cheese

Remembering Italy — first with Montasio cheese

With the advent of short days and cold nights, menu planning in my house switches from summer vegetables to the heartier foods of winter. So when the Legends from Europe promotional team (legendsfromeurope.com)came through Boston last week and bequeathed me a small cache of Montasio, Grana Padano, and Parmigiano Reggiano cheeses and a few precious ounces each of San Daniele and Parma prosciuttos, I started recreating some of the great dishes I remember eating in northern Italy. I'm sharing them on the site as a series of four courses. All five products are registered under the Protected Designation of Origin (PDO) program – a guarantee of regional authenticity. Accept no substitutes! So-called “parmesans” from Wisconsin or Argentina may be tasty cheeses, but they are not...Read More

Six things to bring home from New Hampshire

In our last post, we mentioned six items we like to bring home from trips to Vermont. Since Food Lovers' Guide to Vermont & New Hampshire has about the same number of entries from each state, it seems only fair to mention some of our favorite foods to bring back from the Granite State. Flag Hill Winery & Distillery (297 North River Rd., Lee, N.H.; 603-659-2949; flaghill.com) doesn't need our imprimatur to sell their immensely popular, often sweet wines made from berries and apples as well as first-generation French-American hybrid grapes. Our preference goes to products from the artisanal distillery. The barrel-aged apple brandy is a classic American applejack, and the neutral spirit, a vodka triple-distilled from apples, is smooth and sultry. It's named for...Read More

Six things to bring home from Vermont

It's official. The Food Lovers' Guide to Vermont & New Hampshire has shipped to stores and is available online from Amazon and Barnes & Noble. Thanks to our efficient editors, we beat the technical publication date of July 3. In addition to restaurants, the book highlights great shops and local food producers. Vermont may be best known for maple syrup and cheddar cheese, but there's a whole lot more. Here are some of our favorite things to bring home from the Green Mountain State. The Red Bar from Middlebury Chocolates (2377 Route 7 South, Middlebury, VT; 802-989-1610; www.middleburychocolates.com) is the hardcore chocolate lovers' chocolate. Stephanie and Andy Jackson make all their chocolates straight from the bean. The Red Bar, says Andy, is “a throwback to...Read More

And then there was amatriciana

While Tsatsu Nicholas Awuku was teaching us to make bucatini cacio e pepe (see below), Alessandro Sillani, the chef of Ristorante-Caffe di Rienzo (Piazza del Pantheon 8/9, 06-686-9097, www.ristorantedirienzo.it), demonstrated the equally popular and almost as simple sauce for bucatini all'amatriciana. Tradition holds that this sugo (sauce) originated in Amatrice, a town in the mountains of Lazio on the border with Abruzzo. Many families from the region settled in Rome, adding this dish to the capital's own cuisine. Sillani heated olive oil in a large frying pan, sautéed sliced onion until it was soft, and then added a thick pinch of hot pepper flakes and a handful of diced guanciale -- cured pork cheek that is similar to pancetta but typically leaner. He kept cooking...Read More

Learning Roman pastas (#1)

Much as we love Trastevere and its restaurants, one of our other favorite eating establishments is right on one of Rome's most tourist-thronged plazas—just the type of location that we usually avoid at meal time. But when we stopped for coffee one morning at Ristorante-Caffè di Rienzo (Piazza del Pantheon 8/9, 06-686-9097, www.ristorantedirienzo.it), we struck up a conversation with Marianna Di Rienzo, whose father opened the restaurant in 1952. She even invited us to come back at dinner time so that the chef could show us how to prepare some classic Roman pasta dishes. Chef Alessandro Sillani has been with Di Rienzo for 15 years. When we returned around 6 p.m., he and his assistant Tsatsu Nicholas Awuku were not even breaking a sweat sending...Read More

Cooking with Comté

If you've ever eaten a croque monsieur in a cafe anywhere in France (my absolute favorite is served at the News Cafe in Paris at 78 rue d'Assas across from Jardin du Luxembourg), chances are you've eaten Comté cheese. The firm and nutty Comté is the largest selling hard cheese in France. I'd always figured that only a big factory could turn out enough Comté to satisfy the appetites of the fromage-loving French, but it turns out that Comté is still made pretty much the same way that it's been made for about a thousand years--that is, small-scale and personal. And the whole process is open to the public: from brown-and-white Montbéliarde cows grazing in buttercup-laden meadows, to milk delivery and early morning cheese-making in...Read More

Say cheese in Montreal

The graffito above pretty much says it all. Montrealers love their cheese. We've been in Montreal for most of the last month doing the research for Food Lovers' Guide to Montreal, to be published next spring from Globe Pequot Press. (See our first volume in the series, Food Lovers' Guide to Massachusetts, under the tab ''Some Books.'') We have to admit that we are staggered by the explosion in artisanal cheese-making in Quebec. La Belle Province is beginning to rival La France when it comes to great fromage. Many of Quebec's best cheeses are made from raw milk, but thanks to NAFTA, all Quebec cheeses are allowed into the United States, even though similar cheeses from France might be banned. Gilles Jourdenais, owner of La...Read More

The tang of Burgundy’s other signature taste

You literally walk on wine in Beaune, the center of Burgundy's wine trade, because the town is honeycombed with cellars dug by the monks who were Burgundy's first vinters. Millions of bottles sleep their way to perfection under the cobbled streets, and millions more are tucked into the cool, dark recesses of the town's 15th century fortified walls. The rough streets, old stone buildings, and a profusion of statues of the Virgin Mary (including one where she holds the infant Jesus in one hand and a bunch of grapes in the other) make Beaune undeniably picturesque. But it's even more fun to taste Beaune than to look at it. As close as I can tell, there are no statues of Mary hefting a bag of...Read More

Bringing food through US Customs

Sometimes you can’t bring the taste of travel back home. We learned the hard way by trying to bring in a large block of mountain ham from Spain. Mind you, this was the choicest grade of jamón ibérico (from acorn-fattened black-footed pigs), and priced accordingly. The salesperson at the factory in Jabugo assured us that it would go right through U.S. Customs because it was vacuum-sealed. When we declared the ham, Customs promptly confiscated it as if we were smuggling uncle Guido’s homemade country sausage. You can argue the validity of the policy all you want, but Customs people do not make policy. They only enforce it. One of us was already tired of pungent Spanish ham anyway. To avoid disappointment, costly or not, it...Read More

Raclette made simple – in a grilled cheese sandwich

And speaking of cheesemongers…. We have fond memories of eating raclette--a big plateful of melted cheese with cornichons and boiled potatoes--after a tough day of winter snow hiking in Switzerland. It has always seemed too much trouble to make at home: Buy a big block of raclette cheese, find or build an open fire, etc., etc. But one day when we were in Rubiner’s Cheesemongers in Great Barrington, Mass., we wandered into the Rubi’s Cafe for lunch and found the perfect solution to our raclette craving. Rubi’s piled shredded raclette cheese and sliced cornichons onto sourdough bread slathered with Dijon mustard and stuck the sandwiches into a panini press. Voila! Instant raclette in your hand. (And easily duplicated at home.)