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Feb 13, 2001 03:02 PM

Zabars Cheese Counter - UGLY

  • s

Last weekend I was on the UWS and decided to buy a selection of cheeses at Zabars. I usually purchase my cheese from either Murray's or at Garden of Eden on 14th Street and until now didn't fully appreciate the usually excellent product I was getting.

I bought some French Emmenthaller, French Roquefort (Societe), Canadian Oka and Pere Joseph. Also, let me say, the help was absolutely unknowledgeable and their selection was pedestrian.

Well....these were sorry cheeses (something I once heard Max McCallman from Picholine say). I could have left these cheeses out on the counter forever and they wouldn't ever develop that beautiful sweat a glow of room temperature cheese that calls out to be eaten.

All but the Roquefort were virtually tasteless at any temperature. I always knew the best thing about Zabar's cheeses was how quickly they moved their product and the low prices, but these were all worth nothing so on that basis they were extremely expensive.

They obviously don't have a cheese "cave"- more like a cheese garbage bag. I wasn't expecting to be blown away by their cheese but I was really disappointed. Maybe this is how fondue got started.

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  1. Ugly?, for a minute I thought you meant the looks of the help. You're right, they are ugly in their outlook. They know nothing, absolutley nothing and they ain't Sargeant Schultz in any way, shape or form ( I mean that in the way of skills)!. That said, I haven't had the problems you encountered w/taste. Help is a problem w/all business these days. Help is impossible to find and good help is not of this earth. But..if the management cares they can train people to respond and even train them in the product. Zabars does NOT care about training help or helping you the customer. I recently picked up some smoked Magraet of duck (D'Artagian) from Zabars and it had no expiry date. Now, after the recent problems this producer had I sure as hell want an expiry date. When I asked the floor manager he had no idea of the problem and said he would check into it. When I went back a couple of days later and asked him, he still had no idea! See what having too much business (and hordes of uncaring, unknowing customers from the burbs) can do for you. It makes you lazy and fat. Even Fairway whose cheese department is back to what it used to be years ago has so-so help. When you ask if a cheese is x, they tell you what you want to hear. They know squat. As for the checkout folks, 99% of them have picked up the ugly american attitude.

    Ah, just give me a raw sheep/goat cheese from Spain/france with a strong taste, a bottle of wine and a great flavorful bread and I could conquer the world. Or at least wine and dine a cool gal.

    2 Replies
    1. re: Ivan Stoler

      I actually find the help at the Fairway cheese counter much more helpful then the folks at Murrays. At Murrays I often get surly service. I used to go into Fairway at 11:30ish on Thursdays and get the most wonderful service. Won't bother at Zabars and will have to try Garden of Eden again.

      1. re: Jo

        There is a very knowledgeable fellow at the 23rd St. Garden of Eden. He takes good care of his cheeses and obviously likes good cheese. He can be a touch snappish, but I attribute this to having to deal with a lot of folk asking boneheaded questions about his beloved cheeses. It requires a little patience to deal with him, but generally it's worth the trouble. I can't say he's really "warmed up to me" but he will hand me tastes of what he thinks is in top form and will give me the straight skinny on what is nicely ripe and ready to serve. I've had some excellent real Alsatian Munster from him and even Vacherin de Mont D'Or. Still can't find a source of properly affineed Epoisse Berthaut, though - >Sigh<.