When I first heard that Di Bruno Bros. on 9th Street was undergoing a rehab, I experienced a shockwave of panic. As anyone who shops at the family’s original store in the Italian Market knows, this 765-square-foot cheese shop is “cozy” – a dairy warren with cured meat stalactites.
Officially, August is National Goat Cheese Month, but let’s agree: we’re past campaigning for goat cheese acceptance. Back in the 1970s, when the first goat-cheese pioneers were emerging from their milking barns in coveralls, Americans found chèvre exotic.
At the height of summer, it’s hard to think about eating anything other than fresh tomatoes and light cheeses, like mozzarella. Luckily, great mozzarella is easy to come by in Philadelphia – Di Bruno Bros. makes it fresh daily, and you can buy it in any number of sizes, from baseball-shaped rounds to braided strands to tiny beads that are great for tossing into salads.
For the past two weeks, the cheese world has been grieving. You may not see it from the outside, but on the inside – behind cheese counters everywhere – there are invisible violins playing Greek rhapsodies. They play for Daphne Zepos, a cheese doyenne who died of cancer on July 3, 2012. Two years ago, I happened to be at a tiny birthday bash for her at Di Bruno Bros. on 9th Street, where I snapped this picture.
If you ever want to see a pageant involving knives, muscles, and cutting boards, book a trip to Long Island City for the Cheesemonger Invitational (CMI) on June 23, 2012. Now in its third year, the event draws makers, mongers, and rabble from the cave to compete for cash prizes and a chance to throw down against the best in the business.
Before I moved to Philadelphia from Wisconsin in 2005, friends told me I needed to visit a cheese shop called Di Bruno Bros. in the Italian Market. When I arrived in July, this narrow store with salamis hanging from the ceiling was one of my first stops. Now, the store feels like my home away from home.
Two weeks ago, I had the opportunity to stick around Di Bruno Bros. on 9th Street for an after hours party. It’s what the store likes to call “a private shopping experience” – a chance for customers to linger around the olive bins, eating pairings that cheesemongers dream up.
It’s the year of the goat. Everywhere I turn: goat dinners, goat tacos, goat talk. This means I should let you in on a little secret about Leonora. It’s the most luscious Spanish goat cheese on the planet. The texture is gooey-soft, and it comes in a slightly flattened brick that looks like a melting ice cream cake roll. If you’ve sworn off sweets for Lent, you might want to pick up some Leonora for dessert.