Direct from Dublin: Beer, Cheddar, Brown Bread, and… GRITS.

Right, so I didn’t have a chance to try any cheeses while I was actually in my last stop of the Eurocheese Tour 2015, but I did bring home a wheel of Cahill’s Porter Cheddar with me! ctmy49-irish porter cheddarFrom past experience, I’ve found that these wax-wrapped cheeses travel just fine, even on transoceanic flights. And if I’d been flying through Edinburgh, I’d’ve surely tried to pick up some of the delectable cheddar from Mull or Arran with mustard seeds mixed in–it makes the most amazing grilled cheeses. But sorry, I digress, this is again, porter cheddar, which has a sort of funny look and a definite robust, but pleasant taste, all because when this cheddar is being formed, it is mixed with Guinness porter, a type of beer just shy of being the iconic stout. In the Dublin airport gourmet grocery, I had also picked up some brown bread, made with loads of buttermilk, so it makes a great complement to the cheese.

ctmy50-irish snack

I got home on a Saturday and had just Sunday to unpack and settle back in to “real life” before returning to work on Monday. My Sunday tradition is to make myself a plate of grits, and though Jarlsberg will disagree and be ahem, traitor to her Southern roots, in my humble opinion, grits ain’t grits if they don’t have cheese in them. So, today, I decided to be bold and experimental and shaved off a few slices of the speckled porter cheddar.

ctmy51-brown grits & bread

The result was, as you can see, brown grits, but with the buttered brown bread, I was as happy scarfing this fine brown breakfast down, as the dog I accidentally designed had it been tossed some table scraps!

Well, here ends the Eurocheese Tour, but the blog will keep going, so I hope you will keep coming back to read more. I will certainly be happy to keep discovering new cheeses and sharing my stories about them here.

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a friend, a feline, and lots of formaggi, in Firenze

When I contacted my friend Scamorza about meeting up during my short stay in her hometown of Florence, Italy, she invited me to have lunch at her new place in Prato, which is roughly the Jersey of this region. After a tour of the pad she shares with her ragazzo Danby, Scamorza made me a giant plate of pasta with pesto finto (fake pesto, or really one made with tomatoes rather than something green). I’m sure there was some cheese in the sauce, but it was the next course that I knew I’d have to feature here.

40.369-ctmy45-i due pecorini

First, Scarmorza brought out two types of pecorino. The one on the left was considered to be more ‘fresh’ while the other definitely had some age on it, perhaps it was left in a cave? I kept shaving off bits of each, but I can’t say that I preferred one over the other. Each was distinctively delicious!

40.370-ctmy46-robiola nonno nanni

Scamorza also brought out some fresh cheese, this Robiola to the right, that came in a foil-lined plastic container. The name Nonno Nanni reminded me of ninnananna, which is the Italian word for lullaby, but turns out it’s just the nickname for the cheesemonger who first developed this variety of Robiola.

40.371-ctmy47-robiola sul pane

This cheese was, as you can see in the picture on the left, very soft and we enjoyed spreading it on some Tuscan bread that Scamorza had also placed on the table. The family of both was mild but still pleasant. Throughout our lunch, we had been entertained by the antics of one of her cats, Sigi, see below, who firmly believes that the dining table is his domain, and he was kind enough to momentarily share it with us.

40.366-pomodori e gatto

After leaving Sigi & Scamorza, I returned to Florence, dashing all over the compact city in an effort to soak up as much as possible. At one point, I found myself in a far flung southeastern corner of town, where I spied this shop below.

40.381-ctmy48-bottega di formaggi a firenze sud

I think it probably caught my eye because I saw the sign for Cheddar, which was a cheese nearly impossible to find when I first came to Florence 20 years ago! (And yes, I know the Italians have so many other wonderful formaggi but when you’re 19 and homesick, you might just hanker for a hunka cheddar.) Anyway, I didn’t go inside this shop, but if I ever end up here again for an extended stay, I now know where to come for good cheese in the Oltrarno neighborhood. I also liked that they were advertising Burrata, that creamiest of Mozzarellas, flown in from the south on Mondays. Take note!

And soon, I will be leaving the Boot, but I’ll try to squeeze in a bit more cheesy fun before I have returned ‘cross the big pond to my home in New York. Check back soon!

Lazy Monk’s Cheese

This morning I felt fortunate to find a grocery store open. After all, it’s a Sunday, I’m in Italy, and I was in a rather religious village, Bressanone, or Brixen. In fact, on my way to the shop, I passed by a church with a connected convent and monastery, both with their sisters and brothers scurrying about the grounds.

40.348-ctmy44-crescenza e pizza rossa

But, praise Cheeses, there was a Poli operating with heathenish hours because I knew I was going to be on a train for much of the day and I wasn’t sure what sort of dining options would be available to me. I searched out some doughy pizza rossa and then, because a  commercial for Certosa had been on repeat on a train station platform the other night, I decided to top it with Crescenza, a type of very fresh Stracchino.

I think I might have first tried this soft, creamy cheese at my Italian amica Cap Cressy’s house many years ago. If memory serves me correctly, she told me that it was originally developed by monks, so perhaps it’s not so naughty for me to be buying it for consumption on a Sunday? 😉

Crescenza is also known as “tired cheese” though there’s a dispute if it’s from the sleepy cows or the lazy water used to make the cheese. I know I was pretty exhausted by the time I reached my destination this evening, but at least I was not starving! Grazie to the monks and cows and unique water that all played a part in the development of this delicate, if simple, formaggio. 

Käsefest im Bozen

I am still in Italy, though the title of this post references another local language. After World War I, the border between Austria and Italy was redrawn and a bunch of Süd-Tirolers found themselves suddenly living in a new country. A century has nearly past and this area still has a strong Alpine flavor with German being the preferred local language.

40.273-ctmy43-batzen käse

I discovered this town, known as either Bozen or Bolzano, when I was living about an hour south in Trent/o. (All the towns up here have two names). For me, it felt like I had crossed the border, but there was none of the hassle of international travel and all the fun of experiencing a whole new culture.

I came back to Bozen in 2012 and on that visit happened upon the Batzen Brewery. I had two great meals here and was eager to return again. Unfortunately, I discovered in the past 3 years, their menu had undergone an overhaul with a distinct emphasis upon making it rather meaty, but there was a tagliere dei formaggi, or a cheese plate. Thank goodness all the local menus are bilingual or I’d be up a creek muttering only Gesundheit und Danke.

As for what cheeses were on this cutting board… I’m afraid I didn’t take careful notes! I wrongly assumed I could revisit their menu online, but it doesn’t seem to be posted, or it’s in German and I can’t find it. I do remember that the description noted that some of the cheeses were made with their own beer! And I can tell you that I liked everything I tried on it, with the exception of the ‘beer mustard’, a jelly-like spread that turned out to be dominated by horseradish, a flavor I can’t stand. I washed everything down with a radler, the German name for a shandy. This is beer mixed with lemonade, so called because cyclists (radlers) could down one and not worry about wobbling too much on their ride home.

My journey back to my lodgings was on foot, but I was happy to find that the brewery was willing to wrap up my leftover cheeses. There is no fridge in my room, but it’s thankfully cool outside thanks to a light rain, so I’m going to test Mother Nature’s cooler and hopefully I can further enjoy these cheeses at breakfast tomorrow. Auf weidersein!

Parmigiano-on-the-Go!

This morning, I bid Adjø to Jarlsberg & the Viking and headed south to the Boot, where I expect I will certainly have more cheesy adventures. Since I’d be changing currency soon, I’d been kindly sent on my way with €5 bill and a handful of Eurocents from their own recent trips to Germany & France. Well, it turned out to be a very smart parting gift because by the time I had landed in Milano and was waiting for my giant backpack to come through at baggage claim, I had grown a bit peckish.
40.229-ctmy42-pan & parm

And behold what €2,50 will get you in the Milano-Malpensa airport! Yep, this king of cheeses was purchased from a mere vending machine. There was a little packet of unsalted crackers and a foil container holding the great cheese. A notation on the outside details that this little snack should be consumed within 4 hours. I’m afraid I didn’t wait for the cheese to fully ripen, but munched upon it immediately, like the dapper little mouse on the package.

Hmm, he reminds me a bit of Stuart Little… but though he’s cute in cartoon/CGI form, this is not so much the case if in reality, in your house, you find a little creature nipping away at your precious Parmigiano–‘Hands off, Stu!’, or to paraphrase the words of the cheese-toned Bart, ‘Nobody better lay a dito on my Parmigiano‘.