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. 
 

July 31, 2014

This Cheese Doesn't Suck: Chimay Gold

  


    The monks of the Abbey of Notre-Dame de Scourmont, near the town of Chimay, Belgium have been producing their now famous beer and rich, cows milk cheese since the mid-19th century.  Needing to generate modest funds for the abbey, the monks settled on two things most people can't get enough of; alcohol and fatty, delicious dairy products.  What came out of their efforts became iconic.  Chimay beer and cheese of the same name are meant to be eaten together.  You'd be hard pressed to find a cheese enthusiast or beer snob that hasn't at least heard of Chimay.  
    Chimay Gold is an interesting offering from the brand.  Traditionally the monks cheeses were washed in local spring water.  Which helped to cultivate the pungent, sticky pink-y orange rind of Brevibacterium linens.  Yes, purposely cultivated bacteria on the out side of the cheese.  That rind of bacteria found on all washed rind cheese is what helps such cheeses develop their distinct strong flavors.  
    However, Chimay Gold, is washed instead in the abbey's own Chimay beer.  The results are glorious.  The cheese's texture is still the silky, sticky, chewy-ness of plain Chimay cheese.  However the flavor is turned up a notch.  Bring out creamy notes of hops, grain, sun-baked soil, and dry roasted peanut.
    Pair this cheese with its primary partner Chimay beer or any fine locally brewed pale ale.