The Consorzio del Formaggio Parmigiano Reggiano oversees the group of producers making Parmesan, which includes all the cheese houses producing Parmesan Reggiano in Italy. The Consortium oversees the identifying marks applied to wheels of Parmesan and inspecting and regulating production and upholding standards of this ancient cheese. Like any amazing product there are a lot of imitations and this is the way Parmesan is kept pure and authentic. The Italians after all began making Parmesan Cheese seven centuries ago in the provinces of Parma, Reggio Emilia, Modena, part of Bologna and part of Mantua. The milk must come only from this region and the cheese has been made in the same way since the beginning.
The Consortium has arrived and with it comes a new education process and watchful eye. The launch and welcome to Australia was held at Marque Restaurant one of Australia’s most well known Restaurants. Chef and owner Mark Best built a menu just for this occasion around the cheese. Dialogue Agency led us through a tasting and informative talk on Parmigiano Reggiano while Mark talked to us about how each dish was inspired by the taste and texture of the different aged cheeses. It is surprising how a simple looking dish can have so many complex taste elements.
Each course was matched to a wine by Marque’s sommelier Simon Curkovic, this years Riedel Sommelier of the year. A cocktail with Parmesan started the night. Oh yes, The Parmesan Splice cocktail was a mix of cognac, apple, honey, verjus and parmesan water extract. It was incredibly savoury tasting and a genius match with cloud like Tomato essence and Parmesan Marshmallows. And, just so we didn’t tire of heaven they punctuated these offerings with little Parmesan Custard, Gougere and Eggplant (that’s the black paint on the top).
These were made with 18 month Parmigiano Reggiano.
18 month old Parmigiano Reggiano is soft and a little bit crumbly. It’s still milky but also has a has a nutty flavour with an acidic bite to it. It’s sharp yet somehow still a bit sweet with tiny little crystals of a salt like texture.
Did you know that Parmesan is sold or at least identified by age. So, we tasted each parmesan and talked through the taste and then the next course followed. The first course, made with 24 month, was Parmesan Gnocchi with a Pumpkin Consommé and fine slivers of Smoked eel. This was matched to 2013 Quealy Turbul Friulano from the Mornington Peninsula Victoria.
24 month Parmigiano Reggiano
24 month Parmigiano Reggiano is a little crumblier. It has wonderful notes of pineapple and even banana, nutmeg and butter. It still has a sweet lactic touch but with a much more pronounced bite. It can have small crystal like pockets of saltiness that are a little more pronounced than the 18 month. This is a cheese I dream about, and so is this dish with it’s fine slithers of smoky eel and clear pumpkin soup and the lightest creamy Parmesan Gnocchi.
The next course is also made with 24 month, and served from the rind of the wheel is a dish called Cacio e Pepe (cheese and pepper) Risotto. The Risotto was spiced up with three kinds of pepper and this incredibly rich dish was served with a Parmesan Crisp and a much needed plate of lightly steamed greens in a lemony dressing. The wine, 2013 Mastrojanni Rosso di Montalcino from Tuscany. Heaven.
36 month Parmigiano Reggiano is a very crumbly aged cheese. It’s special character lends it to sweet and savoury combinations. It is far more mellow than the younger cheeses but somehow more complex and fruity. It has more intense pockets of salt like crystals than the younger cheeses.
This course caused a little bit of excitement and also contention. Love it or hate it, it was memorable. Whole parsnips were hollowed out and roasted till crisp then filled with parmesan ice cream. Although the ice cream was creamy and intensely parmesan flavoured there was no hint of sweetness, fruit nor even balsamic sweet acid, like your head would expect. The head seemed to rule. The “cornettos” were spectacularly crisp, crunchy, dry roasted shells with a slight parsnip flavour. But the wine match was my favourite of the night. 2014 Vietti Moscato di Asti, Piedmont.
Consorzio del Formaggio Parmigiano Reggiano in Australia can be contacted through The Dialogue Agency who have been appointed to represent Parmesan in Australia.
Dialogue (UK) has represented global food producers with PDOs (Protected Designation of Origin) certifications for 25 years, marketing quality produce and raising awareness of food provenance. They can be reached in here