McSorley's Cheese Plate

McSorley’s Cheese Plate

The first time I mentioned to my mother that I was going to McSorley’s Old Ale House, she responded with “Oh, do they allow women now?” Though the East Village saloon has been around since 1854, it wasn’t until 1970 that women were allowed to belly up to the bar. Apparently my mom hasn’t tried to since she started college.

McSorley's Old Ale House

McSorley’s is an NYC institution. It only serves two types of beer — “light” or “dark” house ale — and in glasses that seem much smaller than the average pint. Most patrons order multiple mugs at once, resulting in dozens of glasses crowding the wobbly wood tables.  There’s sawdust on the floor and unique full-size urinals in the men’s room that extend from floor to shoulder. (A friend insisted that these, the best urinals in NYC, are a must-see for every visitor to the bar. How could I say no?)

It’s clearly not the urinals that keep me coming back. It’s the cheese plate.

Stupidly simple yet surprisingly satisfying, it boasts roughly a dozen cuts of cheddar (or American, if you prefer), raw white onion and a sleeve of Saltines. The key is to add a smear of the insanely hot — as in clear your sinuses, sting your eyes — mustard that’s kept in pots on the tables. (I try not to think about how long it’s been since those pots have been cleaned.)

Here’s my perfect bite:

Sample cheese bite

I know, it doesn’t look like much. Yet, it goes so well with a swig of ale. It’s a must-try, at least once.

McSorley’s Old Ale House, 15 East 7th Street, 212-474-9148

Mets Star Declares Cheese Love

Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports
Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports


When I was in high school, I read an interview in Cosmopolitan magazine with a model who said something to the effect of “I’m very careful about what I eat. You would never ever find brie in my refrigerator.” I still remember it clearly because it completely horrified the 14-year-old me. Was she implying that I shouldn’t eat brie if I wanted to be thin? And were there people in the world who actually believed that malarkey?

It still irks me when celebrities make disparaging comments about cheese being the gateway drug to obesity. Everything in moderation, people. A little brie won’t do you in. Just look at the svelte yet cheese-adoring French. But I digress. The whole point of this post is to say that I really respect a public declaration of cheese love. They are just too few and far between.

That’s why I was so pleased to see New York Mets star pitcher (well, currently-recovering-from-surgery star pitcher) Matt Harvey tell the world — via The New York Times — that he can’t live without cheese.

In last weekend’s edition, he detailed how he eats healthy, exercises and still enjoys mass quantities of dairy.

“Cheese is my favorite food of all time,” the newspaper quoted the pitcher as saying. “I spend more on cheese at Whole Foods than all my other groceries combined. It’s a disgusting habit.”

It’s unclear to me whether he’s calling the amount of cash he blows on cheese disgusting or if he’s referring to the amount he’s eating. Either way, not disgusting, Matt. I don’t see a single thing wrong with either.

Click here for the Times’ full article.


Gran Queso

  • Milk type: Pasteurized cow
  • Style: Semi-firm
  • Made in: Wisconsin
  • Purchased at: Union Market
  • Price: $13.99/lb
  • Try pairing with: Tempranillo

The Monroe, Wisconsin dairy that makes GranQueso says it was inspired by Spanish cheese. It must be loose inspiration, cause the only thing that seems Spanish to me is its name. No matter. They could use Justin Bieber as a muse and this cheese would still have a place in my kitchen.

GranQueso, produced by Emmi Roth USA, is made with pasteurized cow’s milk, giving it a golden ivory paste. Its basket-weave rind is rubbed with a blend of spices including cinnamon and paprika, resulting in an attractive reddish-orange color, but little influence on the actual taste of the cheese.

GranQueso Basketweave Rind

The cheese has a dense, nutty flavor that’s also salty, with a bit of tang. Let it sit out a while and you’ll see that it weeps little droplets of fat, giving it a nice oily sheen. GranQueso is a terrific table cheese, easily eaten by itself. If you’d like to provide an accompaniment, this cheese could benefit from a little dab of quince paste.

When pairing with wine, I’d suggest a full-bodied red, like a Spanish Tempranillo. But if beer is more your style, the cheesemaker advocates going with a wheat beer or hard cider. Both sound great to me for a picnic as the weather finally gets warmer.

North Korea Rejected By French Cheese School

ALAMY via The Telegraph

It looks like North Korean leader Kim Jong-un is stuck with subpar Swiss cheese.

A French cheese-making school has refused North Korea’s request to teach three envoys how to make high-quality Emmental, a cheese Kim Jong-un is said to have developed a taste for while studying in Switzerland, reports The Telegraph.

Véronique Drouet, the director of the National Dairy Industry College, said “such a partnership does not fit into our priorities and strategy,” according to the U.K. newspaper.

Click here for The Telegraph’s full story.

Cheese Board

A Dinner Party Cheese Board

Last month I wrote about how I was going to focus on putting effort into cheese presentation rather than slinging a few hunks on a board and calling it a day. I haven’t completely cleaned up my act yet, but I think this arrangement for a recent dinner party hosted by my sister turned out pretty well.

Here’s what’s on the board (clockwise from the top):

Cheese Board

  • Vermont Creamery Bonne Bouche — goat’s milk

(That beautiful color comes from soft ripening with tree ash.)

  • The Savannah Bee Company Cheese Honey

(My current go-to honey.)

  • Lazy Lady Farm Oh My Heart — cow’s milk

(A Brie-style only available from Sept. through April.)

  • Raspberries
  • Cypress Grove Chèvre Lamb Chopper — sheep’s milk

(A mild cheese perfect for people who don’t think they like sheep’s milk cheese.)

  • Piave — cow’s milk

(Similar to Parmigiano-Reggiano but more of a table cheese. This is one of my favorites for pregnant women as it’s aged, pasteurized and delicious.)

  • English cheddar — cow’s milk

(Even the least adventurous eaters are willing to eat cheddar, so I always include one in every assortment I serve.)

For the love of all things cheese