On a recent trip to Italy, I had the opportunity to visit a co-op that makes Parmigiano Reggiano. It was a first for me – I have witnessed the cheesemaking process before and have even tried my hand at making chèvre but I have never before observed the making of a hard, aged cheese like Parmigiano Reggiano. A small group of farmers in the area bring milk to the co-operative each week and, starting at 5am every day, that milk begins a process that transforms it into a cheese so many of us know and love. Parmigiano Reggiano is a DOP product. In Italian, DOP stands for Denominazione di Origine Protetta (Protected Designation of Origin).
Never before in the Boston (or Massachusetts!) market are these two artisan wines made from Friuli’s star varietal: Ribolla Gialla. You may have picked up a bottle or two of I Clivi’s other wines in the past – Galea or Brazan – their white Burgundy-like cru bottlings of Tocai Friulano from heirloom vines in Colli Orientali and Collio.
Every two years, the biggest festival in the cheese world happens in Bra, Italy. The event is known simply as “Cheese.” Cheesemakers, cheesemongers, journalists, food lovers and folks lucky enough to live close by, descend on the small town of Bra to sample, sell and eat literally tons of cheese.
Lombardy is a part of Italy that is home to many well-known cheeses: Taleggio, Mascarpone, Provolone, Grana Padano and Gorgonzola. What is interesting to me is that such a wide variety of styles are represented – be it washed-rind, blue, cooked or fresh. Perhaps this is the result of the fact that cheesemaking has a long history in the region. Indeed, Gorgonzola is one of the oldest blue cheeses in the world.
If you are familiar with our wine philosophy, you will know how important natural, traditional farming is to us. In general, we have found that those winemakers who have a closer relationship to their land translate their terroir most authentically. Giovanna and Stefano are pioneers in their growing community, not only for their organic farming but also their commitment to tradition in both the vineyard and wine cellar.
After an exhilarating five days of intensive tasting in and just outside of Verona at VinItaly, VinNatur, and Vino Vino Vino, my palate has been reinvigorated and my “wine speak” in Italian has once again been thoroughly challenged and expanded.
Sometimes it’s just handy to have a good dried pasta in the larder for spontaneous pasta-making. Fresh pasta (pasta fresco) and dried pasta (pasta secca) are really two different beasts. Since working at Formaggio Kitchen, I have become a devotee of a dried pasta made by Poschiavo (and I know several other colleagues who have too).
We had the opportunity to try two French fondues. They were both delicious but the one Claude, the Chef du Cave at Marcel Petite, made for us was hands down the best fondue I have ever had.
While each wheel of Parmigiano Reggiano varies with the season, we find that Cravero parm tends to have a moist texture and flavors of pineapple, baked bread, and grass flavors. Well cared for and sourced from farms of the highest quality, it’s what we recommend to customers looking to include a Parmigiano on a cheese platter.
Emily recently traveled to Genova to learn how to glacée candied fruits and chestnuts with the Romanengo family.
For those with even a remote connection to Italian heritage, panettone and pandolce are essential components of the Christmas holiday.
When he told me that the pallet that I had seen picked up the day before had magnums of this wine on it and was destined for Massachusetts, I was already placing the order for those bottles in my mind, hoping to transfer a little bit of my experience to my customers this holiday season.