France vs Italy at Formaggio Kitchen
France and Italy are widely considered the top tier of culinary cultures. So why not pit them against each other in a culinary competition? We all win that way! We began with the arugula and frisée salad with Bucheron crostini and red wine vinaigrette from France, and followed it with an Italian Caprese salad with fresh mozzarella, heirloom tomatoes, Saba, and agrumato.
The first round paired Valençay wine and cheese. Valençay cheese is a goat's milk cheese from the Loire Valley of France, and here it was served with Lo Brusc Tilleul honey. On the Italian side, we had Robiola Roccaverano from Piedmont served with a Sicilian mandarin orange marmalade. It was paired with Tiberio Trebbiano d'Abruzzo wine from Abruzzo, Italy.
Round two for France moved us from goat's milk to sheep, with Ekiola Ardi Gasna from Pays Basque, France. The cheese was served with Arraya Confiture de Cerises and Etienne Dupont Cidre Bouche Brut from Normandy, which was my favorite beverage of the entire evening. Italy served up Sola a Tre Latte, a cheese made from cow, goat, and sheep's milk cheeses in Piedmont, Italy. It was paired with mostarda Mediterranea and Castaldi Lucia Bianco '12 wine, also from Piedmont.
The third round introduced meats into the equation, and also wound up being the first spot in the entire contest where France tripped up, for me at least. Up until this point, France was my clear favorite every time, but as much as I loved the Comte Le Fort, a cow's milk cheese from Jura, France, served with Jambon du Bayonne and Moutarde de Piment Espelette and paired with Bourdy Cotes du Jura Rouge 2011, I loved the Italian offering more. Pecorino di Pienza Gran Riserva, a sheep's milk cheese from Tuscany, Italy, served with Prosciutto Pio Tosini 18 month and fresh figs and paired with Unlitro IGT, also from Tuscany, was just so amazing.
When it came to the dessert round, I couldn't decide which I favored, as I enjoyed both equally! The French dessert had a heavier taste, while the Italian dessert was light, but both were delicious. Up first was France, with fresh fig clafoutis and Fourme d'Ambert with Bonal Gentiane Quina digestiv, followed by Italy's Ricotta cake with lemon-thyme-honey glaze, pine nuts, and whipped ricotta, paired with Elio Perrone Moscato d'Asti. Overall, France won for me!