If you love cheese (and quite frankly, who doesn’t?) then head to Manitoba Tigella to taste their Italian Cheese Week dishes and cheese board.
Last week I was invited along to their Italian Cheese Event to showcase four special Italian cheeses – Asiago P.D.O, Gorgonzola P.D.O, Mozzarella di Bufala Campana D.O.P and Parmigiano Reggiano P.D.O. So, what’s so special about them you might ask? Well, the P.D.O and D.O.P stands for ‘protected product of origin’, meaning that the product must have qualities or characteristics determined by the region of where it is produced. It has to be produced, processed and prepared exclusively in that region to gain P.D.O status.
Upon arriving at Manitoba Tigella, we were greeted with cheese, cheese and more cheese! All four cheeses were on display for us to taste along with tigella. Tigella are a round shaped bread that is filled and then be lightly toasted. It is typical to the Emilia Romagna region, where my husband is from. We even had them at our wedding!
Before heading up for the meal, we were given an explanation of each cheese.
About the cheeses
Mozzarella – Mozzarella di Bufala Campana PDO is a soft cheese traditionally made in Central-South Italy. It’s made from buffalo milk, which is low in lactose, salt and cholesterol. You will find many versions in your supermarket but if it doesn’t have the PDO designation then it’s not really Mozzarella.
Gorgonzola – similar to ‘blue cheese’, Gorgonzola PDO is s soft cheese made from pasteurised milk which is then put through a process called ‘erbinatura’, that is the creation of moulds. There are two types of Gorgonzola: Soft which is slightly spicy and Spicy which is thicker, more blue-veined and more crumbly. Gorgonzola is a town near Milan and it’s said that this cheese was first produced in 879 AD.
Asiago – said to have been produced thousands of years ago, Asiago is produced in a well-defined area around the Asiago plateau in the region of Veneto. There are two types of Asiago: Fresh Asiago from whole milk and Aged Asiago from semi-skimmed milk. It’s a mild cheese with a milky flavour with both sweet and sour notes.
Parmigiano Reggiano – a hard, granular cheese which is also known as the ‘king of cheeses’. Parmigiano Reggiano PDO has a long and natural maturation time, the minimum of which is 12 months. It’s production methods have changed very little over the centuries and it hails from the regions of Parma, Modena, Reggio Emilia and Bologna (where my husband is from). It’s usually at its best at 18, 24, 30 months or more.
To showcase the different cheeses, Manitoba Tigella’s chef Marco Mannoni designed a six course meal with paired Italian wines.
The first was a selection on mini tigella, each stuffed with a different cheese. There was Mozzarella di Bufala Campana PDO with confit tomatoes and basil pesto, Prosciutto di Parma PDO with a 24 month Parmigiano Reggiano PDO cream with balsamic vinegar, Portobello mushroom with Gorgonzola PDO and lastly marinated aubergine with Aged Asiago PDO Stravecchio.
The next course was a 24 month Parmigiano Reggiano PDO macaroon filled with a Mortadella mousse. I really like Mortadella, which is an Italian pork sausage, and I enjoyed this dish. The macaroon was fairly sweet but the saltiness of the Mortadella worked really well with it.
Next we were served Mozzarella di Bufala Campana PDO cream with grilled octopus, crispy pancetta, green sauce and olive powder. I loved the grilled octopus and the olive powder but I wasn’t too keen on the Mozzarella cream, I’m afraid. I didn’t like the texture of it. Perhaps it would have worked better just drizzled over the octopus.
The pasta course was definitely one of my favourite courses of the night. Ravioli filled with spinach and fried artichokes served with an Asiago PDO fondue. It was fabulous! My only criticism was the red plate – not great for photos!
The main course was lamb with a pistachio crust and a sweet Gorgonzola PDO sauce. The lamb was perfectly cooked – pink and tender and so tasty. Hands down my favourite dish of the evening.
Dessert was a hot chocolate cake with a berry sauce and it was very decadent! A great way to round off a truly lovely and special meal.
Head down to Manitoba Tigella near Tottenham Court Road to taste these fabulous cheeses for yourself!