About Me
I'm a Melbourne boy, hailing from St Kilda with one ex, one current wife and four kids. Love the outdoors and making new discoveries. I cook a lot at home (cheers from wife) and do some preserving, mostly jams, pickles and fruit liqueurs. This is the diary of a cooking journey.

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Monday, February 12, 2007
Say Cheese
I went shopping at the Italian shop on Saturday. It's not really called the Italian shop, it's just what we call it, run as it is by Italians, the real name is Balaclava Fresh Centre. It used to be a bit closer to us, but Safeway made an offer for the site, the owner didn't refuse and the Italian shop relocated further down Carlisle Street. Which in a way really improved things as the shop at the old location was looking a bit tired.

We don't shop there all the time, but when we're after something a bit interesting that's where we go. The grocery section is like an Aladdin's cave full of great products from around the world, it puts Coles gourmet section to shame. Things that we have discovered here include smoked cod's liver and mackerel fillets in tins which is not the whole story, wonderful jams and preserves, imported cakes and biscuits, the full range of genuine Italian pastas and tinned tomatoes plus a freezer groaning with unexpected treasures like pelmenis (pierogies); this is the Jewish end of Carlisle Street after all and the recent influx of Russian Jews is having an effect on the foods here. There is a wonderful deli section with an Italian slant - some of the more artisan salamis can be found here plus a great range of cheeses, again, featuring good Italian products. There is also the full range of greengrocery items.

They were running a cheese promotion and it was the first time in over a year that I wished there was a camera with me, to share with you the cheese stand that was set up and manned by an Italian chap dressed up in the full cheese makers kit, surrounded by huge wheels of cheese and one giant Provolone sausage, girded with rope that must have weighed close to 100 kg (220 lb). I have a confession to make here - it pains me to say, good foodie that I am, until about a year ago I had never tasted Provolone and now that I'm eating it, can't think why on earth I didn't try it sooner.

The Italian was busy talking in his native tongue to another customer so I had a little try of the Auricchio brand Provolone and Grana Padano while he wasn't looking, both of which were excellent. The next stop was the deli counter where they had some wonderful looking pancetta, not rolled but flat, which I hadn't had before so ordered a piece. The last time I had pancetta it was rolled and fairly dry and I struggled to see why it is so popular, but with this new piece it was like chalk and cheese. Pancetta simply put is Italian bacon, made from pork belly. It is either rolled into a sausage shape like a salami, or left flat, it is gently spiced and cured for about three months, though not usually smoked it can be. If you had a piece like mine that was unsmoked, it tastes a little sweeter than smoked bacon, adding subtle cured porky hints to whatever dish you add it to.

Back from the deli and past the cheese stand, the Italian motioned for me to come over and taste and I explained that I already had, when he pulled out a little plate of Parmigiano Reggiano that he wanted me to try. The kindest thing I could say about it was that it tasted like an upmarket version of the aforementioned Grana Padano. There was no real sharpness, no character, no crunch of grittiness that is the mark of the best parmigiano, it was like the cheese maker had decided to make a better Grana Padano and slightly succeeded.

Perhaps Auricchio should stick to Grana Padano at which they are very good.

I called the shop to get some more details and asked about that giant Provolone on display. It looks like my eye is pretty good for it weighed exactly 100 kg. The man I spoke to told me at another store there was a 1000 kg Provolone put on display that had to be brought in by crane!

Balaclava Fresh Centre
316 Carlisle Street

Labels: , , , ,

  posted at 12:46 pm

At 10:38 am, Blogger MyKitchenInHalfCups said...

Shopping even when you don't buy in a place like that is a joy. My goodness though smoked cod's liver? That on is a stretch for me. Have you tried it?

At 11:30 am, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Provolone is one of my very favourite cheeses, dolce or the sharper piccante.

Sometime they use provolone at Pellegrini's when you order a cheese roll. It's delicious, especially with plenty of butter.

At 12:26 pm, Blogger Gigi said...

I don't know why, but I always seem to be stopping by here around dinner time. Isn't Provolone wonderful? A 220lb Provolone sausage swinging by a rope sounds just about the thing right now. We won't even need plates. We'll just lunge at it. ;)

At 3:04 pm, Blogger neil said...

Hi tanna, yes I have and I can report it's wonderful, not like liver at all, more mousse like.

Hi kitchen hand, see what a terrible food blogger I am, just discovering provolone in the last year despite it being in front of my nose. My wife D would agree with you about the butter, she loves the stuff.

Hi gigi, lunging sounds good to me, or maybe we could treat it more like a piƱata, with great hunks of cheese raining down!

At 12:47 am, Blogger Jeanne said...

Don't ever feel bad about your foodie credentials just because you've never tried something. Most of the stuff I grew up eating was due to an accident of birth - no foie gras but loads of biltong! Being a foodie means an openness to new tastes and the desire to explore cuisines - so your credentials are perfect :)

At 2:30 pm, Blogger neil said...

Hi jeanne, you know I do get foie gras but I don't quite get biltong, maybe you have to grow up with it. The good thing is, there are still lots of good tastes I'd like to try.


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