Monday, September 15, 2014

When in Rome, make a Cheese Plate (Part IV of V)

While I didn’t finish writing up the cheese plates by the time I left for Malta to resume my internship, I did hold on to my notes of the cheeses for the remaining two. For both plates, I struggled with pairings, if only because many sites reference wine and cheese pairings and not necessarily food and cheese. I paired the cheeses with mostarda and jam, but it seemed like these cheeses all paired with the tomato sauce the best. Everything else was a mediocre combination.

The other struggle I had was the time limit. I only had a week to finish three, and so the last two were rather rushed. That, and I wanted to spend as much time with CK without the camera lens between us before continuing on with the long distance (LD) status.

And we did.

The fourth cheese plate combines two regions that aren’t near each other whatsoever; they aren’t even connected to Italy’s mainland. The two I’m referring to make up Insular Italy, Sicily (Sicilia) and Sardinia (Sardegna).

As with many of these regions, I didn’t know much about either. They are Italian, but they are also immensely proud of being Sicilian or Sardinian. As they are not connected to the mainland, they are culturally different in many ways. And one of many things that distinguish these two regions is the food culture.

Since they are not connected and nowhere near each other, their cheeses were profoundly different. Both were saltier than any of the cheeses CK and I had tasted so far. We also picked two cheeses for both regions, of which one was represent with a DOP cheese and the other a cheese that happened to be offered in Eataly.

Now… about the wine. I couldn’t find Sardinian wine, sadly, so I chose a Sicilian wine to pair with both. I was rather disappointed with the pairing, to be honest. It didn’t fit with any of the cheeses, and following the cheese plate we realized that it just wasn’t a wine we preferred. It seemed too sour, and equally too pithy, for our liking. The wine we had was a 2011 Irmana Il Nero d'Avola E Il Frappato, from Sicily. Perhaps it was meant to be a table wine for a certain type of dish, but as I said, we just didn’t enjoy it like we had the others.

For Sicilia, we chose Ragusano (DOP) and Secondo Sale. The Ragusano is a dry cheese, but its buttery flavor was a lot like the butter Mama Dazz ordered from the Amish. It had a sour, pungent aftertaste that wasn’t exactly smoky, but reminded me of cooking over an open fire. The Secondo Sale, or “Second Salting”, was sharp and smoky cheese with glorious bits of whole black peppercorns throughout the cheese. It was so buttery, the natural oils beaded on top of the cheese.

For Sardegna, we chose Fiore Sardo (DOP) and RE Priamo*. The Fiore Sardo had also beaded natural oils onto the surface, and while sour, it wasn’t as pungent as the Ragusano. The RE Priamo, or whatever it is actually called, was the softest cheese on the plate as well as the most mild. It was sweet and buttery, but not tasteless, and had notes of tomato.

As mentioned, I really struggled with the pairings, if only because these cheeses were meant to be topped on some homemade tomato sauce. I was a bit discouraged with how it came together, and I’m still flinching over the presentation of the last one, but the cheeses were quite delightful. The lesson here is that I really want to travel to these different regions to taste their cheeses, although Eataly had definitely opened my eyes to what is out there.

* To this day I am still confused about the name of this cheese. Its name was on display as I’ve typed it here, and it says it originates from Sardegna. If anyone knows anything about this cheese, please comment below!

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