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Vacche Rosse, Caseificio Notari, Reggio Emilia, Italy, tasted on March 24, 2004 I haven't made it a secret that I shamelessly idolize Jeffrey Steingarten based on his writing. His two books, collections of columns he has written as the Food Critic for Vogue are favorites of mine. Each essay has the perfect mix of delicious food, obsessive focus, honesty, and humor. Almost every one of his stories begins with him wistfully describing the most perfect instance of a particular food he's ever tasted as well as the remote location which happens to be the only place on the planet that this delicacy can be had. Before you know it, he's on a plane traveling to the very location to sample the food he has described as well as understand with obsessive detail how it's made.

In the chapter "Decoding Parmesan" in his book It Must've Been Something I Ate he describes Vacche Rosse, made by Caseificio Notari as a "revelation. It was nearly two years old but tasted like an adolescent - soft, deeply golden, lacking nearly all grain, deliciously fat, and just starting to develop its punti bianchi, the tiny amino-acid crystals. It had a wonderfully sweet, complex flavor that only hinted at what it could become." Needless to say we were in the neighborhood and couldn't go home without hunting down this cheese. Made from the milk of red cows (hence the name Vacche Rosse) this really was one of the best parmesans I'd ever had. You can tell it's from this dairy as their code - 101 - is prominently displayed on the side of any wheel they've produced. The cheese lived up to it's name, and we even got a tour of the factory. Why exactly they trusted us enough to let us roam freely in their aging room, I'll never know. I suppose that they didn't suspect I would build myself into a cheese fortress and eat my way out. And I would have! But lucky for them I'd run out of time and had to settle for several wedges that we snuck through customs on the way home.

BTW, for only $3,222.72 you can have your own (not including shipping).











Tastingmenu is focused on superlative restaurant experiences from two perspectives: behind the plate and behind the stove. Tastingmenu is written by Hillel (professional eater) and Dana (up-and-coming professional chef) in Seattle, Washington.

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  Garlic has long been credited with providing and prolonging physical strength and was fed to Egyptian slaves building the giant pyramids. Throughout the centuries, its medicinal claims have included cures for toothaches, consumption, open wounds and evil demons. A member of the lily family, garlic is a cousin to leeks, chives, onions and shallots. The edible bulb or "head" grows beneath the ground. This bulb is made up of sections called cloves, each encased in its own parchmentlike membrane. Today's major garlic suppliers include the United States (mainly California, Texas and Louisiana), France, Spain, Italy and Mexico. There are three major types of garlic available in the United States: the white-skinned, strongly flavored American garlic; the Mexican and Italian garlic, both of which have mauve-colored skins and a somewhat milder flavor; and the Paul Bunyanesque, white-skinned elephant garlic (which is not a true garlic, but a relative of the leek), the most mildly flavored of the three. Depending on the variety, cloves of American, Mexican and Italian garlic can range from 1/2 to 1 1/2 inches in length. Elephant garlic (grown mainly in California) has bulbs the size of a small grapefruit, with huge cloves averaging 1 ounce each. It can be purchased through mail order and in some gourmet markets. Green garlic, available occasionally in specialty produce markets, is young garlic before it begins to form cloves. It resembles a baby leek, with a long green top and white bulb, sometimes tinged with pink. The flavor of a baby plant is much softer than that of mature garlic. Fresh garlic is available year-round. Purchase firm, plump bulbs with dry skins. Avoid heads with soft or shriveled cloves, and those stored in the refrigerated section of the produce department. Store fresh garlic in an open container (away from other foods) in a cool, dark place. Properly stored, unbroken bulbs can be kept up to 8 weeks, though they will begin to dry out toward the end of that time. Once broken from the bulb, individual cloves will keep from 3 to 10 days. Garlic is usually peeled before use in recipes. Among the exceptions are roasted garlic bulbs and the famous dish, "chicken with 40 cloves of garlic," in which unpeeled garlic cloves are baked with chicken in a broth until they become sweet and butter-soft. Crushing, chopping, pressing or pureeing garlic releases more of its essential oils and provides a sharper, more assertive flavor than slicing or leaving it whole. Garlic is readily available in forms other than fresh. Dehydrated garlic flakes (sometimes referred to as instant garlic) are slices or bits of garlic that must be reconstituted before using (unless added to a liquid-based dish, such as soup or stew). When dehydrated garlic flakes are ground, the result is garlic powder. Garlic salt is garlic powder blended with salt and a moisture-absorbing agent. Garlic extract and garlic juice are derived from pressed garlic cloves. Though all of these products are convenient, they're a poor flavor substitute for the less expensive, readily available and easy-to-store fresh garlic. One unfortunate side effect of garlic is that, because its essential oils permeate the lung tissue, it remains with the body long after it's been consumed, affecting breath and even skin odor. Chewing chlorophyll tablets or fresh parsley is helpful but, unfortunately, modern-day science has yet to find the perfect antidote for residual garlic odor.  

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