: it was rad.
Huge thanks to Rob for taking the time out of his busy schedule to chat cheese with me. I hope it won’t be the last time!
Murray’s Cheese Bar, 264 Bleecker St. 646-476-8882