Cheese, in my book, is right up there with oxygen. If I suddenly were diagnosed as lactose intolerant, someone would need to watch me 24/7 to make sure I was still alive. Let’s be honest here, I’ll bet a lot of you picture those bland Kraft American singles when I say “cheese” and think they taste positively delectable. (Insert wince here.) Or maybe you are a faux cheese groupie that exists purely on Doritos and Cheez Doodles. (Somebody grab me a heart monitor.) I’m talking about real, velvety, tangy cheese.
Know those crazy French people that we all love to rag on? You might want to back it up a step because they have the right idea about the stuff.
You will find, as you meander through the grocery store or market, that cheese is easily accessible. A decade or so ago, your choice of exotic cheeses boiled down to picking the one with the mold, or the one without. Now, Americans can delight on an endless list of varieties imported from all over the world. Philadelphia, being the urban wonderland that it is, has great places to find fabulous cheese.
Let us start with my favorite cheese, which is not as popular as some others, brie. Not No. 1 on my list simply because it shares my name. The soft cheese adds zest to anything from Panini sandwiches to crackers. Like most cheeses, it is best served at room temperature to maximize the flavor, and in this case, the ‘ooze factor.’ It’s mild and buttery, sometimes with a smoky flavor. For some of the best brie in the city, check out the Di Bruno Brothers shop and hunt for Brie de Meaux. This place has such a huge array of cheeses and other foods, mostly Italian. For the hardcore cheese lovers, you can even order off their Web site.
Another cheese dream shop is Claudio’s King of Cheese in the Italian Market. We are talking about a killer grouping of fresh and imported cheese that is bound to satisfy even the pickiest of the bunch. What really rocks my world from Claudio’s?
Their parmesan cheese is stunning. This is not the Parmesan cheese you bang on the table in the glass shaker at Pizza Hut. No, no my friends. This kind of cheese you can consume like, well, candy. It is salty, full-bodied with that rich Italian flavor you only get when it’s authentic. To end all rumors, you can in fact slice it. Not much can beat it.
Finally, I must add a favorite restaurant in the city, which actually is a franchise. A friend took me there to celebrate one evening and I have not been the same since. Go to The Melting Pot for some pretty outrageous cheese fondue. I love all types of Swiss cheese, so the Gruyere and Swiss cheese fondue with bread cubes for dipping was just short of perfection. For a great date night, try this place.
Well, all this yakking has made me famished, so go out and find your own cheese favorites. Me? I’ve got a hot date with some fresh mozzarella, so ciao!
Brianna Barry can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.