Friday, December 15, 2006

Italian Farmhouse Cheeses

I have a lot to apologize for. I have made some comments in the past about just how superior French (and French-speaking Swiss) cheeses are to Italian varieties. I even had the nerve to call Italian cheeses “uniformly pleasant and salty”. Talk about killing with faint praise. When I moved to Italy having spent the previous 6 weeks in Paris, I had expected cheese horizons in Milan to be as broad as those in Paris. They are not. This is a calculable fact. I can cite the 30-some Italian DOP cheese varieties but there are 30 French AOC varieties just made from cow's milk. I experienced only 2 cheese epiphanies in Italy: “sweet” gorgonzola and real buffalo mozzarella.
My perspective changed completely last Sunday and I’[m here to make my amends. On an afternoon drive through the country outside Turin (the Susa valley, to be exact) we stumbled upon an Agritourism farmhouse strangely named “Corbusier” (the cheese house is in the photo on the right) where they sold their own cheese. As we opened the door to the unheated cheese storage room, we were punched in the face by the heady, Frenchy, cheesiness of it all. We knew we had come to the right place. There on a huge, wooden table lay about 15 varieties of Tommes, Reblochons, and goats in various stages of ripeness. What you see above are the orange-rinded Reblochon (at 12:00), the "pura capra" (pure goat's milk cheese)at 2:00, a ripened goat cured in grappa at 4:00, a sublimely oozy cow's milk cheese called Paglierina at 6:00, and a cow's milk Toma aged under "vinaccia" (the squooshed grape skins after wine-making at 10:00. You can still see some of the dark grape skins on the rind.

They are as tasty as they are odiferous! In fact we learned on the way home that if you want enough elbow room on a crowded metro, a ripe Reblochon is your friend.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Looks so delicious.You are lucky to have choice atleast.We just get little packaged ones and so expensive. Enjoy!

8:44 PM  
Blogger Lin said...

WOWZA! I AM SALIVATING!! Don't you need someone to take notes for you -- carry your bags, dust your china?????????? What a wonderful trip and glorious foods!!!

9:43 PM  
Blogger Susan in Italy said...

Hi Asha, It's true that we're lucky to be in a place where excellent food is normal and not elite.

Hi Lin, Come on over! You can dust my china any day! (LOL)

11:24 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hey Susan!
I'm SOO happy you went to Torino, it's my hometown and I love it as you can imagine.
Did I miss something in my reading of your posts, or you didn't try 'cioccolata calda'? If so, that's a wonderful reason for you to go back there.
Cioccolata calda is hot chocolate. It doesn't have anything to do with American hot chocolate though. It's a tradition that started during the cold winters in Turin, and it's a thick, rich chocolate, usually with whipped cream on a side. It's absolutely a must try. But you have to know where to go! Otherwise they'll give you the commercial silly powdery stuff. So.. I can give you some names of the good places or.. if you want, I'll be in Torino in the first two weeks of January!! :)

3:46 PM  
Blogger Susan in Italy said...

Hi Chem, I just left a comment on your blog about la cioccolata. I loved it! Sadly it looks like we're switching countries over the Holidays. I'll be in Chicago when you're in Torino. Oh well.

4:52 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Oh, too bad. Well, maybe next time!

5:28 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

no kraft american singles (individually wrapped, that is)? BUMMER! no, i'm just kidding, i would have loved to be a hungry fly on the wall at this cheese tasting.

do you believe my younger brother hates all cheese? he even orders pizza with no cheese. maybe he isn't related to me after all.

t and i are thinking of taking a trip to firenze in march. whaddya think??

2:01 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I'm so glad that you had an epiphany about our lovely Piemonte cheeses. We live on the other side from the Susa valley and have a lot of varieties of cheeses that are wonderful. I'm delighted to hear that you enjoyed Torino and our area. I started blogging to try and bring attention to our not well know area. If you find yourself in the area again, please do stop in! I'm still fumbling my way around the blogoshpere and figuring out how this all works. You r blog that I have read so far is interesting and accurate.

7:46 PM  
Blogger Susan in Italy said...

Hi Melissa, Florence in March should be great - not bad weather and fewer tourists than in summer! I'd love to pop down and see you too, don't know if that'd be possible with work, but maybe.

Hi Pasticciera, I've just seen your comment now and am looking forward to read you stuff! What a great life to make artisinal cheeses in Piemonte. Thanks for stopping by.

10:12 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hello again. I run a small inn (Bella Baita B&B)in Val Chisone and write about all sorts of topics about our area, of which food and cheeses are a frequent topic. The focus is to show case our areas many charms to entice people to want to come and visit. Perhaps you'll find your way here virtually or physically too some day. I plan to stop by often.

12:53 AM  
Blogger Stelle In Italia said...

yay, i'm glad that you've discovered the goodness of Italian cheeses! i am always in cheese heaven here in le marche, but i was especially happy when we went up north to trentino and visited cheesemakers there. talk about good stuff.


7:57 AM  

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