This Week at the Food Counter
I want you to know that Bacon is important. Also, we just had a big new French and Italian soft cheese arrival, and we’ve picked up some hard-sought delicacies from the American Midwest and Southern England. Read on for details about decadent pillows of Bergamino, Benton’s legendary smoked bacon, and more.
FRENCH & ITALIAN SOFT CHEESE ARRIVAL
Christmas comes once a month at the Food Counter when an impossible pile of soft cheeses arrive from across France and Italy. Come on the right Friday afternoon and you might catch me frenzied and wide-eyed, boxcutter in hand as I open box after box of air-shipped treasures. After almost 6 weeks of white-knuckled waiting—these cheeses are in the case and as good as ever. From the hard-sought buffalo milk pillows of Lombardy (Bergamino di Bufala $26/lb) to the precious goat cheeses of the Loire Valley, we’re absolutely stacked here. My new favorite: Chablochon ($11/pc), a pudgy little stinker of a cheese inspired by the classic Reblochon de Savoie.
BENTON’S HICKORY SMOKED COUNTRY BACON $15/LB
Bacon is important, and in the hierarchy of American smoked meats, Benton’s Bacon reigns supreme. The folks at Benton’s Smoky Mountain Country hams have been producing exceptional cured hams and bacon in Madisonville, Tennessee since 1947, becoming a favorite of chefs like David Chang and Sean Brock. This nitrate-free bacon is cured simply with salt, brown sugar, pepper and hickory-smoked for a minimum a 48 hours. The smoke is intensely delicious. One of my regulars remarked that they cooked Benton’s on Christmas and the house smelled like bacon until New Year’s. If you think that’s a good thing, we have CUT-TO-ORDER bacon at the Food Counter 7 days a week.
QUINCE & APPLE PEAR MOSTARDA $10
One of the greatest “a-ha” moments I have had with cheese pairings was tasting Piemontese Robiola (soft-ripened discs from Northwest Italy) with traditional mostarda. Mostarda is 15th Century Italian condiment made from poaching unripe fruit in syrup, and seasoning with mustard seed oil. The result is something both green and sticky sweet, with a remarkably peppery, almost horseradish-like heat in the finish. Mostarda, while quite strange on its own, is extraordinary when combined with pungent cheese. Until recently, this product has been impossible to produce in the U.S., because the key ingredient—mustard seed oil—has been banned by the FDA for its more nefarious uses (namely, mustard gas). Luckily, the preserve geniuses at Quince & Apple in Madison, Wisconsin were granted a rare FDA exemption to created their stunning Pear Mostarda. There is an open jar at the Food Counter waiting for you to taste.
ENGLISH TUNWORTH $12/24 pc
This may be blasphemous, but the best camembert in our shop comes from southern England rather than northern France. Hampshire (England) and Normandy (France) are quite close geographically, sharing the same climate and breeds that provide lush pastures and high-fat milk—perfect for traditional camembert. Hampshire Dairies’ English Tunworth is a marvel of cultural appropriation. These rust-colored discs have a rich, golden interior that tastes of mustard greens, braised cabbage, and sauteed mushrooms in butter. This cheese begs for a funky white with great acidity, like the Jean-Marie Berrux’s compelling 2012 Petit Tétu from Meursault.