Tuesday, November 15, 2011
You know when you get something stuck in your head and it just won’t leave? Could be a song that runs through your mind while you’re trying to work. Or a 'to do' list that swells at 3am when you’re trying to get back to sleep.
Well, I got something stuck in my head a few months ago that refused to leave. It was a photograph of some cheese.
You’re probably thinking “The girl lives in Italy. Cheese schmeeze.” But this cheese was not your normal hunk of parmesan or globe of glistening mozzarella. These were daintily presented, beautiful wrapped, ash dusted perfect little goat cheeses. And they weren’t just some expensive treat imported from France. They were (or so I was told) from a little goat farm outside of Orvieto.
My friend Vince, who’s recently moved to Orvieto, had been telling me about this goat farm for a while. But it wasn’t until he posted a photograph on fb of his most recent purchases a few months ago that I really began to listen.
One thing you’ve got to understand is that while Italy has an awful lot of good sheep and cows milk cheese, goat cheese is still pretty rare. Especially the "French" kind that is really the only reason anyone goes to Paris for a weekend.
Finally, a few weeks ago, I managed to make it to Vince's source: Fattoria dell Secondo Altopiano.
Located in the hills just west of Orvieto, the small farm is run by a young couple who started it from scratch. Alessandra is from Rome, and Emanuele is from Sicily and they somehow came up with the idea of starting this farm as a way to make a living and stay in the countryside, while running a sustainable business. Emanuele, a veterinarian, and Alessandra have created a slice of paradise where goat cheese is the happy outcome.
The farm is about 15 hectares and the goat shed and cheese making facilities are right in the center. Built almost entirely of wood, the barn shelters the 80 goats that make up their herd. I am a goat junky, and fall in love with almost any goat I see. But these babies were some of the most beautiful and happy I’ve ever seen. Along with the entire farm, they are raised biologically and biodynamicaly and treated homeopathically when possible.
The milk doesn’t have to travel very far, since the goat shed shares space with the cheese making facilities. Every day the goats are milked, and the milked turned into the gorgeous cheeses I had come to taste.
They make about a dozen types of of cheeses, all with raw, unpasteurized goat milk. Some are ready right away, just a few hours old. Others aged from any where from a few days to a few weeks. Alessandra takes our order, as we pick and choose from a tray she brings out to sample, as well as an extremely cute hand illustrated 'menu'. Once we’ve chosen, Emanuele makes a trip to the cellar where the cheeses are aged. He then rolls some of the cheeses in herbs or other spices before handing them back to Alessandra to be artfully wrapped up for the ride home.
Me, being me, of course bought way too much cheese. Naturally I called it research (I had to try everything, right?) And who knew if I would ever be back? (right) But really, it was just hunger, with a bit of gluttony thrown in. Jane, who came with me, also came a way with over a kilo. The thing was, that every cheese we sampled was fantastic. As good as, or even better, than anything I've had in France. Certainly the best Italian-made goat cheese I've ever had.
Vince, however, was more reserved, buying just one perfect, ash-dusted pyramid. But he lives in Orvieto, and so can come back anytime he wants to. (especially now that he's bought a motorino)
Me? I’m planning a trip back as soon as I can. Because I still have that cheese stuck in my head. If possible, even worse than before.
Fattoria il Secondo Altopiano
According to Alessandra, their cheese is also available at two restaurants in Rome: Passaguai and Sorpasso.