One of the more interesting aspects of living in Bra, Italy is the food. You might call it a gastronomic microclimate – the Braidese are accustomed to a certain quality of cuisine. There are supermarkets, yes and even discount stores; it’s hard to avoid them; yet this small provincial town of 30,000 has a disproportionate number of butchers (11) as well as numerous bakeries, specialty stores, cafés and restaurants. It is incredibly hard to eat badly around here – you have to go out of your way to do it. For all the beautiful castles and mountains that dot the countryside, it’s food and wine that draws people into this pocket of Italy.
In Delphine Carles’ first memories of Roquefort cheese, she’s following her father around a drafty limestone cave, one of the many that naturally occur in the rugged, dolomitic rock of France’s Mont Combalou. At 1,970 feet above sea level in the country’s southern Massif Central, this intricate network of caverns has earned global renown as the only place in the world Roquefort cheese can be aged. The esteemed sheep’s milk Blue — a staple on holiday cheese plates and one of France’s most popular cheeses after Brie and Comté — can only be made by seven approved cheesemakers, and Delphine is one of them.
About a 45-minute drive west of Philadelphia or a little more than two hours from New York’s Penn Station by Amtrak, the hamlet of Downingtown, PA, along with nearby villages, is a gemlike enclave in western Chester County. Seemingly worlds away from the hustle of metropolitan life, the rolling hills traced by winding roads are shared with Amish buggies. No one seems hurried.
To fully appreciate one of Britain’s finest treasures, it helps to have an education on its background and history.
British Crumblies refer to a subsection of British Territorial Cheeses. In brief, these are cheeses that are named after the county or area in which they are from. This group of cheeses have been coined the term ‘crumblies’ due to their texture, which distinguishes them from the harder cheeses within the territorials.
Prosciutto di Toscano translates literally to ham from Tuscany and incorporates a large number of different products both raw and cooked. However, Prosciutto di Toscano DOP (or PDO in English) expresses a very special style of ham made in Tuscany. Dry-cured, it is not as widely known as Prosciutto di Parma and San Daniele in the United States. Only recently imported, it is making an appearance in specialty retailers from small shops to larger chains.
From Brooklyn’s Bergen street, Crown Finish Caves looks like any other funky old brick building. But as you descend 30 feet down a narrow spiral staircase, the temperature drops suddenly, and you’re greeted by something magnificent — 26,000 pounds of cheeses in various states of aging, sitting on shelves in a repurposed “lagering tunnel” originally built in the 1850’s for brewing beer. You’re still in New York City, but it feels like a different universe.