Thursday, July 24, 2008

Alternative Asiagos

I recently tried two kinds of Asiago cheese that are different from the more familiar aged variety known as Asiago d'Allevo (or Asiago Vecchio). Asiago Fresca (pictured at left) is a young cow's milk cheese that is aged only a few weeks as opposed to several months. Fresca means "fresh" or "young."

Asiago Fresca is mild, creamy and slightly tangy due to a touch of acidity. While aged Asiago is made from skimmed milk, Asiago Fresca is made from whole milk. The latter melts very easily and works well on a cheese tray as a complement to more strongly flavored cheeses. Asiago Fresca is a light and easy cheese to eat by itself and pairs well with light and easy wines like Pinot Grigio, Pinot Gris or fruity red wines.

In between Asiago Fresca and Asiago d'Allevo lies medium (or mezzano) Asiago, which I've quite enjoyed eating this week. It has more personality than its younger, fresher cousin but isn't overbearing like its older counterpart. Medium Asiago is aged only a couple of months and--judging from its creaminess--must not be made from skimmed milk. I find it to be the most enjoyable of the three kinds of Asiago to eat by itself with bread or a cracker.

"Official" Asiago cheese can only be made in the village of Asiago in northern Veneto, where it has been produced for centuries. However, the 'protected designation of origin' rules are not always enforced outside of the European Union.

All forms of Asiago cheese pair well with figs, apples, pears, pistachios, almonds, and olives.

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