One of the most memorable trips my wife, Valerie, and I have taken in pursuit of new cheeses was in 1993. We traveled to Castelmagno, home to the famous Italian cheese of the same name. Located on the very northwest fringes of Italy, Castelmagno is a small commune or municipality, consisting of several hamlets. We were invited to visit the region by our friend and mentor, Matteo Ascheri. The hamlet we visited had only one albergo (inn) and a total population of 56. Eleven of those inhabitants made Castelmagno.
Matteo, a Piedmontese food and wine authority, is a winemaker and knew everyone in town. On our first day, he organized a lunch for us with several local food producers, including a fellow who crafted hard candies and exotic elixirs. We all ended up having the most amazing lunch in the local albergo’s lunch room. For our first course, we were served lake trout cured in vinegar with mountain bread. The bread was made with flour from our friends at Mulino Marino and ice cold water from a nearby brook. In that one course, we enjoyed flavors and textures we had never experienced before – and it wasn’t even the highlight of the meal.
The trout and bread was followed by the dish of my dreams: Gnocchi al Castelmagno. (more…)