"I've got a challenge for you, cheesemonger."
"Oh yeah? Bring it on," he said with brass in his voice.
"I need a good cheese that can stand on its own. Something that'll wow my guests, and make my friends roll their eyes back into their grins. A cheese that doesn't just dance on the tongue but does the hustle in platform shoes."
"Is that all? You dragged me out here for this? Why any good gouda or swiss can do that. Go grab a wedge of Vella Dry Jack and leave me be!" he chastised, waving me on my way.
"Wait, wait! Who said I was finished? This cheese should also stand up to a bowl of spicy chili con carne, one laden with smoked chipotle peppers, garlic, and cumin. It needs to be a cheese with gusto. Something with punch to fight the kick of the chili."
"Punch and kick? So you want something wu-shu sharp?"
"Not too sharp, I have a few friends who are white belts when it comes to cheese so no wise and ancient cheddars, otherwise it'll be a chili-cheese K.O."
"Try this," he said as he handed me a delicate slice of cream colored cheese. "It's called Petit Basque, made in the Basque region of France. A sheep's milk cheese that's nicely muted."
"Very much so, this sublime and low-key sheepiness shouldn't scare anyone away. It's definitely a beginner's sheep." It swirled around and took control of my mouth. It's a cheese that tells you to submit like a good masseuse and you do, happily.
"You'll notice that it smells of caramel, but the closer you get to the rind the salty-sweet nut flavors give way to the taste of brown butter. Now if that doesn't give your chili some flavor, a way to balance all that heat-"
"And there's a lot of it."
"-then this is what you want."
I picked up a wedge and tucked it into my basket between the bread and bag of lemons. "Well played, cheesemonger. Well played."