Sunday, November 15, 2009

Artisanal Fromagerie, Bistro and Wine Bar in New York City

Picture: Artisanal Fromagerie, Bistro and Wine Bar in New York City

My wife Annette and I had cheese at the Artisanal in New York. Just cheese and wine. The cheese selection there is very special. It is outstanding, but very different from what you find in the capitol of cheese, Paris.

Artisanal Fromagerie, Bistro and Wine Bar

2 Park Ave
New York, NY 10016-5675
(212) 725-8585

Let’s take Androuet in Paris, who build his cheese imperium starting with a cheese shop cum restaurant in the rue d’Amsterdam. I used to go to his little shop at the Villier market, although there were several other amazing cheese stores in the neighborhood. There, the cheese selection is outstanding, huge, narrow, French and deep.

Androuet offers a huge selection of different cheeses, narrowly focused on where the best cheese of the world come from, France. There is almost nothing from other countries, perhaps a few cheeses from Switzerland or the Netherlands. The French selection is very deep. Typically, you find an amazing number of different chevres in all kind of different forms. For some cheese, such as Roquefort--a cheese I always carefully check who the producer is--there probably will be several from different producers, such as Societe, Papillon, Charles, who all have slightly different styles. But when it comes to other countries, and there are many other countries that produce outstanding cheese, including the US, almost nothing.

Artisanal in New York City is just the opposite, a decent--not a huge--selection of cheeses, the selection is extremely broad in terms of country coverage, all the classic cheeses from around the world are there, global, and by necessity shallow. The New York global macro-perspective is in sharp contrast to the Paris narrow micro-perspective. Here at the Artisanal, you got a global view of the cheeses of the world. They have French cheeses, but also cheeses from Italy, Spain, Switzerland, England, Portugal, Ireland, Netherlands and the US.

We went over to the counter and ordered six cheeses:

We chose:

Upland's Pleasant Ridge, a cow’s milk cheese made in the style of mountain cheeses from the alpine regions, Wisconsin, US, yellow and hard, with subtle floral notes. The US has started to make excellent cheeses. The American consumer is only slowly starting to appreciate American cheeses. In general, in Europe, American cheeses have not yet arrived. But there are people who feel that America's great artisanal cheeses are getting ready to take Europe by storm. This spring, Pleasant Ridge went on sale at Neal's Yard Dairy and La Fromagerie, two of London's best-known cheese purveyors.

Queijo Serra da Estrela, a raw sheep’s milk cheese, mildly herbaceous, from the mountains of Portugal, a soft cheese, soft cheeses still retain a high percentage of water in the paste, as the cheese ages, it loses its moisture to evaporation - the angel's share - and slowly hardens.

Monte Enebro, made in Avila, Spain, a goat's milk cheese, a soft cheese, very creamy, stark-white paste because of the goat’s milk that is deceivingly mild, with a mottled, bluish-gray rind, which I did not eat, but some of my friends in Paris do.

Livarot, one of my favorites, a cow’s milk cheese from France, washed-rind cheese, dark orange rind, the cheese has been washed during the maturing process with salty water and turned regularly, soft, thick and reddish, the colorful pungent rind contrast with a beautifully smooth and creamy interior, I do not eat the rind of the Livarot.

Shropshire Blue, a cow's milk blue cheese from the UK, firm texture, but very creamy, orange with deep blue streaks, a new cheese, at least by European standards, produced for only twenty-five years, the first time I had it.

Bleu des Basques Brebis, from the French part of the Basques country in the South West of France, most Blue cheeses in the world are from cow’s milk, among the exceptions are the Roquetfort, which sets the standard for Blue cheeses and the Bleu des Basques Brebis, which is more difficult to find, both are from sheep milk, a bit over-aged for my taste, as is often the case with blue cheeses here in the US, very creamy texture.

Conclusion: It is an excellent place to taste cheeses of the world. The interior is lovely (almost as beautiful as Balthazar). It reminded me of La Coupole on the left bank in Paris. The Artisanal also serves classic French Bistro food such as Steak Tartare and Plateau des Fruits de Mer.

The wine list fit perfectly. It was also very broad, although a bit tilted to the Old World and in particular to France. But overall, Artisanal offers an amazing overview of what is available today in the market in terms of wines from around the world. 150 wines by the glass from around the world, grouped by regions and grape varieties. I had a

2006 Riesling Heron Hill from the Finger Lakes in New York State for US$ 12 per glass

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