Sunday, January 25, 2009
Grana Padano Lunch @ Casa Tua
It's not often I get to take a break from my glamorous laptop-pounding and scurry off to Casa Tua for a leisurely lunch. So when the good folks from Grana Padano cheese extended me an invite to come taste their wares I happily obliged. The setting was the lovely chef's table at Casa Tua flanked by the restaurant's marble-embellished open kitchen. The master of the menu was Casa Tua's executive chef, Sergio Sigala.
On hand were three varieties of the nutty, Parmesan-like cheese: the 12-16 months, one aged for 18 months, and a mature 26 month-old variety. As lunch progressed we learned that Italy produces over 4 million wheels of this cow's milk cheese a year. It's also great for those that are lactose-intolerant and easily digestible due to its long ripening time. The cheese is certainly versatile, working well in cooked, hearty dishes or served simply with honey and fruit preserves.
First course was a soft polenta with black truffle sauce and 14-month Grana Padano flakes, the young cheese adding texture and salt to the thin and truffly polenta. Next was a potato gnocchi stuffed with the 26-month cheese, dressed in a pear sauce and accompanied by caramelized pears and crispy prosciutto. These were some of the best gnocchi I've ever tasted - light, delicate and nicely complimented by the sweet pears and the floral, nutty aged cheese.
I was already quite full by the time the 4th course rolled around so I wasn't really feeling the grilled calamari stuffed with 18-month cheese and breadcrumbs. The side of candied red onions and cannelli beans added a nice hearty element to the dish.
A palate cleanser of sorts, the next dish was simply and beautifully presented. Each cheese was matched with a fruity preserve. The cheeses are pictured with the youngest on left served with chianti jelly, the 18-month cheese went with a fig preserve and the oldest cheese had a mustard jelly. I liked the fig and cheese combo the best, but the mustard jelly added a nice spicy kick to the mature cheese.
Dessert was a pear and hazelnut crostatina with ice cream flavored with the 14-month cheese. All of the flavors came together fabulously in this dish, as the nuts and the fuit worked well with the ice cream which only mildly tasted of the cheese and was more sweet and creamy, rather than savory.
All in all, a lovely way to get to know a cheese I was as-yet unacquainted with. I walked away with a hefty hunk of it which I have been assiduously shredding over every salad and pasta dish produced at Che AllPurposeD.
Hopefully I'll be motivated enough this weekend to try using it with some of the recipes they also included. The grana padano-flecked carrot rissotto is calling my name....