Everytime I go into a supermarket or some other Italian or European style gourmet store, I notice the sad departure from quality in certain products which we pride ourselves in. There has been such a boom in the market of imported goods and groceries lately. In a day where you can find so many diverse products more than ever before, the attention to quality and authenticity has taken a back seat to demand.
Cheese is one of the greatest creations on this earth. From raw to pasteurized, creamy to crumbly, stretched to molded; there are many varieties of cheeses from all types of animals like sheep, cow, goat, bufalo, etc. Unfortunately, people are starting to forget the difference in quality of these dairy masterpieces. For instance, Parmesan is NOT Parmigiano Reggiano, not all Pecorino Romano is actually from Rome, and no cheese made in Wisconsin is ever a replacement for the real thing.
At A&S we sell some of the best cheeses that are available. Although we focus on Italian varieties, we also offer select cheeses from Ireland, England, Spain, Greece, France, Denmark, and the United States. One thing we love is the ability to carry these great items and show people, who may have forgotten, what the difference is between our cheese case, and the “grab and go” sections at most eateries. With the help of some of the best Importers in the tri- state area (as well as others throughout U.S.) we have the advantage of buying small amounts of these cheeses and always having something new to introduce. We buy cheese just about every week. I prefer small orders because any cheese sitting around for a time can lose its initial flavor. I would rather run out of an item then overstock and sell a sub-par piece of Formaggio.
I always have and always will buy cheeses ONLY in whole form. If you see a perfectly portioned, cryo- wrapped slice or chunk of cheese, just put it down and walk away. These pre- cut embarrassments to the ancient art of cheesemaking can totally warp your enjoyment of any item, authentic or not. We get in all of our cheese in full form and cut everything fresh to order. This is definitely more costly to us as a retail store, but is the only way to do it. Pre- portioned cheeses are usually cut before full maturation (especially Parmigiano Reggiano since it crumbles so won derfully once a knife hits its grainy texture) and is also a great way preserve an item on the shelf without it spoiling or molding as quickly or at all (how old some of those fast food cheeses are is astonishing, which is usually good as long as it is meant to be naturally aged this way, not in wrap).
Once cut into, cheeses are said to begin “dying”. In a way this is true, which is why we do buy small quantities of our cheeses and why we cut fresh to order, to slow this dying process.
Our Pecorino Romano is from Locatelli brand. This is how we get it, in a huge wheel, and we personally break it down. Buy a chunk or we will grate it fresh to order.
This is the Pecorino after we cut it. Cheese wire and blade only, by hand.
Parmigiano Reggiano is the undisputed “King of Cheeses” from Italy’s Gastronomical wonderland, Emilia Romagna. Parmigiano is not the same as what is in most supermarkets, dubbed Parmesan usually. It is certainly not in those green cheese shakers in the same section, please, pretty please, do not buy those they are a disgrace to real Reggiano. We carry whole forms, usually around 85 pounds, of authentic Parmigiano Reggiano that have aged a minimum of two years. When they come in, they are split with wire and cut only into quarters to make it easier to store and sell. Our Reggiano’s rind proudly shows the date it was stamped by the inspector from the Consortium in the factory in which it is made. We will always grate some of it for you because it must be grated fresh to ensure its delicate flavors are at their best. And, if you would like us to save you the rind for flavoring soups and sauces at home, just ask. But, if you like to enjoy Parmigiano with fine Balsamic Vinegar, honey, Vincotto, Salumi, nuts, or fresh fruit, then you must get the real thing. The beautiful white grains throughout the cheese show its quality of age and gives it is title as a “Grana” cheese.
Notice the white grains scattered throughout, the D.O.P. brand and the date on the side.
For such a revered cheese. Even Auricchio has its ugly side, that is the pre- wrapped thin slices of it you see at the Supermarket. This is the real deal.
Here is the boys hanging a 110lb. Auricchio Provolone, we let it aged for additional 6 to 8 months when we recieve it at the 12 month age.
- This is one of the only cheeses we precut but it is in large portions which we sell rather rapidly, and, as you see, is all done by hand.
Many of the cheeses we carry are D.O.P. regulated. Our Toscano is the actual D.O.P. variety, Our Fontina is the real Fontina Valle D’ Aosta D.O.P. not Fontal which is a cheese in the style of Fontina and from same area of Italy. Fontal is a good cheese for what it is, but it surely is NOT Fontina, which many try to pass it as. Our case has some rare cheeses like: Sottocenere (cheese aged under ash), Caciotta Sotto il Fieno (aged under hay), Pecorino Tartufo (from San Gimignano, Tuscany), Caciocavallo Ragusano D.O.P (12 mth. old Caciocavallo from Sicily), Imbariagot (twist on ubriaco, Italian word for drunk, as it is aged in wine), Los Cameros (cow, sheep, and goat milk blend, aged in organic D.O.P. Extra Virgin Olive Oil from Rioja, Spain where the cheese is made), high quality Gorgonzola Dolce D.O.P. (from Piemonte, in either firmer or creamier varieties), Toma Piemontese D.O.P. (similar to Fontina, young cow’s milk cheese, mild but delicious and grassy), Picon (a Spanish blue made of cow, sheep, and goat’s milk, aged in grape leaves),etc, etc, etc.
Right now our cheese case contains over fifty varieties. Although D.O.P. cheeses are great and widely renowned, many cheeses we carry are not of this designation. We carry a lot of great cheeses from small family- operated farms who may not have the facility nor the extra money it costs to make and sell D.O.P. and I.G.P. rated products. This does not always mean a lesser quality, and at our store, it never does.
So, please, buy the right cheeses, the right way, and at the right places. Always check in for new introductions to our menu of Formaggio. And also, enjoy our homemade cheeses, which we put our heart into traditions that lay deep in our family history. But, that is another post all in its own… till then…
Please enjoy these great pictures of a few of our cheeses…
Just remember, we encourage sampling so never hesitate to ask to try ANY of our cheeses, we love to let you try something new each time you visit our store!
Sottocenere is aged for a minimum ninety days under ash. It is very crumbly and subtly robust with geat Pecorino flavors.
Caciotta Sotto il Fieno is aged under hay. A rare cheese, it is aged this way to retain the fresh sheep's milk flavor and also add hints of the countryside in which it derives.
Picon is a sharp but elegant variety of Blue Cheese from Spain. One of my favorite cheeses right now, check out its "stained glass" pattern to its mold. Phenomenal!
Fontina Valle D'Aosta D.O.P. Please buy this when you want Fontina, it is the only real one!
A recent cheese delivery: Piave Stravecchio D.O.P., Imbariagot, Sotto il Fieno, Primo Sale (pepato, peperoncino, bianco), Caciocavallo Ragusano D.O.P., Fontina Valle D'Aosta D.O.P., Gorgonzola Dolce D.O.P., Pecorino Toscano D.O.P.
- Our Artisan Cheese Platters contain many of the cheeses pictured above. No cheap processed cheeses. There are never two platters alike as we hand select the cheeses for each customer.