In just a few weeks, spring arrives — and all the deliciousness that a spring menu brings. Find out where to save in cities around North America.
A great cheese course is more than just a few random selections on a plate. While some restaurants source their cheeses from specific regions or focus on hard-to-find cheese, others are actually making it or aging it in-house. In anticipation of National Cheese Lover’s Day, here are some the country’s best restaurant cheese plates and what makes them so special.
Barano, Brooklyn, New York
Recently opened in Brooklyn’s South Williamsburg, Barano offers Southern Italian cuisine from chef-partner Albert Di Meglio, who formerly helmed beloved Nolita pizzeria Rubirosa. The restaurant has a dedicated mozzarella bar, where Di Meglio hand-pulls three varieties of mozzarella to order: salted, smoked, and stracciatella di bufala. Guests can order an Antipasto Tasting with their choice of mozzarella, salume, and verdure — accompanying vegetable sides — or they can mix and match a variety of choices to customize their mozz’ board. Make a reservation at Barano.
Urban Farmer, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
Chef Richard Brower and his team pride themselves on discovering new and flavorful cheese from all over Pennsylvania and New Jersey. They are particularly proud to feature cheeses from Chester County, Pennsylvania, which has received recognition as one of the best cheese regions in the world. Their cheese list is ever rotating and changing based on what is available with a focus on what’s local. Some of the cheeses that have been offered are Birchrun Blue, The Fat Cat, Red Cat, and Tomme Mole, which has notes of cocoa, chile, and cinnamon, from Birchrun Farm in Chester Springs, and Elsa Mae and the Noble Road Brie, both from Calkins Creamery in Honesdale, Pennsylvania. Other selections have included Buttercup Brie and Havilah, both from Cherry Grove Farm in Lawrenceville, New Jersey, and Seven Sisters, an aged cow’s milk cheese from The Farm at Doe Run located in Unionville, Pennsylvania. Make a reservation at Urban Farmer.
Crossroads, Los Angeles, California
When is a cheese plate not a cheese plate? When it’s a selection from Kite Hill. Kite Hill is entirely plant-based and the company was founded by Stanford biochemist Pat Brown in collaboration with Jean Prevot, a former cheese instructor at Le Cordon Bleu and erstwhile cheesemaker for Laura Chenel Chèvre, to introduce the first completely artisanal almond milk-based cheese line. The Kite Hill cheese products consist of nearly a dozen, including Original, Truffle Dill and Chive, Cream Cheese, Ricotta, Soft Ripened, and more. The cheese plate offered at Crossroads is one of their signatures at the LA- based vegetarian restaurant and a favorite among gourmands, herbivores, and carnivores alike. Make a reservation at Crossroads.
Found Kitchen & Social House, Evanston, Illinois
Executive chef Nicole Pederson believes that cheese plates should always highlight single producers. Their current plate features three cheeses from Capriole farms in Indiana. They are offering O’Banon, Sophia, and Juliana and serve them with housemade lavosh, peach and golden raspberry jam, and Klug Farm grapes. It’s not uncommon for cheesemakers to visit the restaurant or lead classes. In the past, they have featured The Farm at Doe Run, Meadowood, and Vulto Creamery. Make a reservation at Found Kitchen & Social House.
Artisanal, New York, New York
Artisanal Bistro is much more than just a bistro. Truly, Artisanal is a temple of cheese. The restaurant, with its cheese caves, offers a staggering 250 types of European-style cheeses, expertly paired with wine and breads baked in-house. The program was conceived and is led by James Beard Award-winning Maitre Fromager Max McCalman. In addition to cheese plates, you can also order bistro fare, such as a burger or truffled grilled cheese sandwich, each served with a choice of 13 different cheeses. The menu also includes cheese-focused entrees such as macaroni and cheese and fondue. As they move into a larger space later this year, they will have both a fromagerie and boulangerie and, of course, more cheese. Make a reservation at Artisanal.
Café des Architectes, Chicago, Illinois
Executive chef Greg Biggers is an ambitious guy. Two years ago, he converted a walk -n refrigerator into a cheese cave. The restaurant’s Chestnut Provisions features an assortment of housemade cave-aged cheeses, charcuterie, jams, and preserves. The restaurant has a Dairy Manufacturing Plant license allowing them to utilize the kitchen as a cheese production facility, complete with a temperature and humidity controlled cave. The cheeses they currently offer include a one-year-aged cow’s milk cheddar, an herb-steeped goat cheese, grass-fed cow’s milk tome, chevre, and Taleggio. Make a reservation at Café des Architectes.
Osteria Mozza, Los Angeles, California
Opened in 2007 by Nancy Silverton, Mario Batali, and Joe Bastianich, it was one of the first to feature a mozzarella bar, located at the center of the room. You can start with a mozzarella tasting or move into specific imported specialties like mozzarella di bufala, burrata, burricotta, and ricotta. Each is served with a different condiment or salad, such as basil pesto, salsa romesco, tapenade, and caperberry relish, or braised artichokes, pine nuts, currants, and mint pesto. Make a reservation at Osteria Mozza.
As the autumn months unfurl, truffles begin showing up on menus across the country. The knobby fungi command thousands of dollars per pound, making them one of the priciest ingredients around. Chefs love to feature them because of their singular, umami-rich flavor, which can take even the simplest of dishes to stunning heights. Here are 10 over-the-top truffle dishes.
Vintage Carnaroli Risotto at Everest, Chicago, Illinois
Carnaroli rice is widely regarded as the best option for risotto because it helps create a creamier texture. Since the grains are slightly longer than other options, they retain their shape better when black Perigord truffles are mixed in. The heat of the dish releases their decadent aroma, amplifying their deep flavors. Make a reservation at Everest.
Soft Polenta with an Organic Egg at Toscana, Los Angeles, California
Italians call this dish polenta con uovo e tartufo bianco, but we Americans know it simply as soft polenta with an organic egg and white truffles. Pop the yolk and mix the sunny liquid with the creamy polenta as the truffles exude their trademark scent. Though it’s a dinner item, we think it would be the most perfect breakfast in the world. Make a reservation at Toscana.
Alaska King Crab Gnocchi at Mastro’s, New York, New York
Decadence personified. Sweet king crab meat is mixed with sharp aged cheddar to add a slight bite, pillowy potato gnocchi, and earthy black truffles. Taken together in a single forkful, the components unite to form a flavor that manages to simultaneously recall the countryside and the deep blue. Make a reservation at Mastro’s.
Boudin Blanc at Marcel’s by Robert Wiedmaier, Washington, D.C.
Created in the Champagne Ardenne region, boudin blanc is one of France’s finest inventions. Chef Robert Wiedmaier’s version is spot on, served with caramelized onions, bacon lardons, and a black truffle mushroom puree that is the perfect counterpoint to the light sausage plumped up with foie gras and pheasant. Make a reservation at Marcel’s by Robert Wiedmaier.
Smoked Ricotta Gnudi at L’Amico, New York, New York
Gnudi are plump, pillowy gnocchi-styled dumplings that seem to melt in your mouth because they’re made with smoked ricotta instead of potatoes. Executive chef Laurent Tourondel lavishes the savory spheres with a sage brown butter and freshly shaved black truffles. Prepared to be wowed. Make a reservation at L’Amico.
Orecchiette Tartufate at Sophia’s, Austin, Texas
Hats off to this primo pasta. Orecchiette are tossed with cremini mushrooms, asparagus, sun-dried tomatoes, and shaved Parmigiano-Reggiano. The dish features a truffle triple threat: black truffle cream, white truffle oil, and shaved white truffles. Make a reservation at Sophia’s.
Most burgers are served on a sesame seed bun with the typical toppings – patty, iceberg lettuce, ring of red onion, tomato slice, American cheese, and a little secret sauce that’s basically Thousand Island dressing. There’s nothing wrong with being basic. But, for a mo, let’s forget those quotidian contenders. These over-the-top, no-holds-barred two handers feature primo patties, über-luxe garnishes, and other unexpected elements that will have you swearing off standard-issue quarter pounders for life. Here are 10 totally insane burgers, with sincere apologies to those of you who have brought your lunch to work today.
db Bistro Moderne, Miami, Florida
Daniel Boulud may be French, but he has totally mastered the American art of crafting burgers. His most over-the-top rendition stars a ground sirloin patty stuffed with red wine-braised short ribs and foie gras. Slathered with a little fresh horseradish and tomato confit, it arrives on a housemade toasted Parmesan and poppy seed bun. Make a reservation at db Bistro Moderne.
Rockit Burger Bar, Chicago, Illinois
How could you not order a burger called the Mac & Cheese Attack? It sounds so amazeballs that we’d be surprised if anyone could resist it. The carb-loaded beast features a quarter pounder nestled between two “buns” of deep fried mac ‘n cheese. It’s garnished with lettuce, tomato, scallions, and sriracha ketchup, which we now know goes really well with mac ‘n cheese. Who knew? Make a reservation at Rockit Burger Bar.
Root & Bone, New York, New York
This insane, Southern-minded cheeseburger has a couple of things going for it. Firstly, it’s stuffed with pimento cheese. Secondly, it’s chicken fried. And, it comes with waffle fries. ‘Nuff said. Make a reservation at Root and Bone.
SoBou, New Orleans, Louisiana
This foie gras-enriched burger comes gussied up with a sunny side up egg and duck bacon. To help wash down all that decadent fat is an equally decadent, equally fatty foie gras milkshake. Which would be a great name for a band. Just sayin’. Make a reservation at SoBou.
MAMO, New York, New York
Don’t tell your cardiologist if you have this for lunch. That’s because this burger is capped off with a lobe of foie gras and a snowfall of paper-thin white truffles, not to mention a little gravy. Because why the hell not? You’ve already clearly decided to temporarily ditch your heart healthy diet. Make a reservation at MAMO.