Ever since my birthday dinner at Bari a few months ago, a few friends and I have been talking about tasting their entire cheese menu.
For $150 — and a phone call five hours in advance — you can try an ounce of the more than 40 cheeses on Bari’s menu. Yep, that’s more than 40 ounces of cheese, or about two and a half pounds worth.
My first, and only, piece of advice: Bring friends. But not too many. (Sharing is all well and good, but only to a point.)
The cheese arrived — somewhat disappointingly — on a large tray all at once. I think we had all pictured courses upon courses of cheese, with three or four samples each, being delivered at a time, in a certain order.
To get it all at once was a bit overwhelming.
Each sample bore a jaunty, small flag identifying it, but where to start?
There were soft cheeses, hard cheeses, pungent cheeses, delicate cheeses, milky cheeses, cheeses wrapped in hay, cheeses coated in wood ash, cheeses bathed in wine, and cheeses rubbed with olive oil.
Our cute waiter told us there was no particular order to the cheeses other than some of them had to be cut right before serving, because, otherwise, they would start to sweat.
We decided to start with those, tasting the Mozzarella di Bufala (a fresh mozzarella made with water buffalo milk) first off.
For our self-guided tour, we let Flyer food writer Hannah Sayle be our “cheese master.” Armed with a copy of the formaggio menu, she selected our cheeses from the most delicate to the strongest in flavor.
Sometimes it was difficult to find “our next cheese” among all the other cheeses.
My favorite of the night: the parmigiano-reggiano delle vacche rosse, made from a rare red cow’s milk and aged 36 months.
As my friend Stacey noted, “The harder the names are to pronounce, the better they taste.”
A close second might have been the montasio fianno, a smokey, grassy cheese aged a year. Or it might have been the rich and fruity year-old piave vecchio fi anno.
Or the formaggio alto adige alta badia, another creamy, grassy cheese, about which I have written in my notes: “Order more?”
By the time we reached the gorgonzolas and the end of the evening, Stacey had a fine collection of flags next to her, and I had a cheese menu full of stars and check marks.
And we had an almost empty tray, marred only by the one cheese none of us had liked — the bianco sottobosco, a semi-soft rich cheese with black truffles.
We think it might be an acquired taste.
Images by Stacey Greenberg