Friday, January 25, 2008

Back from India

After spending 17 days in five cities and several remote villages in India as part of the Wisconsin Rural Leadership Group 12 international trip, I am back at my computer and ready to talk cheese.

While I was away, Wisconsin was in the news in New Delhi's The Sunday Express. On the front page was this headline: "Italian cheese sold in the U.S., Made in India."
Turns out that "Winsconsin-based Artignale Italiano" is collaborating with Man Mohan Malik, an Indian entrepreneur who while at a food exhibition in Germany a couple years ago, saw an Italian stall promoting water buffalo milk cheese as a delicacy. Once he saw that the water buffaloes on the promo pictures were just the same as the ordinary Indian buffaloes (70 percent of the world's buffalo population lives in India), he knew what he had to do.

Malik was soon visiting mozzarella plants in Italy, absorbing everything he saw, and soon he started producing mozzarella cheese with partner Raffaele Cioffi. The pair gave exclusive contracts to Indian farmers on the condition they would not mix cow's milk and water buffalo milk to sell to the company.

Their cheese plant, which opened in March 2006, has the capacity to produce 14.9 million pounds a year of specialty mozzarella cheese. The company, listed on the Indian Stock Exchange, registered a 91.27 percent growth in net profits for the quarter that ended September 2007.

In the U.S., the cheese will soon be available in Costco and Trader Joe's. The company's next step is to launch Italian frozen cheeses in the Indian market. The company has partnered with India's largest company, Reliance to retail its cheese in India under the brand name Bufalabella.

Monday, January 07, 2008

More Cheese Classes

I'm off to India until Jan 24 (I'll be sure to write a review of their paneer cheese when I return), but in the meantime, here's a listing of some of the cheese classes going on around the state.

Carr Valley Cooking School has announced a second year of programming at its Sauk City store and kitchen. The first classes are on Jan. 14, 15 and 16 and feature current and former chefs from The American Club in Kohler. Then between April and June, a variety of well-known chefs from Madison, Washington, D.C., Miami Beach, Chicago, Milwaukee and Denver will be featured. I'd highly recommend these classes -- I attended a couple last spring and they were outstanding.

Fromagination in Madison looks to have a good line-up of upcoming classes during the next couple of months. Classes range from wine & beer pairings to meeting Wisconsin cheesemakers to Cheese 101 (shameless plug here -- I teach the Feb. 5 class). These classes tend to fill up, so be sure to send in your registration early if you'd like to attend.

Milwaukee Public Market is also offering a series of cooking and food classes. While none pertain specifically to cheese, they all look yummy - especially the winter stew class on Feb. 7.

Cheese of the Week: okay, so this isn't a class, but it's still cool. The Wisconsin Milk Marketing Board has put together a pretty savvy feature of a different cheese each week, paired with a different chef or artisan cheese shop owner from around the country. This week's cheese is SarVecchio, with a podcast from Tori Miller, chef at L'Etoile in Madison.

Talk to you all when I get back on Jan. 25!

Saturday, January 05, 2008

Toxic Mozzarella

Need another reason to buy Wisconsin cheese? Look no further than Naples, where the mozzarella has turned toxic, thanks to locals burning garbage in the streets.

In a truly bizarre turn of events, Naples is literally throwing away its cheese. According to Marketplace on American Public Media, garbage dumping has become so out of control that the public has resorted to starting it on fire just to get rid of it. The garbage is on the streets, in ditches, caves, abandoned fields, you name it.

All of the burning plastic is releasing toxic waste in the air, which is finding its way into the water system and into local forage. Since one of the largest industries around Naples is dairy production -- the reporter even says that "all of the world's mozzarella cheese come from around Naples" -- insert rolling of the eyes here -- there is huge concern the mozzarella cheese is toxic. Sales have dropped drastically.

The article goes on to say that the European Union, as one of the largest mozzarella importers, is now suing Italy to try and get the problem under control.

I have a much better suggestion -- just buy mozzarella from Wisconsin. We've got dozens of plants making it, including Alto, Arla, BelGioioso, Burnett Dairy, Edelweiss, Grande, Land O Lakes, Foremost, Saputo ... the list goes on.

In fact, one of my favorite snacks is Farmer's Rope mozzarella from Crave Brothers Farmstead Cheese. Shaped like a coiled rope, it strings as you eat it and is the best string cheese I've found since Arpin Dairy stopped making it several years ago.

Ahh .. toxic cheese in Italy ... yet one more reason to buy local.