C.L.: Yes, Brooklyn has good cheese (see my Brooklyn piece on F1) - but the Philly area has several great places with awesome cheese counters - all the DiBruno's, Downtown Cheese (in the Reading Terminal Market), Fork Etc., Talula's Table, even the local Whole Foods and Wegmans do a pretty nice job, though I don't think you get the same caliber of handling and deep background knowledge as at the independents. Metropolitan Bakery near Rittenhouse Square has a small but nicely culled selection of American cheeses. The Fair Food Stand in the RTM is probably the best source of cheeses from our local cheesemakers: Doe Run, Birchrun Hills, etc.
Reader: Do you think you can find good artisan cheeses at the big-box stores like Costco or should I stick to my local cheese shop? Sure it probably costs twice as much, but I need personal service when picking out a great cheese.
C.L: There are some finds in the cheese case at Trader Joe's (I like their buffalo mozzarella, for example; chatter Emily Kohlhas visits TJs for the well-priced Societe Roquefort). But as a rule independent cheese shops generally have the time and attention that's required to really sell top-quality artisan cheese.
Reader: With so many people making their own charcuterie, who have you found that excel at this craft?
C.L.: Definitely check out what Nick Macri is doing over at Southwark, the Italian-style salumi at Le Virtu, any of the Vetri restaurants. . . . Also, the French-style terrines that Nicholas Elmi is making over at Rittenhouse Tavern (see last Sunday's 3-bell review) were just outstanding. . . . My favorite was a layered terrine of rare quail breast, quail leg rillettes, and creamy foie gras. Technically difficult, and beautifully made . . . and artfully plated with cherry puree and fresh plums. The terrine board in general is a great way to start a meal in the Tavern's garden behind the Art Alliance.
Reader: Russet is doing fantastic charcuterie.
C.L.: Yes, absolutely - the cured lonza (pork loin) with pickled ramps and white celery was one of the highlights of my meal there for sure. . . . Chef Andrew Wood gets whole animals in and is serious about making a variety of charcuterie, which makes a return visit fun, since there's always something different from the curing room.
Reader: +1 for Russet's charcuterie. The prosciutto on my soup was excellent. He was at Fork prior. Must have learned under Terence Feury.
Reader: Fork had great charcuterie with Terence Feury but he's left. I like Garces Trading Company's selection but it's a little pricey.
C.L.: Agreed on Terence Feury, who was doing excellent charcuterie (and everything else) at Fork before leaving recently to start a new venture in the old Swedesboro Inn. I'm sure Andrew learned a lot from Terence, but based on my interview, I think his time with Michael Tusk at Quince in San Francisco had the greatest influence on what he's doing now - especially with the Italian-style.
Schedule change: There will be no restaurant review on Sunday. Craig LaBan will review Forest & Main on Aug. 26. The weekly chat will resume on Aug. 28.