I was lucky enough to attend a Guffanti cheese training/tasting a couple weeks back and had a blast. Here is a picture of the wonderful spread we had...
I've decided to write about one of the cheeses that I tried that day - the Sola Val Casotto. This cheese also happens to be on sale this month, so pay attention :).
Cheese: Sola Val Casotto
Producer: Dairies in the province of Cuneo and surrounding areas. Aged and cared for by Guffanti.
Location: In and surrounding Cuneo, Italy
Milk: Raw cow's milk (can also be found with sheep's milk and/or goat's milk, but the version we have in the stores currently is just cow's milk)
Rennet: Traditional (animal)
The Sola Val Casotto is a funky looking cheese as you can see above. It's gets the wrinkled texture on the rind from the cheese cloth that is used to drain the whey from the curds. While not super visible here, there is also a fairly large crater towards the top right of the cheese where the cheese cloth was gathered into a knot while the cheese drained. The way the cheese looks is jokingly compared to a shoe sole - hence the term "sola".
Last weekend I included the Sola Val Casotto with a cheese platter that I made for my family. The cheeses are (starting from the top left): Castelbelbo, Mimolette, Bayley Hazen Blue, Midnight Moon and last but not least Sola Val Casotto.
The Sola Val Casotto is a surprisingly soft cheese... not soft like a bloomy rind, but definitely in the semi-soft category. The rind is a natural rind that develops in the caves while it is ageing and lends a beautiful hint of musky earthiness to the cheese. The paste is super pliable and because the cheese is made with whole cow's milk, is super creamy! When you first put a bite in your mouth, you get a taste of the luxurious, lactic creaminess and then as you move it around in your mouth and the flavors develop you start to get hints of salted almonds and a little bit of grass. As it ages it can develop more piquant flavors and I saw this flavoring aptly described as "pinching" your mouth. It is one of those cheeses that you think is simple when you first taste it, but blows you away with the complexity of flavors as they develop.
I would definitely recommend this cheese for any summer cheese platter. It is luxurious and creamy without being rich, pairs wonderfully with almost any fruit you throw at it and would be perfect for any romantic picnic you may have in your near future. You can see the spread we had at my parent's house this weekend - there was a lot of fruit! The cherries were especially divine with the Sola Val Casotto...
Well, that about covers it! As I mentioned before, the Sola Val Casotto is currently on sale for the month of July at any Northern California Whole Foods Market. Don't miss out! Next time you're at the cheese counter, ask for a taste of this delicious cheese and bring some home for yourself :). Until next time, eat, drink and be happy!