If one is in Philadelphia and finds oneself imitating Rocky Balboa by jogging through the 9th St. Italian Market, one should stop in at Di Bruno Bros.
I have done so on many occasion, finding myself fascinated by the stacks of cheese, walls of curvy bottles, and lots of labels with words I can’t pronounce. Now I have occasionally found myself at a function where a fine cheese platter is presented and after first looking around to make sure no one was paying attention, sampled it ignorant of the proper form in doing so, and been delighted by the treat, but then disappointed by not knowing what I had just ingested and therefore unable to repeat the pleasure.
What to do?
Upon entering DiBruno Bros., and any other purveyor of fine cheeses, I have found myself met with enough choices in enough languages to paralyze an experienced socialite let alone a teetotaling bleu collar man like myself.
On one such occasion I brought my ever wise wife along, and she spotted a sign. It may have been a simple piece of computer paper but for me it was a sign from on high, and it read, “Ask about private cheese tasting”. Now normally such a thing would strike me as to bourgeoisie for me but in the presence of the Mrs. I felt bolstered and actually asked. The answer to my query was a pleasant surprise.
I was given the card of Hunter Fike, along with the tale that a flat $100 would get myself and 7 others, the shop all to ourselves for 2 hours, in which time we could sample everything in the place and be guided along the way by two professional cheese mongers.
Our cast congregated at 6pm on a Thursday evening, not quite sure what to expect. Now I must add that not only was our bunch completely inexperienced in the world we were about to step into, but there was not a drinker among us, which I’m sure made us completely foreign to our tour guides as well. The tastings are a BYOB event so we came prepared with our own bottles of Sparkling cider, Grape juice, and of course some Kala Ginger Ale.
With our class assembled, Mr. Fike began our tour of the age old arts indigenous to Austria, France, Holland… and Vermont.
Without boring you with all the details of our culinary extravaganza, be it assured, this was a night to remember. The Staff was not only knowledgable, but amiable. They took us through goat milk Moulis Chevre, to sheep’s milk Manchego Dehesa, and on past Fleur D’ Aunis to Colston Bassett Stilton.
I will not pretend I know anything about the names I just listed; but I don’t have to. The helpful folks at Di Bruno Bros. sent me home with a list and description of everything we tasted, in the order we tasted them, as well as a small “doggy bag” to take home to the Mrs. for inspiring our outing.
While I could never have memorized all that we learned that night, we will never forget a couple items that merit a mention.
There is on the shelves a bottle of balsamic that bears a $300 price tag. You will not find it on their website, but you will find it as the subject of legends. The vinegar is so precious that the bottle itself was designed by Ferrari. It comes with a small, measured cup, to ensure that one who is bold enough to purchase it, is not so bold as to imbibe it too quickly.
In Spain there lives a hog descended from the wild boar. This beast, distinguished by its black hooves, feeds on the lush grass while young, and while it ages, so do the oak trees, and in its twilight, the animal eats solely the fallen acorn.
Then we eat the pig.
I now know how to enjoy cheese as a dessert, a new concept for me. I now have a cheat sheet that will allow me to replicate this edible escapade. I also now know I am a sucker for a peppercorn and not really a fan of Strathdon Blue.
I was pleased to take home a fine little bottle of a drinking cherry vinegar, thanks in part to the 10% discount one enjoys on any purchase that evening.
Thank you to the guys at Di Bruno Bros., thanks to a great group of lactose tolerant men, and thank heavens my wife read that sign!