15 August 2008

Benito vs. the Cheese Board: Round 5

Montegrappa is a semi-hard cow's milk cheese from the Veneto region of Italy and named after the nearby Mount Grappa, site of an eponymous battle during WWI. Other cheeses made in the shadow of the mountain are the nigh-extinct Morlacco and the unfortunately named Bastardo del Grappa. (I'd love to walk into a Subway and hear someone say, "Yeah, can I get me some of that bastard cheese on my six inch turkey sub?") The Montegrappa is somewhere between Parmesan and Cheddar in texture, and it shreds well. Softer than what you normally put over pasta, but it works out great. The flavor is like a really sharp white Cheddar with a touch of Gouda.

Another hard Italian cheese from the Veneto is Piave Vecchio. This cow's milk cheese is nutty and rich, and yet a refreshing change from the old Parmesan/Romano routine. I threw a batch of this into a dish of rotini and grilled chicken with great results.

Guess what? It's named after a nearby river, and also shares it's name with a WWI battle. How many American food products share names with Revolutionary/Civil War sites?

Cambozola is a cross between Italian Gorgonzola and British Camenbert, with connections to French triple cream cheese, so obviously this was invented in Germany and my particular sample was produced in Italy. Sounds like the voyage of a confused quadruple agent during WWII. It's quite soft, and tastes more like Gorgonzola than any of its assorted parents. I like it spread over a grilled steak, where it melts well and provides excellent flavor without the aggression of a sharper bleu.

Point Reyes is a wonderful California bleu cheese made from the milk of Holstein cows on the Pacific Coast. It's a family operation with a long history in the dairy business but more recent moves into the cheesemaking world. And I'm glad they did--it's a great combination of creamy, salty, and tangy and will likely become my go-to bleu. In the slice pictured you can see the lines where Penicillium roqueforti has been injected. I served this first on top of steaks, and then my dining companions proceeded to consume the rest of it after dinner with fresh fruit and Port.

Ricotta Salata is a weird Italian cheese. Made from sheep's milk, it's salted and pressed into shape in such a way that it doesn't have a rind and has a spongy texture. Frankly I think it looks, feels, and tastes like drywall. Crumbs get everywhere. If you've ever had something stuffed with creamy ricotta that somehow managed to get dried out (exposed in the oven, a leftover held too long, etc.), the flavor is similar.

It's hard to tell from the photo, but it's a bright white cheese, and I had to move the light to get shadows so you can even see it on a white plate. Though the name means "salted recooked cheese", there's very little salt flavor, but it's so dry that you'll be reaching for the nearest glass of water. It's suggested that this cheese be cubed and put in salads, or that it's a good substitute for feta, but I'd disagree with both assertions.


Sally said...

This dinner guest yet salivates over the Point Reyes bleu....

Fledgling said...

"Voyage of a WWII quadruple agent..."

Kill me!

And "made by Germans, of course"!
Multi-Kulti-Käs ;-)

I just tried wine jelly for the first time this evening, You probably know all about that stuff. But it was really nice with cheese. Let me know if you want to make some (virtually) together some time ;-)

If your travels bring you Los Angeles way, I'll feed you ;-)

Have a terrific evening! XOXO -N.

P.S. Berne Convention: I've been googling that like crazy...applies to industrial design...Thanks for the tip!

Benito said...

If I'm in LA I'll definitely get in touch, but I'm mostly in the Midwest these days. So far this calendar year I've spent a total of 3 months away from home, flying over 15,000 miles.

Glad the Berne Convention information was useful!

Stephanie said...

Where did you buy these cheeses? In Memphis?

Benito said...


I got everything except for the ricotta salata in Memphis (that little jewel was from Cleveland). The two bleu cheeses came from The Fresh Market on Poplar, and the Italian cheeses are from the Trinity Kroger location in Cordova. Also check out Wild Oats and Mantia's for more great cheeses.