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11. Best Place to Assemble Your Own Party Spread: When throwing a party, there’s no place like home. When assembling the pre-dinner spread, there’s no place like Murray’s. I asked Beth Ann Coulton, Wholesale Rep at the venerable cheese store, for her advice on how to put together the best party plate. “When making a cheese plate, you want to chooses cheeses that hit every major milk type (goat, cow and sheep),” she said. “You also want to make sure you have a variety of styles and textures. I like to do an All-American cheese selection because I think it’s an exciting time in American cheesemaking right now. However, it’s also fun to pick cheese from different countries and regions, too. Whether you’re making an individual plate or setting up a cheese board, you want to arrange the cheeses from mildest to strongest, with your blue cheese always being last. This generally follows the order of youngest to oldest, but it’s not always the case. If you are making individual plates, you want to place the youngest cheese at twelve o’clock with the rest following clockwise.” Here are her six suggestions in the order in which they should be plated:
Locations: *254 Bleecker Street (between 6th & 7th), Manhattan
12. Best Formaggio Italiano at Midnight: Take a look at my late night faves and you’ll see a pattern immediately. After midnight, I prefer cozy places, small spaces, ones that don’t skimp on the good food and wine while making you as comfortable as can be. Corsino is a natural fit, with their menu of delicious crostini that make a midnight snack a truly genteel affair. But for even more flair, try their exceptional Italian cheese plates, with everything from herby Weinkase Lagrein to sheep’s milk fiore sardo. It’s a midnight dream come true.
Location: 637 Hudson Street (at Horation Street), Manhattan
Hours: Mon-Fri 12pm-2am; Sat-Sun 10am-2am.
13. Best Use of Ricotta: Ricotta is one of the most versatile of cheeses, moving from sweet to savory as quickly as you can say gnudi ravioli. I’ll never say “no” to a well-made canolli, but for my money, the best ricotta dessert in New York is a gelato. Il Laboratorio del Gelato churns out everything from Mexican cinnamon to wasabi gelato at their Lower East Side “laboratory”, but a perennial favorite is the sweet ricotta. And I don’t even like ice cream! Which just goes to show how much I love cheese. Pick up a cup and wander down Orchard Street, while Italy dances in your mouth.
Location: 95 Orchard Street (between Delancey and Broome Streets), Manhattan
Hours: Mon-Sun 10am-6pm
14. Best Unexpected Cheese: Who doesn’t love a surprise? At Hill Country, the brisket is smoked, the service is cafeteria-style, and the sausages are shipped direct from Kreuz Market, the Texas barbecue original. Try the jalapeño cheese sausage, which is stuffed with hot, spicy cheese, and wash it down with a Texas Big Red. OK, it’s not really a secret, but it sure feels like it when you bite down. If that isn’t cheesy enough, I recommend you order a side of Longhorn Cheddar and Pepper Jack with your corn bread and pickles.
Location: 30 West 26th Street (between 6th Avenue and Broadway), Manhattan
Hours: Sun-Wed 12pm-10pm; Thu-Fri 12pm-11pm, late night 11pm-1am
15. Best Exotic Cheese Case: I love my burata and mimolette, but sometimes I like to travel a bit further east — say, to Lexington Avenue. Kalustyan’s is deservedly famous for its comprehensive spice selection, but it also has an impressive array of cheeses from Eastern Europe and the Middle East. Several types of kashkaval are available, along with paneer and other cheeses both exotic and delicious. Their Bulgarian feta is some of the best in the city, and amazing served drizzled with just a bit of olive oil. Ask for a sample from the counter and you may get a dolma as well.
Location: 123 Lexington Avenue (between 28th and 29th Streets), Manhattan
Hours: Mon-Sat 10am-8pm; Sun 11am-7pm
16. Best Place to Get Blintzed: Sometimes after a long night, a girl just needs a home-cooked meal. When I can’t get to Buffalo, Veselka usually does the trick. I love everything that the restaurant fries up, from pierogi to latkes, but nothing beats a rich and comforting cheese blintz when I’m feeling down. Filled with farmer’s cheese and doused with raspberry sauce, it’s both savory and sweet, just like home.
Location: 144 Second Avenue (between East 9th Street and St. Mark’s Place), Manhattan
Hours: Daily 24 hours
17. Best Sharp Cheddar to Put on a Biscuit: Just as pears and bleu cheese were made for each other, so were cheddar and biscuits. It’s hard to think of a better use for cheddar than cut thick and wedged between two crumbly halves of a buttermilk biscuit…but the cheddar had better be good. My new favorite is the aged Grafton from Saxelby Cheesemongers, which has just the right amount of tang and sharpness to cut through the most buttery of biscuit sandwiches. I get my biscuits from Amy’s Bread, and if I’m feeling especially indulgent, I stuff their cheese biscuits with a slice of ham and Saxelby’s cheddar, and make myself a melt to remember. Both eateries remain my go-to destinations for cheese & bread (and red-velvet cake) in the city!
Locations: Saxelby Cheesemongers: Essex Street Market, 120 Essex Street (at Delancey Street), Manhattan.
Amy’s Bread: *672 9th Avenue (between 46th and 47th Streets), Manhattan
*Chelsea Market, 75 Ninth Avenue (between 15th and 16th Streets), Manhattan
*250 Bleecker Street (at Leroy Street), Manhattan
Hours: Saxelby Cheesemongers: Mon-Sat 8am-7pm; Closed Sun
Amy’s Bread: *9th Ave: Mon-Fri 7:30am-11pm; Sat 8am-11pm; Sun 9am-6pm
*Chelsea Market: Mon-Fri 7:30am-9pm; Sat 8am-8pm; Sun 9am-7pm
*Bleecker St: Mon 7:30am-9pm; Tue-Fri 7:3oam-11pm; Sat 8am-11pm; Sun 8am-9pm
18. Best Bacon Cheddar Hot Dog: Yes, this is a hot dog, not a burger, and no, it’s not a gimmick, but it is darn good. Bark Hot Dogs in Park Slope is known for its carefully sourced ingredients, so when you order your bacon cheddar dog, you can rest assured that your beef was humanely raised, your pork was sustainably produced, and your cheddar is handmade (no Kraft on this puppy). Should you wonder where the pickled onions were picked, they can probably tell you that too. Or you can just take a seat at one of the communal tables, sip your peanut butter milkshake, and wonder why on earth it took so long for someone to put bacon and cheese on a hot dog.
Location: 474 Bergen Street (near Flatbush Avenue), Brooklyn
Hours: Mon-Thu 12pm-12am; Fri 12pm-2am; Sat 10am-2am; Sun 10am-10pm
19. Best Diner Upgrade: I’m a girl who moves easily between chicken cacciatorre and chicken pot pie. Likewise, I can deal equally well with a table at Joseph Leonard and a corner booth at a Buffalo diner. I still have a fondness for cheese fries and chicken wings, and I’m not the only one: Scarpatta, an admittedly high-class joint, dishes up a gooey mozzarella in carozza that calls up the breaded mozzarella sticks of my childhood. Of course, Scarpatta’s are much, much better than the frozen variety and make a perfect pair with their seductively simple spaghetti with tomato & basil.
Location: 355 West 14th Street (near 9th Avenue), Manhattan
Hours: Mon–Thu 5:30pm–11pm; Fri-Sat 5:30pm–12am; Sun 5:30pm–10:30pm
20. Best Cheese Grits: Ever since Old Devil Moon closed up shop, I’ve been searching for a place to feed my grits addiction. Thank goodness for the recent resurgence of southern food in the city, particularly in Brooklyn, where comfort food has always been king. In Williamsburg, Pies ‘n’ Thighs has been serving up a mean dish of the cheesy goodness, which you can get as a side to your fried chicken, or for breakfast with eggs or fried catfish. With sweet tea and a sun hat, their grits make me feel like a southern Belle, rather than the helmet-wearing New Yorker I actually am, who has to ride her bike over the bridge to work off the fried chicken brunch I just devoured.
Location: 166 South 4th Street (at Driggs Street), Brooklyn
Hours: Mon-Fri 11am-4pm, 5pm-12am; Sat-Sun 10am-4pm, 5pm-12am