Skip to main content

A Cheese Tango in Italy

The gist of a Cheese Tango in Italy is exposing some of that cheese lust right here with names other than the usual staples like mozzarella and parmigiano. A total of nine, relatively unheard of formaggi (most of which come from northern Italy), has been selected by my husband aka the MotH (Man of the House). General details on milk, texture and regional location are given, along with serving or wine suggestions with an emphasis on matching cheese to a wine that is symbolic of like region. Are we experts on the subject? We wish! We're just devotees to what is definitely a substance that should be the stuff of moons. Once you've crossed into the land of artisan cheese and loved it, there really is no turning back.

The sit-down and tasting was the easiest part (nibble, take notes, a sip of wine, repeat). Try taking all that and assembling it into a post. Our westie and dachshund kept getting in the way as they know a good thing when they smell it. Grapes would've made fine palate cleansers had they been in season, but crisp pears, strawberries or other sweet fruit are okay. We kept the cheese course as close as possible to what a person would most likely experience in Italy: country-style bread, acacia honey (more appropriate with strong cheese), fruit jam and walnuts. The following video has photos and scenes while putting this together. Check the aprons!

In order of appearance

Bagòss (bah-GOHSS) Presidio Slow Food
From Lombardia. A hard, compact, cow's milk cheese of fantastic flavor with hints of saffron. Bagòss makes the ultimate sausage & grilled cheese sandwich, italian-style, aka panino. It just needs to soften up real nice and slow on a hot griddle. Enjoy with an easy, velvety red such as Sforzato di Valtellina.

Graukäse (GRAU-keh-seh) Presidio Slow Food
From Alto Adige. Not for the weak. In my husband's exact words, "it smells like an animal stall" and I second that opinion. The consistency is firm yet resilient, like a rubber eraser. As for the taste, we agree that it doesn't fall far from the apple tree either because I can't very well say that it smacks of a smelly barn. Graukäse means gray (grau) cheese (käse) - FXcuisine has a well-illustrated post on the making of this cow's milk cheese. A full-bodied wine was suggested to go with it but we prefer a strong beer to stand up to its overwhelming characteristics. Best taken in small doses, as in grated over plain pasta or schlutzkrapfen.

Toma del Maccagn (TOH-mah del mah-KAHN) Presidio Slow Food
From Piemonte. Maccagn is a dialect term and the letters gn in the 2nd syllable sound more like the middle vocals heard in the word "canyon". A semi-soft cow's milk cheese with delicate flavor and tang, yet distinguished in appearance (just cut off that mold), we suggest a red Nebbiolo from Piemonte.

Tella Alto Adige (TEH-lah AHL-toh AH-dee-jeh)
From Alto Adige. The first thing out of my mouth when I took a nibble — EGGS! A firm cheese made from cow's milk, it has a smooth texture and slices clean. Its distinct flavor did remind me of hard-cooked yolks and I'm wondering, uhm, where's the bacon? Pour a bold red like Lagrein, but hold the pancetta.

Ubriaco al Traminer di Capra (oo-bree-AH-koh ahl tra-MEE-nehr)
From Veneto. Ubriaco = drunkard, but in this case, applies to this raw goat's milk cheese which is left to age in Traminer grape must. An item to show-n-tell at a tasting party (has bits of purple still clinging), it has sweet hints with a touch of spicy. This is where we were really wanting those juicy, plump grapes.

Canestrato (kah-neh-STRAH-toh) Presidio Slow Food
From Abruzzo. Think sharp, cow's milk cheese as in an aged asiago and you'll get the idea, although the raw milk used here comes from sheep. Bold and spicy, this is essentially pecorino, the canestrato originating from being shaped in a wicker basket (canestro). Served with sweet onion marmalade or fig jam puts it over the top, with what else but Montepulciano d'Abruzzo red to drink with it.

Pecorino ai Pistacchi di Bronte
(peh-koh-REE-noh AH-ee pee-STAH-kee dee BROHN-teh)
From Sicilia. We had to have at least one island represented here so why not a sheep's milk cheese with those famous pistachios from Bronte? This pecorino doesn't particularly stand out as one to remember, but with a Nero d'Avola from Sicily, who's complaining? Pass the cured olives and bread. Cannoli for dessert.

Raschera Semistagionato (rahss-KEHR-rah semi-stah-joh-NAH-toh)
From Piemonte. Semi-aged. A cow's milk cheese typically formed in a square shape. "Reminds me of gorgonzola," I said, between bites. It even looks like it too with the random blue mold marbled within. A little bit salty, a little bit spicy, it transcends into the sublime with floral honey drizzled over. I also used some to make this rustic-looking winter tomato tart. Instead of a medium-bodied red, sunkissed nostalgia begs for a sweet wine like Passito from Pantelleria.

Crottino al Tartufo (croh-TEE-noh ahl tahr-TOO-foh)
From Piemonte. I saved the best for last, and how could it not be? With its mesmerizing aroma and flecks of black truffle, crottino was more than we could have ever expected. Purchased at Esselunga (a large chain of supermarkets), it goes to show the scope of what can be found without having to drive directly to the source. Made from cow's milk, the texture is a sort of powdery crumb that shaves and grates easily. Over risotto, pasta (try egg tagliatelle), or eggs fried in butter... Heaven on a plate! Or would that be heart attack on a plate? The shape is a cute little cylinder, approximately 8 ounces. And the wine? Barbaresco or Barolo. We love the latter.

Popular posts from this blog

Fun in the sun and snow at Alpe Giumello

Why do weekends with perfect weather always have to be so short? This past Saturday and Sunday was the one that anybody with a pulse has been wanting for a long time, the weekend with ZERO rain, no snowfall and nothing but blue skies all around. We had the intention of hiking around the base of Monte Muggio, a 3-hour loop trail that begins from the parking area at localit√† Alpe Giumello, but ice on the trail made it a dangerous gamble. If we had been able to get to the very top of Monte Muggio it would have afforded us a spectacular panorama with Bellagio jutting out in the middle of the lake.Even if a good, long hike was out of the question, there was plenty of wide open space to go for a stroll. We walked the dogs out on the flat plains on the eastern side of Giumello, all of which were covered in a thick layer of packed snow. In less than 30 minutes time we had built up enough of an appetite for a quick lunch at Ristoro Genio, a cozy little bar and restaurant serving hot meals…

In the news: from blogosphere to printed publication

It's just a little thing really, but when a staff member from a periodical for Italy's Alpini requested permission to reprint one of my blog entries, I had no idea how surprised, and I have to admit, a little bit sheepish I'd feel after seeing my Tasi e Tira article taking up half the space on page 12. I just received my copy in the mail. The entry was posted over a year ago but through the vast reaches of the internet it goes to show what nice things can happen when you try to immerse yourself in a culture not your own. Perhaps the word "immerse" is rather modest as I like to jump right into the middle of things and get up close and personal. What tickles me the most is that this blog started off as a way of amusing myself (and expanding my knowledge of the country's cuisine), but getting published...whoa! It's like icing on the cake!
Click to view large

Good day for a hike: 2500 feet, 23 km and 7.5 hours

A hunk of bread, a wedge of aged sheep's cheese, a couple canteens of water and some fruit. I regret not being able to share a more thorough and detailed trail description but this was more for practice and not for the lofty views. Ever since the movie The Way, we both had to know what one 20 kilometer day (12+ miles) would feel like if we were to embark on, at most, the 40-day 800 kilometer Camino de Santiago in Spain. That's a lot of walking. I think I would get real skinny if I missed a meal.Lecco's mountains are covered in so many up-and-down trails that all you need do is get to any village above the lake. We started at an altitude of 670 meters and walked up another 762 to the top of Monte Tesoro in Valcava. That's a height difference of 2500 feet, 8 kilometers and 2.5 hours at a steady pace with Maddie and Mr B in tow. From there we made a loop trip back down, stopping often to munch on vittles and to take a look around. Altogether a total of 23 kilomete…