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What's the best: Murray's, Artisanal, Ideal, Zabar's or Fairway? I am going to give Despana an honorable mention too. If anyone suggests Whole Foods I'll have to have them thrown off the Board.

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  1. I agree about WFs. I don't like Fairway (at least on the UWS) b/c so much of the cheese is wrapped in plastic and it's always a fight to get to the counter - kind of the same feeling about Zabar's although their prices are good. Haven't bought cheese at Artisanal.

    So, my favorites are Murray's and Ideal ... but tend to go to Murray's b/c I do my shopping often on that little strip of Bleecker. Plus, you can't beat Cielo for entertainment. What about Di Palo's - I love their parmesan.

    1. There is no debate to be had - DiPaolo's is far and away the best in this country!

      1. DiPalo's should also get honorable mention since it is limited to Italian cheese as Despana is limited to Spanish. DiPalo's has great burrata and tartufello (cheese with black truffles) are fantastic.

        1. Where is DiPalo's? I am looking for a really good Pecoroni di Piensa

          1. Dipalo's is on Grand Street. You can google for the exact address. If they have it, be assured it is the best thet can be found.

            2 Replies
            1. re: foodie1859

              iirc, DiPalo's is on the NW corner of Grand and Mott.

              1. re: was_bk

                I heartily endorse DiPalo's. Warning though: don't go there if you're in a hurry. The owner is amazing, he'll wax poetic about cheese with you there at the counter for hours... he's like a personal shopper for cheese, a totally unique NY shopping experience.

            2. I do agree with everyone that WF's cheese counters have major problems due to the lack of service (most of the time) and the staff is not trained enough. For Fairway, their prices aren't bad but I really don't like the pre-cut, plastic wrapped cheeses. I really and truly depend on Murray's for my cheese. Everyone is so helpful and most of their cheeses aren't wrapped.

              I should give some mention to Formaggio Kitchen in the Essex Market. I really like some of their unusual cheeses.

              2 Replies
              1. re: chocokitty

                Yes, definitely mention the cheesemongers at Essex Market: Formaggio, a branch of the Boston cheesemonger; Saxelby, specializes in American artisan cheeses; and Essex St. Cheese Co, which sells exclusively Comte from the Jura. Most notable IMO is Saxelby as she has her own refrigerated aging/storage 'cave' that is pristine. It has a window so that you can peek in. She showed a Beltane Farms chevre that she rolled with a mixture of herbs and stored to ripeness. Really luscious.

                I'd love to try the Comte at Essex St. Cheese Co. but at each of my 3 visits (including today, Sat, at noon) they were closed. They must keep odd hours.


                1. re: chocokitty

                  WF also had the problem that they didn't display the prices of the cheese, and when you asked, they were usually over-priced. I actually told the C/S desk that I didn't buy cheese at WF for this reason, and the last couple of times that I've been, I noticed that ALL the cheeses are priced - still haven't bought though.

                  1. re: Cheese Boy

                    I'm curious - is there a "manned" cheese counter at Eli's - I don't remember that ...

                    1. re: MMRuth

                      I don't recall that either. Only pre-packaged or wrapped cheese in refrigerators from my recent visit last month.

                      1. re: MMRuth

                        There are two people at the cheese station. Both are usually wrapping cheeses to place out for sale. You can ask them for assistance if you see anything that interests you. The cheeses are very fresh, and IMO very expensive. I like ELI's for one, because it is "unmanned".

                        When I go there, I can handle (pick up) the cheeses, smell them, look at the whole cheese wheels and read the labels stating their origins, etc. Nobody pesters you, and you don't have to feel pressured into making a purchase. If you want a sample, just ask. I'm sure they'll accomodate you. It's not something I typically do. The cheeses there are cut into various sizes and wrapped. There are whole cheese wheels on display along with smaller cut respective wedge(s), all varying in size. I've seen some as small as 2-3 ounces. The selection is substantial. Be aware though that the prices are a little steep.

                        1. re: Cheese Boy

                          While I certainly buy wrapped cheese from time to time, I think that it's not good for the cheeses to sit wrapped like that. And, at least at Murray's, Ideal, and Di Palo's, I never feel pressured to buy anything and when it's your turn at the counter, the person serving you is always willing, in my experience, to take as much time as is needed for you to sample, choose, etc. - worth giving it a try if you're downtown (or midtown, in the case of Ideal).

                          1. re: Cheese Boy

                            So the cheeses at Eli's are pre-wrapped AND expensive? uhhh... how does that make it a great cheese shop? Are the "two people at the cheese station...wrapping cheeses" knowledgeable enough to answer cheese questions?

                            (There are lots of places that have pre-wrapped cheeses for cheap. Sahadi's, for example.)

                            1. re: Pupster

                              I would say that Eli's does not merit an "out-of-your-hood" visit ....

                              1. re: Pupster

                                I agree. Eli's does not merit a special visit, especially if you are in Brooklyn.

                                If you're ever on the UES, stop on in to Eli's. They're okay. I have no problem with wrapped cheeses because I know that the cheeses there are very fresh. The turnover is high even at those prices. I love Sahadi's, but not their cheeses. They don't have much of a firm cheese selection there at all. Practically non-existant.

                                Also, what makes Eli's a "great" cheese shop is the selection. Plenty of firm cheeses from all over the globe. A lot of cheese shops can't say the same. And, their selection has been scaled down. They had MORE at one time.

                                1. re: Pupster

                                  What a strange answer, CheeseBoy. Are you not the one who brought up Eli's in the first place? Now you are saying they don't merit an out-of-the-way visit.

                                  And Sahadi's cheese selection is not the most extensive, but they actually have many firm cheeses, not "practically non-existant" at all. (Though I wouldn't list them among the best cheese shops in the city, they do in a pinch. Good prices too.)

                                  1. re: Pupster

                                    That's correct. If you are on the UES, they deserve a visit. Don't make a special trip there. I would encourage you sometime to stop in, have a look at their selection, if you get passed the sticker-shock, and formulate your own opinion. The place works for me. I like it, and I spend my money there. It beats traveling to France, Spain, or Italy for cheese.

                            2. I can't really speak to this issue from here in SF, but I'd wager Murrays has the best T-shirt. My daughter got me one for my B'day last year, along with a care package of cheeses from Murrays.

                              I'd probably vote for the place that had the most impressive collection of hard cheeses. That's cheese to me. I know Murrays is pretty good in that dept.

                              1. I have to mention Joe's Dairy, on Sullivan south of Houston. Ask for a large salted, and they'll step in the back and handmake you the best mozzarella around.

                                2 Replies
                                1. re: josephsm

                                  Definitely - I love their smoked Mozzarella - my husband has been known to polish off one on the way to lunch in Soho!

                                  1. re: MMRuth

                                    Luckily, we are just naming Manhattan vendors, cuz the Outer Boroughs would give y'all a run for your money for the bestest, freshest mozzarella around.

                                    We need to have a mozzarella taste-off one of these days.

                                2. does anyone have any experience at the artisanal cheese center (the shop, not the restaurant) - how is it for retail?

                                  1. Zabars's pricing is often very reasonable. The selection is quite large. It is true that it is definitely not service oriented, for that I go to Murray's. But if you already have a good idea of what you want, it is a good place. Not all the people who work there are knowledgable, but you will find the right person soon enough if you go there a few times. For me, personally Zabar's cheese department beats fairway's in every way. I go to Murray's very often too. Pricier, but great service, great people, great cheeses, large selection, I love that store. However, there are a few cheeses I love that they don't ever carry, for that I go to other stores including D & D and WF. D & D's cheeses can be rather inconsistent. Believe or not, once I had a taste of Pleasant Ridge Reserve there. It had dried up and tasted like plastic. I thought maybe the guy who served me did not know, so I mentioned that the cheese was surprisingly hard hoping he would get the hint. Instead, he told me that it is supposed to be that way, and said it with a condescending tone of voice. Now, I may not be a cheese expert, but I do know several hundred cheeses, and no, Pleasant Ridge Reserve is not supposed to be harder than Roomano. On the other hand, a young guy there seems to be quite passionate about cheeses and has been very helpful. For some cheeses D & D are actually better priced than many other stores ($32 for Berkswell at WF vs 26 at D&D, I think while D&D has a higher average price for cheeses, it actually caps lower), but if I were you, I would ask for a taste first so that you can be sure it is still in good condition. One place worth mentioning is Citarella. The selection is small, but absolutely least expensive. The kind of place you go to when you already know exactly you want. Also important to taste before purchase there, as the cheeses are mostly pre-cut and can be mis-treated. Depending on your luck, service can be average to none. Eli's is pricy, pre-wraped using the kind that has a nasty smell and a rather limited selection. WF has a good selection including some great cheeses (Columbus Circle location at least), service can be slow to decent but usually friendly, depending on the server and and time of the day, and generally very pricy. They have pre-cut cheeses (with smelly wrap last time I checked) but most of the expensive stuff is behind the glass cut to order, and you can ask for better wax paper.

                                    1. Artisanal for high end;
                                      Murray's on Bleecker for mid range;
                                      Fairway has great selection and prices, but I question the cleanliness of the cheese area and detest the plastic wrap and rude cheese counter workers of the 74th St store, very sad. Head to Harlem if you can, though that store has its issues as well.

                                      1 Reply
                                      1. re: Ora

                                        Just had to chime in about two things. 1.I only recently checked out Ideal (having nothing else to do at lunchtime in Midtown) and it was great. They don't make sandwiches so I just took a piece of perfectly ripened Torta del Casar and ate it in my hands around the corner and it was like sex! 2. Go to the source. Cato Corner Cheese stand at Union Square Farmers Market. Try any variety of their Hooligan (e.g. drunk monk-beer washed rind or Despearado-pear cider washed and thus an American version of Stinking Bishop(one of my and Grommit's fvorites)).:)!

                                      2. The best in Manhattan:

                                        Ideal Cheese Shop
                                        Agata & Valentina
                                        Essex St. Market vendors

                                        Avoid places that leave pre-cut cheese sitting wrapped in plastic.

                                        1. I unfortunately have been out of New York for some time but during my time there I would have to say that I would buy cheese anywhere Greg Blais was selling cheese. I just found out (rather late) that he was selling an amazing Comte at the Essex St. Cheese shop. I would definitely pay a special visit to the shop when I get back East. Also I agree that Cielo at Murray's is amazing.

                                          1. One which always gets overlooked is Lamazou on 3rd Avenue around 28th-ish, west side. A small selection, but good quality, knowledgeable service.

                                            1. I am suprised there are not more fans of Ideal cheese. Perhaps it is a little out of the way over on 1st ave, but I find it be the best overall cheese shop in Manhatten. Most importantly the quality and selection are outstanding (there is no riper and runnier Epouse in NYC <tastes like melted gym socks>) but I also find it the least hectic of the major fromegeries. The staff is knowledgable and they take their time.

                                              1 Reply
                                              1. re: tbear

                                                I would have to say that Ideal is a fine shop and much respect is due to Ed Edelman and the staff but from my experience the best available cheese in New York is at Murray's. I haven't been there in years but my wife and I are constantly discussing moving back to NYC just to be closer to Murray's. Has anyone heard or been to Bedford Cheese in Queens?

                                              2. At the North End of Central Park just outside the park is an Antique Store that also sells fine cheeses, artisinal bread and I think some air dried meats. She keeps them in a huge refrigerator (cave) that is the perfect climate for cheese storage. It is cut/sliced and wrapped when you buy it. We bought some cheese, artisinal bread and meats and had a picnic on a bench in the park about a block from the shop. Is it legal to drink wine on a public street/park in NYC? I was just a tourist when I did this and wasn't sure of the laws. It would be good to know for my upcoming trip.

                                                1 Reply
                                                1. re: Just Larry

                                                  "Is it legal to drink wine on a public street/park in NYC?"

                                                  No. If you are drinking something in a paper bag, they can't hassle you, but if you openly drink alcohol in public, you could get in trouble. I haven't tested that out to find out precisely what kind of trouble, but don't do it.

                                                2. ideal is the bomb....also the items aside from the cheese are great. focus on spanish oils, sweets, etc so it will compete with despana but the cheese and the staff are tight.

                                                  1. Just checked out Formaggio Essex and Saxelby Cheese in the Essex Market. They are both fantastic. Unfortunately, I had just consumed a half a pound of Despearado from the Cato Corner stand in Union Square so I was all cheesed out. I spoke to the managers of both places, grabbed some Toscano salami from Formaggio and tasted a Virginia made Greysons cheese from Anne which was fantastic. I'll be back. Too bad they don't open the market on Sundays!I didn't even see the third cheese shop in the market which I've heard about called Essex Cheese which supposedly features imported comte and is run by one of the affineurs at Artisanal.