Friday, November 09, 2007

Say Cheese! : Ah-choo!

After discovering for the first time the delicious, crumbly Piedmont cheese Castelmagno at the recently reopened (and rennovated) Il Contadino grocery store, I decided that it might be a good idea for Allora Aspetta to start a cheese-of-the-week post, talking about different cheeses that might not be listed among your standard cheeses.

The reason for this is the following: First off, Il Contadino is not the only cheese store in Macerata. I've been a regular at another place, La Casa del Parmigiano, for years, and they have some of the best prices and tastiest cheeses around these parts. For a while, the thought has been floating around in my head to, one at a time, buy every single cheese in the place and try it. Normally when I go, however, I just seem to get my standards, and only once in a while do I really branch out. There are so many good standards, that I'm not always ready to buy something new.

However, now that Il Contadino has all of the sudden acquired so many new cheeses, I thought that it was about time to put my above-mentioned idea into practice, and really try some new cheeses. So here goes nothing: Corrie and I want to introduce the "cheese of the week." And it won't just be Italian cheeses--we want to introduce American cheeses as well, so Corrie will do her part from the states, buying and eating cheese (tough job!), and then reporting back.

Testun, a cheese from the Piedmont region of Italy

The first cheeses we purchased from the rennovated "Il Contadino" were a very tasty Castelmagno (as mentioned) and an aged Gorgonzola (which is hard to find in Macerata, as they only seem to have Gorgonzola dolce, a softer cheese, at most places). When we went back to get our second new cheese, we couldn't figure out where to start, so we asked the woman who worked there for any advice. We mentioned our love of the Castelmagno, and the woman suggested trying another Piedmont cheese, Testun. The word testun comes from the Italian word "testardo," which means stubborn or difficult, which apparently has to do with how difficult it is to make this rare cheese. Testun is oftentimes also made into a Testun al Barolo or Nebbiolo, aged in the must of the grape. We opted for the regular Testun, no grape must added, and we marveled at its beautiful appearance, like an aged version of Swiss, with little holes throughout. I couldn't wait to try it.

I've noticed though, that with cheeses I tend to be quite sensitive, and some cheeses actually make me sneeze. Is that just me, or does it happen to anyone else? When we got home, I soon discovered that, with how strong Testun is, it made me sneeze immediately. I couldn't handle it at all! I thought, "what kind of way to start a cheese-of-the-week with one that makes me sneeze?" Still though, sneezing aside, the actual taste was quite good, and if I could get past my apparent allergies to the cheese, I think I'd like it quite a bit! It was extremely strong (as mentioned), but it had an herbal taste to it, and I think that a Testun al Barolo or Nebbiolo would be especially good.

So, unfortunately Testun was as stubborn as suggested, as every time I tried to forgive and forget and try the cheese again, sneezing ensued. Fans of strong cheeses will enjoy this one, but sensitive sneezers ought to stay away!

Read more about Testun:
- in Slow Food's article, "Considering the Source"
- from Cheeseline, where they describe Testun al Barolo (and you can buy it there, too!)
- in this article by Andy Shay, where he mentions Castelmagno too!

- Jackie


At 7:12 PM, Blogger sognatrice said...

Sneezy cheeses! I think you have a book on your hands there ;)

Thanks for visiting me. I'm actually subscribed to your blog through Bloglines and read through there even though I don't make it here to comment as much as I'd like. Love the Macerata Mondays :)

At 9:15 PM, Blogger Stelle in Italia said...

sognatrice: sneezy cheeses is a great title :). i'll give you a percentage of the sales of the new book, then :).

i've been enjoying your blog too! it's great to meet fellow expats through blogging!


At 3:42 AM, Anonymous Laurie said...


Glad you like wonderful Piemontese castelmagno! Delicious and just about the only italian cheese you CANNOT find in Fairway or Zabar's!!! I cannot wait to get back to Torino next week and have my annual autumnal Gnocchi con Castelmagno...or two or three....!!!

At 11:32 AM, Blogger Stelle in Italia said...

Laurie: and to think I JUST discovered the cheese...why couldn't I have found out about it sooner? :) I want gnocchi con castelmagno too--sounds delicious!

have a safe trip home to Torino!


At 2:02 PM, Blogger rowena said...

A cheese that makes you sneeze? Definitely sounds like something up my alley. I love the idea of you doing a cheese-of-the-week post. That oughtta satisfy my curiosity without having to go out and buy it myself. We're still working on the stuff that we picked up from Pienza at the beginning of September!

At 12:57 PM, Blogger KC said...

I also love the idea of cheese of the week! I can't wait to read about new cheeses. The selection here is very heavy on locally made cheeses- think mozzarella di bufala, ricotta, caciocavallo. So I'm sure I'll be enjoying the cheeses you and Corrie will be writing about vicariously!

At 6:31 PM, Blogger Stelle in Italia said...

rowena and kc: yay! i'm glad that the cheese of the week idea is a hit! kc--i'd love to hear about the cheese in YOUR area! and rowena--last year we picked up some delicious pecorino from pienza (well, we bought it in arezzo, but they said it was pienza pecorino) that was absolutely delicious. ahh, cheese :). (ahchoo!)


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