At Farmshop: Breaking open the 85-pound Parmigiano
When an 85-pound wheel of Parmigiano-Reggiano from the Cravero family of affineurs is opened, "it's really, really beautiful," says Farmshop market manager Emiliano Lee. "It's almost like looking at a cliff, all these rocky crags where the curds were when you've taken the wheel apart, and those little bits that fall out of the center are the gold right there."
On Saturday he cut into a wheel of Parmigiano aged for 30 months in vaults in Bra, Italy -- also, coincidentally, the home of Slow Food, and "it doesn't get much slower than aging cheese," says Lee, who uses several various knives to coax open the cheese. "The Craveros have been maturing Parmigiano-Reggiano [a process called staggionatura] for generations now. It's practically currency there. They're experts who spend their days tending to the cheese in what's basically temperature- and humidity-controlled aging caves where it's turned regularly and wiped down and paid attention to, and they know when it's ripe. With a wheel that big it's a little difficult to tell. It's not like a wheel of brie where you can pick it up and feel it."
The flavor and texture of the Parmigiano -- delicate but full-flavored, creamy, so buttery it melts in your mouth -- "speaks to the hand that Cravero has in the aging. You want to have it on the table with a bottle of wine or glass of beer. It's going to be hard not to eat it by the chunk."
Farmshop, 225 26th St., Suite 25, Santa Monica, (310) 566-2400, www.farmshopla.com.
-- Betty Hallock
Photo: Emiliano Lee with Parmigiano-Reggiano. Credit: Farmshop