Hello, my friends! I’ve just returned from a little visit over to dogsit my two favorite fluffs, Gavin and Indy. We enjoyed afternoons in the sun and evenings watching the Great British Baking Show, and it was glorious. M. Cheesemonger was there for a part of it, and we visited the Kern River on the drive back home. What rugged, beautiful terrain! It was a welcome break.
Now that we’re back in SF, I was craving some cheese. Luckily, La Bottega di BelGioioso had sent me some cheeses to taste. On top of that, it felt like Annie’s Homegrown had heard my mental pleas for mac ‘n’ cheese, because they had sent me a few boxes of their organic shells and white cheddar, and other goodies. Yummm.
Anyway, on to the cheese! I’ve come to know BelGioioso mainly through their wonderful mozzarella and burrata. Now, they’ve entered the artisanal world with their newest “boutique” of handmade cheeses. I found some special accompaniments for each, and made myself a nice little snack.
Crescenza-Stracchino + L’Epicurien Red Poppy Flower Confit
Crescenza is one of those cheeses that I don’t feel gets enough love, maybe because people don’t know what to do with it. It’s soft, spreadable, and it’s got the brightest tang. I just love spreading it over bread or a scone with a bit of honey or jam, or adding it to pasta with fresh peas and other spring vegetables . . .
Anyway, when I saw this red poppy flower confit sold by my partner The French Farm [affiliate link], I knew I had to taste it. Seeing fields of red poppy flowers in France has always been among my happiest visions, so being able to capture it in a little jar was too exciting!
The pairing worked beautifully. The cheese’s freshness, and the confit’s delicate textures and flavors created the perfect springtime bite.
Provolone Extra + Mt. Hope Farms Raspberry Marionberry Fruit Spread
Hung to age for 24 months, this cheese packs a LOT of bright, zingy flavor. I knew it needed a comparable accompaniment, so I used the raspberry marionberry fruit spread from Mt. Hope Farms in Oregon. They don’t load their fruit spreads with sugar, which is perfect, as I am not into cloyingly sweet jams! The fruit spread mellowed out the cheese beautifully, and I could taste all of the flavors from both fruit and cheese together.
Alternatively, I’d definitely try melting this cheese into a sandwich or panini, or otherwise try cooking it into something. While it was pretty good on a cheese plate, I think it could do well tying ingredients together in a dish, too.
Artigiano Aged Balsamic and Cipolline Onion + American Spoon Whole Seed Mustard
La Bottega di BelGioioso’s Artigiano cheese is an original that works to combine flavors that so many people love—it’s nutty, a little sweet, well-rounded, approachable, with minimal funk, and it has those crunchy protein crystals that everyone loves. What it doesn’t have is a lot of complexity, so I was happy to taste the Artigiano that was flavored with aged balsamic vinegar and cipolline onions. The extra flavors added some depth to the cheese without being too obviously a “flavored cheese.”
Such a savory cheese needs a savory accompaniment, and I found that in my trusty American Spoon whole seed mustard. This particular mustard isn’t going to rip the roof of your mouth off with spice like some of my French mustards. Instead, it’s a mellow, slightly sweet mustard that gently draws out the flavors of whatever it is accompanying, just as it did for this pairing! The mustard and cheese were so harmonious together, I had to go in for 2nd and 3rd tastes.
Peperoncino + Cornichons
This cheese was the oddest of the bunch, and flavor was only part of it. Aged for 5 months, it starts sweet and gentle on the palate, but soon, the spice from those spicy red peppers builds up quite a lot. Luckily, it dies down just as quickly so your palate isn’t overwhelmed. If there’s one thing I didn’t love about this cheese, it’s the texture. It just felt a little too fractured for my taste. To enhance the cheese’s savory aspect, I chose some cornichons to pair, a classic cheese plate accompaniment. The two went well together, although next time, I may try adding some charcuterie instead, or maybe sundried tomatoes. This is another cheese that seemed like it could be a good cooking cheese in a melted sandwich or cheese dip, instead of just on a cheese board.
Gorgonzola + Lovers Lane Amber Honey
This was the only cheese on the plate where I felt the slow, gradual evolution of flavors I was looking for in these La Bottega cheeses. With notes of yeast, earth, and umami, this blue cheese is rather mild, on the whole. I paired it with the Amber honey from Lovers Lane Farm in California because I wanted a honey with deeper, spiced notes. The mellow qualities of both honey and cheese complemented each other beautifully!
Thank you, La Bottega di BelGioioso, for introducing me to your cheeses! It was a pleasure tasting them. You can find them in finer grocery stores and specialty food stores. You can purchase all of the accompaniments at their makers’ websites, all linked in the article.
I received free product (cheese and Mt. Hope Farms fruit spread). All thoughts and opinions are my own.
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