October 20, 2014

This Cheese Doesn't Suck: Pave du Nord

    Pave du Nord is a little known cheese from the north of France.  Translating literally to "Paving Stone of the North", Pave du Nord is formally a working man's cheese.  The texture of this raw cow's milk cheese is most commonly hard, crisp, and flaky.  Quite like the famous aged Goudas of Holland or its fellow countryman, Mimolette.  In fact the most common comparison made to the characteristics of Pave du Nord is to Mimolette.  
    It's firm texture playing up flavors of dry earthy cave, minerals, and brown butter.  However my most recent encounter with Pave du Nord completely rocked everything I know about the cheese.  See, I've only every encountered it in all of it's uber aged glory (see above descriptions).  
    This time when we broke into our first loaf of the year, eyes glistening in anticipation, cheese knives poised and all that, we were shocked (shocked I tell you!) to find a supple, yielding, springy cheese.  What kind of chicanery was this? It was clearly Pave du Nord, alright.  But, well, a rather young loaf it seemed.  Never the less we dug in and all eye brows shot right past our hairlines.  
    "Baby" Pave du Nord was seriously excellent!  That supple paste went straight to cream under the tooth.  New bright, light butter flavors shone through right away and were quickly balanced out by that familiar mineral punch.  Also new were the vegetal green pepper and dry legume notes that came wafting in with the rest.  To wrap up the decidedly complex cheese was a delightful astringency that seemed to clear away any heaviness of flavor that lingered behind.  If you ever get your hands on young Pave du Nord pair it up with a good Sauvignon Blanc or a well balanced Petite Syrah.  Dang.

October 02, 2014

Pecorino Toscano + Truffle Honey

    Pecorino Toscano is a sort of kinder, matching-shoes-and-purse, prim cousin to Pecorino Romano's bombastic, big-hair, loud-mouth flavor.  Hailing from the lush farmland of Tuscany, Pecorino Toscano is, however, exceedingly rich with subtle flavor.  

    Made from 100% sheep's milk it has the oily crumble that one expects from Italian pecorino's.  Its flavor profile has a distinct mineral-y quality, with hints of clotted cream, fresh hazelnut, clean animal.   
    Much moister in texture than Romano means that the slick olive oil qualities of the paste are much smoother and more even across the palate.  Drizzle this cheese with truffle honey (as I did here).  I guarantee it tastes just like a glamorous Autumn picnic in the Italian countryside. 

September 29, 2014

This Cheese Doesn't Suck: Pecorino Romano

Pecorino Romano is certainly the iconic hard grating cheese of Southern Italy.  Also know singularly as "Romano", this salty (Almost too much. But I really like it), kick-in-the-face tangy, sheep's milk cheese is widely known outside of its native region.  Sadly it seems most of what we are served as "Romano" here in the states is in fact not the real stuff.  In order to be true Pecorino Romano it must be made, get this, in the province of Rome.  Crazy right?  
Oddly enough you won't find this cheese much north of Rome where Parmigiano Reggiano rules the culinary world.  This relatively sharp divide in cheese preference really illustrates the cultural and habitual differences that exist in Italy.  
For a rather small-ish country we get the misconception that Italy is a single united culture.  The wild, sheepy,vegetal, peppery, dry crumble of Pecorino Romano, versus the refined crystaline, nutty, melted butter flavors of Parmigiano, subtly illustrate the complexity of culture and cheese making in Italy.  Although Pecorino Romano is used primarily state-side as a grating cheese, don't forget that it is a worthy table cheese on its own. Look for it in your local cheese shop as a beautiful pile of bone-white cheese or as a rustic 16lb cylinder with flaky black paint.  Its extreme salt and olive oil textures make it a delight to explore chunk by chunk. Be sure to pair it with a big, sumptuous, leggy red wine.