Cheese: Robiola la Rossa
Producer: Cora Formaggio
Where: Monesiglio, Italy
This week I was in the Netherlands, a short stopover on my way to Switzerland. The small town where my mother lives has a large supermarket with a surprising array of cheeses, but there is also a cheese store that offers some really remarkable surprises. One find in particular was worth writing about: a small, soft goat cheese, wrapped in leaves from a cherry tree. This Robiola la Rossa is made in the Piedmont region of Italy, and it is spectacular. The cherry leaves bestow a rich caramel color to the rind, and a strong fruity flavor. It is perhaps like the Italian version of the Banon cheese. When cherry-flavored cheese sounds like something you would look for at the county fair, think again. The fresh tanginess of the cheese and the subtle, deep cherry flavor are in perfect balance here, and the result is absolutely delicious. The cheese is 300 grams, about 10 ounces, and my mother and I finished it off in one seating. Cora Formaggio has a wonderful website that provides great detail about their farm, the cheese making traditions of the region – and any farmer that has his portrait picture taken with his animals is a good man in my book. The Robiola la Rossa gave me a new idea for a trip: I would love to meet Signore Cora and his goats in Monesiglio.
In the supermarket, I discovered two other interesting items: cheese in a pot and ‘boerenkaas’ (farmer’s cheese, that is, cheese from unpasteurized milk) with a QR code on the wrapper that links to a delightful little video about the farm that produces the cheese. It is in Dutch, but much of it is easy to follow: it basically shows how milk becomes cheese, and it has great footage of friendly red and black cows. A very 21st century way of connecting people with the ways in which their food is produced.
And then there was the Stilton in the jar: a small red-and-white pot, quite pretty, with blue Stilton in it. I have never seen anything like it. Inside the pot was the real A.O.P. deal – creamy, not too sharp, and just enough aroma to remind you that it is a blue cheese. I will say, once the fun has worn off a little, you recognize that it was probably never a very good idea to stuff a small jar with cheese: it was hard getting the stuff out, it took a bit of scraping. Some other time, I will re-engage with the Stilton preferably in the UK, and I will talk more about it then. And I am not buying any more jars.