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I bought my first block of good Parmigiano-Reggiano from DiPalo's recently. Because I'm a sucker for Jeffrey Steingarten's recommendations (and because I bought 2 pounds :smile: ), I haven't tried the cheese that Murray's, Gourmet Garage, etc... sells. DiPalo's sells it for something like 10.50/lb -- should I even try the 17.99/lb stravecchio at GG?

(I searched for a thread on this subject but couldn't find one...)

JJ Goode

Co-author of Serious Barbecue, which is in stores now!

www.jjgoode.com

"For those of you following along, JJ is one of these hummingbird-metabolism types. He weighs something like eleven pounds but he can eat more than me and Jason put together..." -Fat Guy

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I recently acquired some Parmigiano-Reggiano carried over from Italy by my mother-in-law, who purchased it in Reggio-Emilia while there for an education conference.

I am extremely frustrated that few details were provided with the cheese, because it is by far the best P-R I've ever had.

You know, when you eat P-R, it often doesn't really taste like cheese; it's sui generis. I mean, it's cheese of course, but rarely do you encounter a piece you'd actually want to chomp on like a piece of cheese. This stuff is different. It packs all the punch of any P-R I've ever had, yet it hasn't got too much of that chalky, too-crumbly texture. It has a certain buttery quality to it that I've never before detected in this product. I haven't grated any of it. I've been eating it straight, or shaved in long thin strips onto salad.

My first assumption was that maybe this is a giovane (1-year). But the flavor is too developed, and I have it on good authority that it's a stravecchio (3-year). I think they may just be holding back the best stuff over there.

Steven A. Shaw aka "Fat Guy"
Co-founder, Society for Culinary Arts & Letters, sshaw@egstaff.org
Proud signatory to the eG Ethics code
Director, New Media Studies, International Culinary Center (take my food-blogging course)

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Best P-R I have had was purchased at Peck's delicatessen in Milan. I think it was "spring" cheese, i.e., the milk came from cow's during the spring, grazing on fresh green grass.

I brought a kilo home, and la dolce vita followed.

beachfan

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You know, when you eat P-R, it often doesn't really taste like cheese; it's sui generis.

I know what you mean.

I've just been re-reading Treasure Island. Do you remember the character of Ben Gunn, the 'half-idiot maroon'? He's been stuck on the Island, living on exotic things like goats and berries and oysters and yearning for a bit of cheese - 'many's the long night I've dreamed of cheese - toasted, mostly'. But when, later on, the doctor produces a piece of Parmesan from his snuff-box, which presumably must be pretty dried up after all the travelling they've been doing it isn't what Ben wants at all... For him, Parmesan and cheese just aren't the same things at all.

Last year I was in Parma, where almost every meal I ate began with wonderful hunks of granular, golden Parmesan and dry crusty bread rolls. Or else slices of Prosciutto di Parma, which almost taste of the cheese too, because the pigs arefed the whey left over from making it.

Has anyone tested Steingarten's theory about the best P-R being made in October/November?

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Fat Guy, go talk to Louis at DiPalo's. I'll bet he can give you some useful information. My guess, only because I'm so outclassed when it comes to Italian cheese, is that he knows more about Italian cheese than anyone in NYC. I understand he was hired once to fact check Steingarten's work. Louis jokes about it, not because he might not know more about cheese than Jeffrey, but because, as he says, no one checks his own work like Steingarten.

Robert Buxbaum

WorldTable

Recent WorldTable posts include: comments about reporting on Michelin stars in The NY Times, the NJ proposal to ban foie gras, Michael Ruhlman's comments in blogs about the NJ proposal and Bill Buford's New Yorker article on the Food Network.

My mailbox is full. You may contact me via worldtable.com.

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I recently acquired some Parmigiano-Reggiano carried over from Italy by my mother-in-law, who purchased it in Reggio-Emilia while there for an education conference.

I am extremely frustrated that few details were provided with the cheese, because it is by far the best P-R I've ever had.

You know, when you eat P-R, it often doesn't really taste like cheese; it's sui generis. I mean, it's cheese of course, but rarely do you encounter a piece you'd actually want to chomp on like a piece of cheese. This stuff is different. It packs all the punch of any P-R I've ever had, yet it hasn't got too much of that chalky, too-crumbly texture. It has a certain buttery quality to it that I've never before detected in this product. I haven't grated any of it. I've been eating it straight, or shaved in long thin strips onto salad.

My first assumption was that maybe this is a giovane (1-year). But the flavor is too developed, and I have it on good authority that it's a stravecchio (3-year). I think they may just be holding back the best stuff over there.

The Parmigiano Reggiano always tastes much more buttery and cheese-like in Italy than it does in the United States. There are several theories on this including the rumor that the Italians keep the best for themselves and export the rest.

If you look at the wheels when they are cut in the USA, the hard darker cheese next to the rind is much thicker than it is in Italy. In addition, the color of the cheese in Italy is lighter and the texture is more moist. I believe this is a function the shipping and warehouse storage time (and potentially conditions) before the product reaches the American consumer. I think it also takes a store here longer to sell a entire wheel of cheese once it has been cut and it begins to dry out. Even when shrink wrapped right away the color changes quickly to a darker yellow instead of the light cream color it has when fresh. This applies to all the age levels and also to Grano Padano.

The best luck I have had is with A.G. Ferrari and I think this is because they sell of lot of it fast.

Edited by Craig Camp (log)
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jg488,

When I bought some aged cheddar in London, the cheese shop recommended storing the cheese in a covered container (she was a young American woman and actually suggested a "tupperware box") with a slice of apple to prevent it from drying out. It really worked!

I bet this would work with P-R also, though I would miss gnawing on the hardened chunks as a snack :biggrin:.

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Cool idea, bushey.

I just called DiPalos and asked their recommendation.

They suggested wrapping it in saran wrap, but changing the wrap every time you use the cheese to avoid condensation.

They also told me that some customers swear by wrapping in cheese cloth or aluminum foil.

You want to wrap tightly to avoid mold - although that can be scaped off.

They emphasized that eventually it will dry out, so the best thing is to use it quickly and buy more. But this apple idea might do the trick. I'll try it and report back.

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Can someone explain to me what red cow P-R is? They now carry it in NJ at Wegmans. Is it worth the extra money?

I usually eat the good stuff straight with some good aged balsamic drizzled on. Yum :raz:

Thanks.

Edited by TheBoatMan (log)

"Who made you the reigning deity on what is an interesting thread and what is not? " - TheBoatMan

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Anyone have good ideas about how to store P-R?

I just keep it in Saran wrap in the fridge, but sometimes it dries out a bit.

Maybe there's a better way?

In "... Something I Ate" Steingarten says to use parchment paper, I think, and keep it on the bottom shelf.

It seems most people agree that the P-R is better in Italy. But I know you all don't wait around for family to bring you a hunk back from Reggio-Emilia. So, what do you buy in NY?

JJ Goode

Co-author of Serious Barbecue, which is in stores now!

www.jjgoode.com

"For those of you following along, JJ is one of these hummingbird-metabolism types. He weighs something like eleven pounds but he can eat more than me and Jason put together..." -Fat Guy

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They sell P-R already grated at Whole Foods and Treasure Island here in Chicago. At Binnys and Chalet on GOld Coast they have blocks of it.

Can anyone tell a difference in freshness/quality if you buy it already grated as opposed to buying a chunk and grating it yourself?

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They sell P-R already grated at Whole Foods and Treasure Island here in Chicago.  At Binnys and Chalet on GOld Coast they have blocks of it.

Can anyone tell a difference in freshness/quality if you buy it already grated as opposed to buying a chunk and grating it yourself?

You have to grate it yourself. As soon as is is grated moisture and most of all flavor start to go. What do you think they do when the cheese starts to get too old? Is is just like buying salmon patties at the deli. Also, you better check if it is indeed Italian PR they are grating - don't bet on it.

On a Chicago note the Binnys PR is not bad - the Treasure Island stuff is not - just not.

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They sell P-R already grated at Whole Foods and Treasure Island here in Chicago.  At Binnys and Chalet on GOld Coast they have blocks of it.

Can anyone tell a difference in freshness/quality if you buy it already grated as opposed to buying a chunk and grating it yourself?

Grate it yourself, it's cheaper and better. The Treasure Island I go to has it in blocks. You can also make a fancy salad by using a vegetable peeler like FG said.

Next time you make soup but the parmesan rind in (another reason to buy it in a block).

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They sell P-R already grated at Whole Foods and Treasure Island here in Chicago.  At Binnys and Chalet on GOld Coast they have blocks of it.

Can anyone tell a difference in freshness/quality if you buy it already grated as opposed to buying a chunk and grating it yourself?

Pre-grated has a dull flavor.

Why not just shave it with a peeler the way FG is doing, OR use a micro planer and grate from the hunk on an as-need basis? It will taste much better, and you will get your money's worth.

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Can anyone tell a difference in freshness/quality if you buy it already grated as opposed to buying a chunk and grating it yourself?

The difference in freshness should be obvious to almost anyone. If you're asking if anyone can tell the difference between a fine quality cheese and one of lesser quality after they've both been grated and sitting in a store for a while, the answer is probably no. When you buy a chunk, you should buy a relatively small amount that you will use in a reasonable period and you should grate as much as you are going to use at the moment.

Robert Buxbaum

WorldTable

Recent WorldTable posts include: comments about reporting on Michelin stars in The NY Times, the NJ proposal to ban foie gras, Michael Ruhlman's comments in blogs about the NJ proposal and Bill Buford's New Yorker article on the Food Network.

My mailbox is full. You may contact me via worldtable.com.

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It depends also on the purpose of the grated cheese. It's like any ingredient, like olive oil or whatever: quality becomes less noticeable as the flavor gets pushed behind that of other ingredients. Just as it's a waste to use your best olive oil to saute onions that are going to go into a marinara sauce, there's no point in grating $20-a-pound 4-year P-R into an Italian-American red-sauce-based lasagna. But if you're going to put it on a salad at the last second, such that you really taste it front and center, then yes, you will notice a difference between pre-grated and grated-to-order, and you'll notice differentiation among brands and quality levels.

Steven A. Shaw aka "Fat Guy"
Co-founder, Society for Culinary Arts & Letters, sshaw@egstaff.org
Proud signatory to the eG Ethics code
Director, New Media Studies, International Culinary Center (take my food-blogging course)

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In 1977, just before I moved to New York, I visited a college friend who lived on the Upper West Side in the days when Louis Lichtman's at 86th and Amsterdam was only one of several thriving old-style European bakeries (great hamantaschen) in the city (anyone remember Mrs. Herbst's apricot-filled doughnuts?). Betsy introduced me to cheap Bulgarian red wine (bull's blood??), tarrator, the Polish butchers on the Lower East Side, and Di Palo's. For 25 years, now, I have looked forward to my visits to the Di Palo family store and to the dinner I'd have following them. It was at Di Palo's that the veil was raised from my eyes about Parmigiano-Reggiano: 1) It is a fantastic eating cheese (with pears, or walnuts, or drizzled with balsamic vinegar) and 2) You really *can* taste the difference between the cheeses made at different times of the year. At this point, if I can't get to Di Palo's, I go without....something my New England-based parents and siblings will never understand. (As I will never understand their willingness to eat "shakey-cheese" from Kraft!)

I've been at Di Palo's when the lengthy customer queue included people who drove hours to get there, well-known food writers, a newscaster who was about to make, literally, vats of pesto, personal chefs, and visitors from San Francisco (who claimed they couldn't get great mozzarella in SF).

One pointer about storage: Di Palo's suggests that after about a month, Parmigiano will dry out. Seems to be my experience, too...

Be sure to save your Parmigiano rinds for minestrone or the White Beans recipe from Read Hearon and Peggy Knickerbocker's “The Rose Pistola Cookbook” (1999).

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The Parmigiano Reggiano always tastes much more buttery and cheese-like in Italy than it does in the United States.

So I was right? That's a nice surprise!

My top pick for Parmigiano-Reggiano in NYC is Teitel Brothers on Arthur Avenue. Extremely high turnover -- they must go through multiple wheels a day, because they also have a big wholesale operation. Their three-year is terrific. Not as good as this stuff from Reggio-Emilia, though. I just compared the two tonight, because I have reasonably fresh samples of both on hand, and there was a major quality gap. This gap was still quite noticeable when the cheese was grated and served over pasta. Which reminds me, I found an excellent new pasta brand and I'll post about it on the appropriate thread soon.

Steven A. Shaw aka "Fat Guy"
Co-founder, Society for Culinary Arts & Letters, sshaw@egstaff.org
Proud signatory to the eG Ethics code
Director, New Media Studies, International Culinary Center (take my food-blogging course)

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heres a pic of a Parmigiano-Reggiano Crisp I made to go on top of Kellers Mac and Cheese last weekend...

fc6446c7.jpg

I used grated PR...ooops...However, Allison told me it tasted great! :smile:

Edited by awbrig (log)
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awbrig, that looks yummy. I've started making P-R crisps to serve as nibbles with pre-dinner drinks and everyone loves them. They're very impressive looking for something that's so simple to make.

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My top pick for Parmigiano-Reggiano in NYC is Teitel Brothers on Arthur Avenue. Extremely high turnover -- they must go through multiple wheels a day, because they also have a big wholesale operation.

I was at Di Palos yesterday and one of the counter guys was remarking that they had just opened a wheel at noon and it was just about gone. This was at 1pm. A wheel weighs 90 lbs. So if you can't get to Teitel Brothers...

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