Mushrooms – you either love ‘em or hate ‘em! Those of us who fall into the former category have reason to smile as more varieties of edible mushrooms begin to find a place on restaurant menus and on shelves at Bangalore’s specialty gourmet stores.
Remember the post I wrote about olive oil a couple of years ago? It remains one of the most popular posts on the FTB blog. With good reason too – when it comes to fats of any kind, olive oil included, myths and misconceptions abound. As the shelves of Bangalore’s grocery stores swell with more and more olive oil brands and variants, I thought it would be a good idea to revisit and expand upon that post.
Two years ago, I wrote this post about the cheeses I had on hand in my refrigerator. Thanks to a program called EAT (European Art of Taste), an initiative supported by the European Union and the Italian Government, I now know a whole lot more about cheese – and specifically provolone [pro-voh-LOH-nay] cheese – than I did back then. I also have to say that I will never again eat a piece of cheese without appreciation for the amount of work that goes into making it.
As part of the EAT program, I recently traveled to Cremona, in the heart of the Italy’s provolone-making Lombardia region to visit the Auricchio cheese-production unit. As one of Italy’s oldest cheese manufacturing companies, the Auricchio brand has become synonymous with provolone cheese. With good reason too – Gennaro Auricchio, the founder of the company, is widely credited with having discovered an unusual kind of rennet that gives today’s provolone its distinctive flavor. He was also amongst the first of the provola cheesemakers from Southern Italy’s Campania region to head north in search of a better milk supply. Provola? Yes, provola. “Provolone” merely means “large provola”.
As Susan Boyle recently showed the world, appearances can be deceptive. Take the truffle, for example. It’s never going to win a culinary beauty contest – heck, it’s not even going to qualify for the first round. Yet this butt-ugly mofo manages to find its way into the kitchens of the rich, the famous, the culinary Rembrandts, the nouveaux riche, the wannabes and even the don’t-wannabes. People pay hundreds of dollars for a single top-quality truffle: an astronomical sum for a gastronomical luxury (okay, that was uncool, but I couldn’t resist).
To learn that these stinky, blob-like mycorrhizae (look it up, baby!) have been growing right under our noses, uncelebrated, right next door in Chikmaglur, came as a bit of a shock. When chef extraordinaire Abhijit Saha invited me to his swish new restaurant Caperberry to check out ‘The Great Indian Truffle’, I was there before you could say “tuberous fungifus”.