If the words "American cheese" still conjure images of individually wrapped slices, it's time to update your perspective. Artisanal cheesemaking in the U.S. has exploded to the point where even novices can get in the game.
But if you want to leave it to the experts, head to Lucy's Whey.
Now open in the Chelsea Market, this Manhattan outpost of an East Hampton mainstay is the curator of the best in domestic curds.
If you're more familiar with imports, fear not: The staff at Lucy's will help you find your favorite American counterpart. Those in the mood for Manchego should try Dante ($26.50 a pound), a nutty, aged sheep's-milk cheese from Wisconsin that rivals anything from Spain.
If a buttery French Tomme is more your style, sample Meadow Creek Dairy's Appalachian ($25 a pound), a raw cow's-milk cheese from the mountains of Virginia. And even the strictest Anglophile will be converted by a taste from a wheel of Roelli Cheese Haus's Dunbarton Blue ($27 a pound), a meaty, toothsome hybrid of English cheddar and a fine blue.
Add local accompaniments like lavash from Hot Bread Kitchen and sticky caramels by Liddabit, plus delicacies from farther afield, like intensely flavored black walnuts harvested in Missouri, and you'll never miss your old-world cheese plate.
Lucy's Whey, Chelsea Market, 425 W. 15th St. (at Ninth Ave.); 212-463-9500 or lucyswhey.com