I was lamenting the disappearance of truly great Camembert when a Di Bruno Bros. cheesemonger said his best now came from - England.
"Are you . . . kidding me!?" barked an offended man beside me. It was none other than Philly's most famous Frenchman, Georges Perrier, whom I'd not seen since an unfavorable review when he last owned Le Bec-Fin, after which it was clear (through some colorful interviews in other outlets) that I was no longer his favorite reviewer. "Monsieur LaBan!"
Whatever critic-chef awkwardness hung in the air quickly evaporated when we were handed a ripe slice of Tunworth from Hampshire Cheeses. Its bloomy white rind was wrinkly and delicate, its soft interior stretched with a creamy golden shine. And as it melted in my mouth, its nutty, mushroomy flavor had a flawless, lingering swagger - the one I'd missed from Camemberts gone by. No wonder it was named Britain's Supreme Champion Cheese in 2006.
As our eyes met, the now retired Perrier conceded: "Ce n'est pas mal du tout!"
Not bad at all, the ultimate Gallic compliment for anything not French. A hearty "Oh là là!" was reserved for the price: $25 a half-pound disc.
But with so many memorable meals, and so much history, behind us, it only seemed right to share: "Please slice it in half," I said, "and wrap it for my friend as a gift."
A little cheese offering to smooth the past? Perhaps. Tunworth's savor would be a nice way to be remembered.
- Craig LaBan
Tunworth, $24.99, at most Di Bruno Bros. locations.