Back at work!! It felt more like a normal day here at the Cellar, after . The store sold out of plenty of cheese, gifts, and wine, so the cases and shelves are a little cleaned out! The baby grand piano was also tuned, and it was great to speak with someone who spoke of Marin Marais and Rameau with some knowledge. Ahh….I sure hope that the music in heaven sounds like that last Rameau piece.
Anyway, back to the cheese counter–Cameron stopped by from the kitchen today to get his regular taste of fromage d’affinois, and thoroughly impressed the two customers with his casually shared cheese knowledge. He probably deserves a star for that. It was a busy day for me as well (isn’t it always?). We received a shipment of new boards from boards by joel, a small operation in Minnesota from where the shop orders its super popular tree trunk cutting/presentation boards. I was especially excited to see the new boards had beautiful wavy rings throughout the board instead of the usual circles. I’ll take a picture next week! These boards just fly off the shelves when we get them, so I better do it quickly. The company also kindly sent a bunch of small trunk slices to be used as coasters. They’re adorable as well, but I am still enamored with the wavy circles!
Behind the cheese case, I was able to replenish our dwindling supply of onions in a port wine reduction. The aroma of the onions reducing attracts people in quite well! I also successfully sliced through a wheel of piave cleanly with the wire without much difficulty. Maybe that means I am getting better at my work!
I also found the time to taste and study a cheese that has intrigued me for weeks now, the testun al barolo.
Country of origin: Italy (Piedmont region)
Milk: cow and goat
Age: 5 months, then 2 months “drunk”
This happy discovery of a cheese is produced by the Beppino Occelli company (founded in 1973) in the Piedmont region of Italy. Their farmland, where their animals can roam freely and graze happily, is nestled in the foothills of the Maritime Alps. It spans the Farigliano, Villanova Mondovì, Frabosa Soprana and Valcasotto regions. The company website states that it is anticipating the addition of alpine cows to its animals, but in the meantime, I wonder what cows’ milk they are using to make the testun al barolo. The goats seem to be Saanen goats. The cheese’s name, Testun, means “stubborn” in local language, perhaps as a reference to the determination needed to produce the cheese, or the animals’ stubborness as they graze in alpine conditions. It has gained the approval of the Slow Food movement by winning in the drunken cheese category in 1999. Production includes aging the cheese for at least 5 months, and then enriching it by further aging it with pressed Nebbiolo grapes.
This cheese has two distinct visual characteristics–the coating of Nebbiolo grapes, and the crumbly, pale yellow, nearly white paste. It smells rich–sweet and grassy, like alpine grass, and a touch lactic. All in all, it is an assertive aroma, but not overpowering, and not pungent. It’s as though you are drawn in by the promise of grapes, and grass, and flowery meadows.
The Testun al Barolo might well be on my list of favorite cheeses now, along with the Roaring Forties blue! And, like the Barely Buzzed, I think it is going on my list of the messiest cheeses. Those grapes just fall off the cheese left and right. With a taste like that, though, it’s worth it, believe me.