Cheese… Italian cheese
How could I resist an invite to the launch dinner for Italian Cheese Week?
The event was held last week at Manitoba Tigella , a recently opened tigella restaurant in a slightly odd, liminal location between the British Museum and the destroyed Tottenham Court road crossing. I discovered tigella a couple of years ago during a weekend visit to Bologna; the are small discs of white bread, cut in half and traditionally filled with cheese and cold cuts. The venue is smart, with an impressive bottles-clad wall, a bar area and a mezzanine for dining, with wall art as decor (not quite a match to the rest of the style but interesting nonetheless.)
Gorgonzola is a straw-white soft cheese with greenish streaks derived from a process called ‘erborinatura’, the creation of moulds
As I arrived for the evening, the four Italian cheeses part of the evening were on display and for tasting. Parmigiano Reggiano, Asiago in 3 strengths / ages, Mozzarella di Bufala Campana, Gorgonzola (dolce and piccante). Tigella were served freshly baked to accompany the gorgeous cheeses. All these cheeses share the PDO certification, meaning only those with such logo on the packaging are authentic and part of the consortia they are united in. While I was familiar with all of them, it was good to hear more info on each one and its particularity and its use (other than simply eating them of course!). Just loved picking at all of them, having to restrain myself (I could live on cheese).
The word ‘mozzarella’ comes from the word ‘mozzare’ which means to cut off, which is done when the spun cheese is hand cut
When they explained about mozzarella di bufala I actually even added my own, Neapolitan, opinion as the mozzarella they had for tasting for truly good, not the ‘real thing’ that often restaurants and shops in London sell but it’s either too old, or too preserved or just not good at all. The one we had on the night at Tigella was so good, I could have sneaked out and taken the whole bowl with me.
We then went upstairs for a sit down meal with matching wines prepared by the Tigella chef and what a feast were going to be served! We started with 4 tigelle, each filled with one of the cheeses in a different guise, my favourite being the one with Prosciutto di Parma PDO, 24 months Parmigiano Reggiano PDO cream and Aceto Balsamico. The tigelle were followed by a very interesting canape: a sweet macaroon made with 24 months Parmigiano Reggiano filled with mortadella mousse. Not to everyone’s taste, I enjoyed the challenging pairing, finding it creative and reminding me of the neapolitan ‘rustico‘ which I occasionally make. So far, we had been also enjoying Valdobbiadene Col de’ Salici prosecco.
Parmigiano Reggiano contains no additives or preservatives and has excellent nutritional qualities
The first proper course swiftly followed: Mozzarella di Bufala Campana cream, roasted octopus, crispy pancetta, green sauce and olive powder. The octopus was well cooked, the pancetta added texture, the green sauce a touch of acidity and the cream linked everything harmoniously. The matching white was a Cervaro della Sala from Umbria, which i found incredible, oaky, crisp and intense. Would go back to Tigella just to get another glass of this wonderful wine!
The next course was a pasta dish, a really mooreish Ravioli with mushrooms, spinach and fresh Asiago fondue with fried artichoke. The pasta was great, al dente and with a good bite to it, and the creamy, rich cheese sauce a great match.
Asiago has been produced for thousands of years within a geographically well-defined area around the Asiago plateau
As if the food already served wasn’t enough, we then enjoyed a fantastic Lamb in a pistachio crust and Gorgonzola sauce. Beautifully cooked lamb, really flavoursome, I thought the pistachios added a great crunch to the dish and the little gorgonzola mousse a touch of spiciness.
Dessert time! Oh my word… a luscious, oozing, melt in the middle Hot chocolate cake with macerated berries was to die for! We all loved it. I mean, just look at it:
At this point, the chef came out and it was welcomed by a roaring applause. The comments by my fellow diners were mostly like ‘who is the chef, is he famous?’. And no, he isn’t but his food was seriously worth checking out. He is from Sardinia, although the food he produced is not the traditional staple from the beautiful island. He is surely very talented, created some beautiful dishes with the cheeses presented on the evening. We really loved the meal. Each course was also sapiently paired to wines, although I did not drink the two reds and the dessert wine (also from Umbria) as I was riding my scooter, they were all high quality Italian wines and received much praises at my table.
Italian Cheese Week runs until 22 June: go to Tigella Manitoba before then to enjoy a cheese feast!
Pastabites dined as a guest and was not asked to write this post; opinions are my own.