New York, New York, tasted on May 7, 2004 — Let me get this
straight. There's a restaurant in Manhattan that's all about cheese.
They have their own mail order cheese business as well as an
aesthetically beautiful bistro style restaurant where you can eat
all that cheese
that they store in their
cheese cave. And they specialize in artisanal cheeses and even
Artisanal. Uh... where do I sign up?
As it happens, no signup was necessary. In fact the
reservation was relatively easy to get, and we stopped in for an early
first dinner. (Note: when we're on these crazy eating trips, we often
have at least two dinners.) Artisanal is lovely (almost as beautiful as
Balthazar) and done in a bistro style. Usually I don't worry much about
decor, but it really did seem like the perfect environment in which to
enjoy a whole bunch of yummy cheese.
Cheese is a funny thing as it's mainly made
from milk. Much like wine from grapes, it's amazing to realize the sheer
complexity and variety of flavors, textures, etc. you get by starting
from the same simple ingredients. The tone was set with a cheese item of
course, gorgeous and... well... super cheesy...
Gougeres. Yum. Artisanal also serves some complementary dishes, so
sure enough we started off with
Crisp Skate Wing with Blood Orange Grenobloise and Cauliflower. This
was a really enjoyable and simple flavor combination and balance. The
Oysters with vinegar and lemon were a nice followup.
Steak Tartare with tangy Parmesan tuiles was particularly enjoyable.
I'm a sucker for the acidic spectrum of flavors, and all the tart and
tanginess in the dish was quite good for me. I was particularly looking
forward to the
fondue, as you would imagine. There were several varieties, though
we got one of the classics. And unfortunately it was slightly underwhelming.
I couldn't taste enough of the wine. or enough salt for that matter. It
was, however, nice and creamy.
cheese course however really was the main attraction. And we partook
of six different cheeses. They say they have over 250 cheeses all "handcrafted and perfectly
ripened". I counted 192 on the separate cheese menu (with it's own spot
for notes). But who's counting. :)
In order, starting at just before 3 o'clock on the plate
Il Caprino Tartufo, goat's milk cheese from Italy.
We couldn't taste the truffle in this one which made it a little bit
of a bummer.
Serpa, sheep's milk cheese from Portugal. This was
certainly great! It was chewy and creamy at the same time but with a subtle but
Montgomery's Cheddar, cow's milk cheese from England.
It was a cheddar that had a parmesany consistency and horseradish
flavor. Definitely enjoyable.
Affidelice, cow's milk cheese from France. A super creamy triple cream
with an almost "aged meat" flavor.
Not tangy. Very good.
Aisy Cendre, cow's milk cheese from France. This one started out with
a truffley savory deep flavor, but spiked
on the finish with a touch of ammonia. It was likely overripe. We'll
need to try it again given the good start.
Epoisses, cow's milk cheese from France. A beauty as always.
All in all, I wish there was an Artisanal next door to
me. I might eat there every other night. There's something about an
almost endless cheese adventure that gives me a sense of security,
comfort, and happiness. I realize that may not sound particularly
"normal" but I'm comfortable with it.