It's Not You It's Brie

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Roccolo Cheese: The Holy Lombardic Trinity

Roccolo Roccolo is a holy trinity cheese. It is soft and firm and crumbly all in one. It tastes crazily varied from rind to center. It smells a little different in spots. In other words, its three distinct layers offer a cheese lover three cheeses for, well, .... more than a fraction of the price of a block of colby, but you get more than just orange and yellow cheese that tastes nearly the same no matter the hue.

Roccolo comes from Lombardy, Italy. Made by cheesemaking enterprise Arrigoni Valtaleggio, a large family company that helped to spearhead Tallegio imports, Roccolo is a a natural rind cow's milk cheese whose name translates to "bird snare." The cheese's rind echos the hue of the local bird hunter's stone hut they used to set camp in in earlier times.

After being brined in a salt water bath, Roccolo is set to age on pine boards and flipped and rubbed daily with a little extra salt water brine to bring out earthy, B.linen bacteria like those found in other washed rinds.

Yet pick up a slice of Roccolo and give it a good sniff, and you'll only find the scent somewhat similiar to other semi-soft washed rinds. Rather than having a strong, sweetly blaring scent, Roccolo has an earthier scent like a mushroom that's been foraged after a weeks of rain, and maybe dropped in a little dirt before being put in the straw mushroom basket.

Its taste is quite distinct too. It ranges from buttermilk to butter to mushrooms, to oysters to salty beef fat. The center is a little fresher tasting, and the further you get towards the brown, moldy rind, the funkier it gets.

The most interior part of the paste is crumbly and off-white. The layer beyond is smooth and the hue of that manilla folder a teacher holds in elementary school when presenting test scores to parents on Parent-Teacher night. The outside is brown with white and grey mold and an occasional yellow streak. I eat the rind, mold and all. I know that people are washing it and flipping it everyday and this might scare a folk or two who are concerned with others fondling their cheese, but the rind adds so much pizzaz to the tasting experience. If you like less funk, skip the rind.

I like this cheese with a dry Riesling or a balanced, oaked Chardonnay, Viognier or Roussane-Grenache Blanc blend. Or a Champagne. Mmmm......

If Roccolo isn't available near you, also try Salva Cremesco or Tomme Crayeuse, both cow's milk cheeses with an earthy taste and varied texture (although a little creamier than Roccolo).

Any super-layered cheese favorites?