The Handee Cheese Cutter: Our Favorite Tool of the Trade

If you have ever been to our warehouse for a cheese tasting, you know that one of our most prized non-edible possessions is our trusty cheese wire.  The Handee Cheese Cutter is the universal standard in the cheese industry, and was a tool of the trade that Katie brought with her from her time as a retail cheesemonger.  It does everything that a knife can do, but better.  It slices through crumbly blues, delicate soft-mold ripened cheeses, tacky washed rind cheeses, and makes clean work of hard, brittle cheeses that would shatter under the pressure of a knife.   This tool is indispensable for quickly portioning out cheeses for plating, and for breaking down larger wheels of cheese that can be dangerous with a knife (here’s looking at you, Mimolette!)

After a few years of joking with our customers that we should sell our fancy cheese wire, we decided to give them a shot.  A few weeks ago we imported our first shipment of Handee Cheese Slicers direct from the UK, nestled between our wheels of Stilton and English Cloth-bound Cheddar from Somerset County.  Each slicer comes with a pack of 12 x 60cm replacement wires.  Additional wire packs will be stocked at Great Ciao for your future needs.  While cheaper plastic bases can be found online, we prefer our sturdier stainless steel version that won’t break when it inevitably gets dropped on the floor, or when the spring loaded action sends it flying across the kitchen by a well-meaning cook.  The cheese wires and bases are NSF approved and can go right through your dishwasher.  Wires typically last a few weeks to a month with heavy use, and only take a few seconds to replace.  The curd-nerds at Great Ciao are familiar with their use and are on-call if you have any questions.

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Monger’s Choice: Fontina Val D’Aosta

Rich and creamy, with a gooey melt and just enough earthy funk to hit home, Fontina Val D’Aosta may as well be a perfect cheese.  Often imitated but never replicated by cheaper alternatives like wax rinded Danish Fontal, or Fontinella; Fontina Val D’Aosta is the real deal, with the DOP label to prove it.  Fontina is made in the tiny Val D’Aosta region of northwest Italy, set in the shadows of the Swiss Alps, with Matterhorn to the West, and Mont Blanc to the east.  Fontina Val D’aosta can only be made from the unpasteurized milk of the red spotted Valdaostan cows who graze in the lush summer pasture of the Aosta Valley.

Fontina is an alpine style cheese, the curd is cooked in copper pots over an open fire, and the 20 lb wheels are washed in brine as they age in cool mountain caves.  Our selection of Fontina Val D’aosta is aged between 120 and 150 days, the finished wheels have a brick red natural washed rind that is slightly tacky to the touch.  The cheese has a dense fudgy texture that is slightly softer than that of an alpine Gruyere.  Fontina Val D’aosta is great for nibbling or cooking, with rich hints of fresh cream, and an earthy finish reminiscent of the fresh white truffles that grow in nearby Piedmont.

The classic regional dish from Val D’aosta is Fonduta: the Italian version of Swiss Fondue that, in classic Italian fashion, is far more sinful and decadent than the original.  Fontina Val D’aosta cheese is melted into heavy cream and egg yolks before being garnished with freshly shaved white Alba truffles.

Fontina Val D’Aosta pairs well with a full bodied chardonnay but would also play nicely with a spicy Barbaresco or an aged Barolo.  On the beer side, try Fontina Val D’aosta with a hoppy IPA or Farmhouse Saison.

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French Comté: Your New Kitchen Staple

There’s something downright practical about a cheese that has the utility of being just as good for cooking as it is for noshing. Comté is an AOC protected French cheese that has unparalleled (and delicious) versatility in both applications.

Hailing from the Franche-Comté region, Comté is made in the alpine foothills of the verdant Jura Mountains that outline the Franco-Swiss border. The Jura mountains are to the neighboring Swiss Alps what Comté is to Swiss Gruyere: nearly analogous, more subtle in flavor, and lacking in name recognition outside of France.  But to the French; Comté has earned the distinction of being the highest consumed cheese per capita, with a market share that would be the American equivalent of, well, American cheese.  Comté is just as likely to be found in child’s school lunch as it is on the menu of a fine restaurant, as it is on a gas station sandwich.  Oh, to be French.

Comté is a traditionally made cheese, born out of necessity, with a history that can be traced back to 1200 AD.  In a time before refrigeration and pasteurization, cheese provided an additional safeguard against the potentially lethal dangers of volatile fresh milk by being purified through the process of bacterial fermentation. Long before “grass-fed” was a buzzword, alpine cheeses were made from the milk of cows grazing on lush summer pastures.  These hearty cheeses were not the “fancy” French cheeses we know today, these cheeses were made to provide essential vitamins and minerals, as well as vital fats and proteins through the harsh, unpredictable rigors of mountain life.  Alpine cheeses were not made for fine dining, their intentions were much more basic: to keep your family from starving to death in the winter.

If Marx had been a turophile, chances are that Comté would have been his top pick, as it launched a communal, cooperative system that is still being used today in the Jura.  In alpine agrarian communities like the Jura, most farming was subsistence based, and many families had only one or two milking cows.  It takes nearly a hundred forty gallons of milk to make a single eighty pound wheel of Comté, so farmers created cooperatives, pooling together their twice daily milking together to be made into cheese by a fruitière (a French verb that translates to: to bear fruit) in wooden huts up in the mountains, before being aged by an affineur in cool underground caves.  This process of cooperative farming and centralized production and aging has remained largely unchanged in the cheese’s one thousand years of artisanal production.

Today, Comté production is tightly regulated by the AOC, with high standards to protect its artisanal authenticity.  Comté can only be made from the fresh, raw milk of Montbéliarde or French Simmental cows, two heritage breeds native to the region.  The cows lead a luxurious life, with ample alpine pasture for grazing (a maximum of 1.3 cows allowed per hectare), and unfermented, natural feed in the winter months when the cows are not at pasture.  During summer production, the cows forage from a biodiverse array of nearly 200 edible herbs, grasses and flowers.  Summer Comté is distinguished by the bright yellow color of its paste, owing to the high carotene content in the milk, and is typically more sought after than Comté made in winter months.

160 fruitières dot the hillsides of the Jura Mountains, and produce Comté within hours of receiving their twice daily deliveries of milk from small local farmers.  Comté is a cooked-curd cheese, which means that the curds and whey are heated during production to help expel moisture from the curds, a critical step for making a cheese suitable to age for long periods of time.  Cooking the curds changes the protein structure of the cheese, resulting in a texture that is perfect for melting (consider fondue and raclette, two famous melty cheese dishes made with alpine style cheeses).  Many modern fruitières still use massive traditional copper vats hung over an open fire to heat the curds.  The fresh wheels are hand salted and aged by the fruitière until they are just sturdy enough to be safely transported to cool alpine caves, from which point on the affineur cares for the wheels until they are ready for sale.

Finished Comté is graded by a panel of 20 judges on a 20 point scale that weighs into consideration appearance, aroma, and flavor.  Cheeses that receive over 15 points earn the prestigious “Comté-Extra” status and receive a green label decorated with cow-bells.  Cheeses earning between 12-15 points are simply named “Comté” and banded with a simple brown label but maintain the AOC designation.  Cheeses earning less than 12 points overall or less than 4 points for flavor are not allowed to be called Comté, and are sold for other uses; most notably to be melted into Laughing Cow Cheese whose manufacturing facility is located Jura’s capital city of Lons-le-Saunier.

“Pourquoi la vache qui rit? Parce que son fromage est fabriqué avec un sous-produit de Comté.”

Green label Comté Extra can be sold in a variety of ages, with the affineur being responsible for selecting the best wheels to age out the longest.  All of the Comté we sell at Great Ciao is Comté-Extra, and is aged at Fort Lucotte de Saint Antoine by the prestigious affineur Marcel Petite.  Nicknamed, “The Cathedral of Cheese,” Fort St. Antoine is a decommissioned French military fort that is unbelievably Tolkein-esque, with an imposing stone façade built into the side of a mountain and massive arched wooden doors that protect the treasure aging in the caves below…  No, not dragon gold, but thousands of buttery yellow wheels of cheese, filling the cavernous space as they age on wooden shelves, stacked high to the ceiling.  One of the only modern innovations to Comté’s affinage at Fort St. Antoine is a robot that systematically flips and vacuums rinds of the massive wheels as they age.  A Roomba, for cheese.

Marcel Petite is famous for only selling his customers up to the quality of cheese that their palates can perceive, so having a skilled buyer on site is key to finding the choicest wheels of cheese.  We currently offer two different age profiles of Comté.  The youngest is aged between 9 to 12 months, and is subtle and creamy, with a finish reminiscent of crème fraiche, thyme and green onion.  Younger wheels are excellent for cooking and melting.  Consider using Comté for applications like cheese Gougères, macaroni and cheese, French onion soup, for croque monsieur and grilled cheese sandwiches, or in savory tarts and quiches.  As Comté ages it becomes bolder and more nuanced in flavor.  The 18-24 month Comté selected by Rodolphe le Meunier is intense and meaty, with a dense texture, loads of crunchy tyrosine crystals, and classic flavors of beef broth, caramelized onion, brown butter and hazelnuts.  Aged Comté is perfect for enjoying on its own and pairs well with a glass of Chardonnay, moody poetry, and a cigarette for a uniquely French experience.  If you are not a smoker, you could easily sub out the cigarette with crusty bread, duck rilletes and a few cornichons.

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Quattro Latti – A Menagerie of Milks

Our fearless leader, Scott, just got back from judging the World Cheese Awards in the coastal Basque town of San Sebastian… poor guy.  He came back to Minnesota laden with a few great versions of classic cheeses from new producers, as well as a couple of new cheeses we had never tasted.  The most peculiar of which was a mixed milk cheese from Caseificio Serpentino, a family owned creamery in Piedmont.

Mixed milk cheeses are nothing new, and are especially common in parts of Northern Italy.  Born out of utility, combining milks from dairy animals was a way to stretch what milk supply you had and turn it into tasty, nutritious cheese.  It’s not unusual to see two and three milk cheeses made from combinations of sheep, cow, goat, and even water buffalo. But when Scott told us he had found a cheese made with donkey milk… we all did a double take.

As far as milks go, Donkey is pretty unusual, but not altogether unheard of.  In Serbia, “Pule” is a fresh made from donkey milk that holds the record for being the most expensive cheese in the world, at auction commanding upwards of 1000 Euros for a kilo of cheese.  Donkeys only produce about 100 mililiters of milk a day (and fluid milk has only about a 10% yield in cheese making) so the scarcity of milk dictates the insanely high price of the cheese.  Fortunately, by mixing milks you can enjoy the uniqueness of donkey milk (and the joy of telling your customers that it kicks ass…) with a much, much more reasonable price tag.

Our new Quattro Latti highlights the best features of all four milks: buttery cow milk, sweet floral notes from the sheep, fresh lemony tang from the goat milk… and from the donkey – the aroma of fresh hay and a bit of wild gameyness.  Quattro Latti has a beautiful cave-aged wild rind that is speckled with spots of day-glow yellow and mottled gray molds.  The texture is semi-firm in the style of a good Italian table cheese.  Wheels weight approximately 8lbs, and are fresh off the plane.  Mangia!

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New At Great Ciao: Fresh Chèvre From Cedar Grove Creamery

Bob Wills (not to be confused with the eponymous country singer) is legendary in his own right as something of a living patron saint to Wisconsin cheesemakers.  You might recognize some of his protiges: Mike Gingrich from Uplands Cheese (makers of Pleasant Ridge Reserve), Willy Lehner from Bleu Mont Dairy, and relative newcomers Anna Thomas Bates and Anna Landmark from Landmark Creamery.  He’s literally had his hands in the vats helping smaller start ups around the state get their footing in the business.

Cedar Grove Creamery – his cheese factory in Milton, Wisconsin, produces several dozen varieties of cheese under the Cedar Grove name, but also serves as a small business incubator to up and coming cheesemakers in need of a state of the art facility.  Cedar Grove stopped sourcing milk from animals treated with RBGH and adapted to green energy sources in the early 1990’s before “humanely raised” “hormone-free”and “green” were buzzwords in our industry.  We love that Bob is a good steward to family farms, animals, and independent cheesemakers.

A few years ago, Bob opened a cheese factory in downtown Milwaukee, fulfilling a lifelong dream of creating an urban creamery in his hometown of Milwaukee, Wisconsin.  Clock Shadow creamery was built in Milwaukee’s blue collar Walker Point neighborhood using almost entirely recycled materials, his new cheese factory is LEED certified with geothermal heating and cooling, a water re-use system, and a rooftop edible garden.  Visitors can taste and purchase cheeses made on sight while watching cheese being made in the factory through the floor to ceiling glass windows.

After tasting the fresh chèvre made at Cedar Grove Creamery a few months ago, we decided to make the switch.   Our signature  fresh chèvre is made using milk from a single herd at a small family farm in Wisconsin.  It is smooth and fluffy in texture with a goaty lemon tang that finishes rich and fresh (but never bitter or barnyardy.)  This is a big change for us, but knowing the work that Bob and his team do, and the quality of their cheese, we felt like it was a no-brainer.  Our new chèvre from Cedar Grove Creamery is available in five and ten pound bags, give us a holler if you need a taste, we would love to send a sample with your next order.

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Farmstead Sheep Milk Cheeses from Green Dirt Farm in Missouri!

We have so many phenomenal new American Artisanal cheeses trickling into to the Ciao House, that it makes my heart go pitter patter when I walk into the cheese cave.  It is important to note that many of these cheeses are shipped to us in in small batches to ensure freshness, and are made seasonally, so we’ll do our best to keep them in stock especially if you let us know that you are featuring them on your menu.  But as with all hand-made products there will be some factors beyond our control (milking seasons, the weather, uncooperative microbes…)  These are the cheeses we love, and we’ll rotate through them as they become available to us.  Shoot me an email if you would like to be signed up to receive our weekly cheese stock and preorder list so that you can see what’s ripening in the cave.

The story of Green Dirt Farm begins with husband and wife Sarah Hoffman and John Spertus, two medical school graduates working in San Francisco.  Sarah grew up living on a series of small farms (her father: a Naval Officer, preferred living in the country as opposed to life on the military base), meanwhile John was a city boy from LA.  It had always been Sarah’s dream to raise her family on a small organic farm, so when the time came to start a family, they searched for land close to an urban center where John could continue to practice medicine.  Small-town Weston, Missouri was a short commute from Kansas City, and in 1996 they bought a 25 acre parcel of land where they built their home.

With one small caveat, the soil was highly erodible, and not a fit for growing the organic crops that Sarah had originally envisioned.  After researching the soil type, they learned that it was best for growing prairie grasses.  And the best natural lawnmowers are… sheep! In 2002 they purchased a dozen Katahdin sheep, and a dozen Gulf Coast Sheep, which formed the base of today’s mixed herd of 200 milking ewes. As it turns out, Sarah’s background in chemistry was a perfect fit for cheesemaking, and after traveling to France and attending workshops around the country, she began to hone her craft.  By 2012 Green Dirt Farm was making 1,200 pounds of sheep-milk cheese.

The key to Green Dirt Farm’s success is in the name, they believe that “raising [their] sheep on carefully tended pastures not only produces happy sheep and high-quality, flavorful milk; it also prevents soil erosion and helps to build top soil.”  Their sheep are kept on a pastured diet of varied grasses, which leads to exceptional milk quality, and in turn, phenomenal tasty cheeses that carry all of the health benefits of pastured dairy products. In addition, Green Dirt Farm is Animal Welfare Approved (AWA) which means that they raise their animals humanely, outdoors on pasture, and enable them to behave naturally and socialize freely. Healthy soil, tasty grasses, happy sheep, and a team of super talented cheesemakers, all play a role in the gorgeous cheeses we just started bringing in from Green Dirt Farm.  It’s no wonder that Green Dirt Farm brought home nine awards from the American Cheese Society Conference last month!

Green Dirt Farm

The Cheeses

Descriptions from

Dirt Lover

Dirt lover is a bloomy rind cheese with a light coating of vegetable ash. Applying ash to the rind of cheeses is an old-world cheese making technique that helps to neutralize the pH of the rind, encouraging the desired rind formation. The dark line from the ash makes Dirt Lover a striking addition to a cheese plate.

Dirt lover tastes buttery, lemony, and mushroomy, and becomes earthy and beefy with age. It smells of wet dirt, like working in the garden.

2016 ACS Awards: 3rd place in Sheep’s Milk aged 31-60 days


Ruby is a Stracchino-style blended milk cheese, very loosely inspired by Robiola Due Latte. This is the first cheese we have made using cow’s milk at GDF. The cheese is washed during the first two weeks of aging, which adds a faint rosy hue beneath the powdery white rind that grows in after.

This cheese is buttery and floral with grassy notes. It has a pleasantly tangy, almost yogurt-like flavor when young and becomes fruitier with age. The paste is creamy and pliable with a satisfying texture similar to soft bread dough.

Drink with an oaky Chardonnay, mild creamy beers. Serve with spicy arugula salad or a variety of charcuterie. Due to the subtlety of this cheese, it lends itself beautifully to cooking. It will enhance and compliment almost anything. A Green Dirt favorite is to use Ruby on a flat bread pizza with pesto, caramelized onions and walnuts.


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New Award Winning Cheeses! Raw, Farmstead cheeses from Sequatchie Cove in Tennessee!

We just got back from this year’s American Cheese Society Conference (or Cheese Prom, as we like to call it) which was hosted in Des Moines, Iowa.  Every year hundreds of cheesemongers, makers, distributors and “enthusiasts” get together to celebrate American cheeses, geek-out, mingle, and taste the increasingly vaste array of American Artisan cheeses.  The conference culminates with the awards ceremony, where thousands of cheeses are judged and scored for aesthetics and taste, and then stacked up against each other in super technical categories like “Cheddars Wrapped in Cloth and Linen – Aged over 12 Months, All Milks” and “Washed Rind Cheeses Aged More than 60 Days – Up to 42% Moisture – Goat’s.”  It is our version of the Oscars, but smellier.

We have so many phenomenal new American Artisanal cheeses trickling into to the Ciao House, that it makes my heart go pitter patter when I walk into the cheese cave.  It is important to note that many of these cheeses are shipped to us in in small batches to ensure freshness, and are made seasonally, so we’ll do our best to keep them in stock especially if you let us know that you are featuring them on your menu.  But as with all hand-made products there will be some factors beyond our control (milking seasons, the weather, uncooperative microbes…)  These are the cheeses we love, and we’ll rotate through them as they become available to us.  Shoot me an email if you would like to be signed up to receive our weekly cheese inventory list so that you can see what’s ripening in the cave.

Sequatchie Cove Creamery is our newest cheese producer, in fact, their cheeses arrived at Great Ciao on the same day that they were winning big at the ACS conference.  Padgett and Nathan Arnold began working on the farm in 2003, tending to the vegetables before getting involved in animal husbandry, and eventually making cheeses to share with friends.  In 2010 they opened Sequatchie Cove Creamery at the farm, and began making traditional French inspired raw milk cheeses from the Savoie region, with a bit of southern flair.

I first tried the Shakerag Blue in 2012 when it was just being developed, and instantly fell head over heels for their cheeses. Shakerag blue could be the lovechild of Rogue River Blue and the piquant Spanish blue cheese Valdeon.  Like the Rogue river blue, Shakerag is wrapped in leaves (fig) which have been macerated in booze (Chattahoochie Whiskey) before being aged for six months.  The resulting cheese is spicy and rich, with an intense fruity/boozy finish.  The Dancing Fern is oozy and unctuous, and one of the few Reblochon inspired raw-milk cheeses being made in the U.S. – they literally have to wait until it is 60 days old before it can be sold, and so we get it here with a few weeks of gooey nearly contraband perfection.  The final cheese we have from Sequatchie in this round is their Coppinger, a Morbier style washed rind cheese, also made with raw milk, and bisected with a line of vegetable ash through it’s center.  Coppinger is buttery in aroma, and velvety in texture, gorgeous on a cheese board, as well as being a fantastic melter.

It is hard to say if we are crushing harder on the cheese, it’s producers, or their absolutely gorgeous farm.  Whatever the verdict, we are thrilled to add these beautifully crafted cheeses to our American Artisanal Cheese selection.  Watch the short documentary below, or read more about Sequatchie’s cheeses.  They are here and ready to enjoy (supplies are limited) let us know if you need a taste!

A short documentary by Kelly Lacy

The Cheeses

Descriptions from

Dancing Fern

Named for the native ferns that sway and nod at the breezy mouth of a cave in Coppinger Cove where the farm is located, Dancing Fern is inspired by the famous raw milk Reblochon cheese of France. Its soft and supple texture and barnyardy aroma, along with notes of cultured butter, shiitake mushroom, and walnuts make it a stand out on the cheese plate.

Pairs nicely with Beaujolais, Trappist ales, marmalades and preserves (in particular grapefruit), and fresh in-season peaches. Works wonderfully in a classic Tartiflette recipe.

2016 American Cheese Society – 3rd Place – Farmstead Soft Category
2015 American Cheese Society – 2nd Place – Farmstead Soft Category
2013 American Cheese Society – 3rd Place – Farmstead Soft Category
2012 American Cheese Society – 1st Place – Farmstead Soft Category

Shakerag Blue

Shakerag Blue’s colorful name is derived from both the beautiful Shakerag Hollow known for its wildflowers and rich moonshining past, as well as an old Prohibition era method of either alerting moonshiners to approaching revenue agents, or as a way to procure some white lightening of one’s own. An ode to all things Southern, Shakerag is a crumbly yet dense blue-veined cheese cloaked in local fig leaves which have been soaked in Chattanooga Whiskey, the first legal whiskey being distilled in the city since Prohibition. Its salty-sweet and fruity interior is reminiscent of root beer, and lends itself to more complex notes of savory bacon, dark chocolate, and tropical flavors towards the rind.

Pairs nicely with Chattanooga Whiskey, barley wine, root beer, dried fruits, and raisin toast. Crumbles well for salads and steaks, and deserves a prime spot on the cheese board.

2016 American Cheese Society – 3rd Place American Originals Blue Category
2015 Good Food Awards Winner
2015 US Championship Cheese Contest – Best of Class – Blue Cheese Category


Coppinger Cove sits at the base of the Cumberland Plateau and is the secluded hollow where the farm and creamery call home. A Southern take on the classic French Morbier, Coppinger is a semi-soft washed rind cheese with a striking layer of decorative vegetable ash in its center. The velvety elastic paste is savory with notes of fresh grass and smoked meats, making it ideal for the cheese plate or melted into any dish.

Pairs nicely with fruity lighter bodied reds such as Beaujolais Nouveau, malty ales and stouts, pickled vegetables, bacon jam, and charcuterie. Try it melted on a burger or as the ultimate grilled cheese.

2016 Good Food Awards Finalist

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Domestic Bliss: New Organic Farmstead Cheeses from Cascadia Creamery

nce again, we have beautiful new cheeses, made by beautiful people, in a beautiful place; this time hailing from the rural mountains of the Pacific Northwest where unique lava tube formations create the ideal underground aging caves for their handmade cheeses.  Cascadia Creamery came to us by way of a local chef’s recommendation.  He was so adamant that we taste their cheeses, that he had some small pieces shipped to his restaurant from a cheese shop in Portland for us to try.  It is unusual for a upstart cheesemaker to hit it out of the park on their first go-around, but all of the cheeses we tasted from Cascadia Creamery were knockouts.  From the Glacier blue that had the perfect dry minerality of a French Fourme d’Ambert, to the sleeping beauty that tasted just like buttered popcorn, all of them were in pristine condition, each one unique from the rest.  We had some shipped to Great Ciao post-haste, and have been crushing on their cheeses ever since.

A beautiful article was just written about John and Marci Shuman’s creamery in Cheese Connoissour Magazine.  Click here If you would like to read more about their operation.  

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Fresh Off the Plane: DOP Ricotta Romana

It’s here, it’s (FDA) clear, and it needs a good home!  Today we received our first shipment of DOP Ricotta Romana: fluffy clouds of sheep milk curd made from the whey of sheep milk cheese production in Lazio, the region surrounding Rome.  To earn the DOP title, Ricotta Romana must be made using the whey from whole sheep’s milk that has never been frozen, from four specific breeds native to the region, the sheep must be raised on pasture in the farms surrounding the region of Lazio, and no additives are allowed during production.

Traditionally ricotta is the ultimate peasant food, made as a byproduct of whey produced during cheese production, the name itself translates to “re-cooked”.  Whey is protein and lactose rich, and still contains enough ambient butterfat to glean some ricotta as a nutrient rich food.  However, today the majority of Ricotta is made from whole-milk as opposed to whey, for a richer texture and flavor. Ricotta Romana is traditionally made using the leftover whey from Pecorino Romano production, and is cooked in the same vats used to make the cheese.

While Ricotta Romana is primarily a whey Ricotta, up to 15% of the total mixture can be obtained from whole sheep milk for better yield and texture.  The whey used to make Ricotta Romana is uniquely sweet, and lends a sweet, nutty quality to the final product.  After the whey and milk are gently heated, the cheesemakers use perforated ladles to gently scoop out the flakes of ricotta that form on the surface, and allow them to drain in wicker or plastic baskets.

Ricotta Romana is sold in 2Kg (4.4lb) baskets, and it’s shelf life is fleeting (read: a week after it gets off the plane.)  This ricotta is so spectacular on its own that you almost hate to adulterate it in any way, but you couldn’t go wrong with seasonal berries and some good local honey.  We have a few to get you through the weekend if you are looking for something extra special that doesn’t often make it’s way into Minnesota.  Give us a call at 612.521.8725 if you are interested.

If you are feeling especially scholarly and want to know more about DOP Ricotta Romana, check this out, the article is also full of pretty pictures for rest of us.

Happy Eating!

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Why, Hello Buffalo: New buffalo milk cheeses are here just in time for summer!

Early summer heat is just starting to hint at the onslaught of heirloom tomatoes to come, and our buddy Giorgio in Campania has been sending us some new iterations on the old classics of pasta filata (stretched curd) cheeses.  Last week we got our first taste of truffled Mozzarella di Bufala with itty specks of black Italian truffle, along with Burrata di Bufala.  We’ve done our due diligence by tasting them again… and again… and again, and after all of that rigorous quality control testing, we think we’ve found something pretty special.

Our Mozzarella di Bufala hails from Campania, Italy; home to both mozzarella and pizza galore.  We bring in weekly air-freight shipments of Mozzarella di Bufala, and now Truffled Mozzarella di Bufala, and Burrata di Bufala direct from Italy to Minnesota.  We keep foodservice Mozzarella di Bufala as well as a fantastic domestic cow’s milk burrata from the Liuzzi Angeloni in stock.

Some background on Mozzarella di Bufala…

Mozzarella di Bufula is a bit of an anomaly – somehow the richest milk (water buffalo milk has twice the fat of cow milk!) is transformed into a feather light pillow of cheese.  Water buffaloes produce less milk than dairy cows, and with their intimidating horns and larger overall physique it takes a bit more bravado/fearlessness to milk them.  The challenge then falls to the cheese-maker to turn a particularly unforgiving milk into a delicate fresh cheese.  The resulting cheese is porcelain white (buffalo milk doesn’t contain the butter yellow carotene found in sheep and cow milk) bright and fruity, and has just a bit of underlying wild gameyness.  The texture is rich, supple and nearly custardy.   Because the cheese is packed in water, it should be drained well before using.

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