I had the day off today, which meant it was a day to go exploring interesting food shops! After I went to that cheesemaking workshop, my father mentioned that his grandfathers both used to make cheese (and that, in fact, Nonna used to make ricotta) and that one of his grandfathers was the village cheesemaker. He mentioned a kind of special mozzarella which has a knob of fresh butter in the middle, which sounded fascinating enough that I asked my cheesemaking tutor about it… and she said “Oh yes, that’s called ‘Burrino’, and there’s a shop in Carlton called La Latteria which makes it…”
Due to the shape of public transport in Melbourne and my reluctance to ride my bicycle on the roads, I don’t actually get to Carlton all that often, even though it isn’t too far away… so today was my first chance to visit this shop.
My first impression of the shop was that it smelled like milk, and that it was very clean. La Latteria is a shop which specialises in mozzarella and its many relations – bocconcini, fior di latte, scamorza, provolina, buffalo mozzarella, whey ricotta and so forth. They make cheese fresh every day, hence, I presume, the milky smell. They have fresh mozzarella, and mozzarella which has been cured, air-dried, smoked or salted. All of this is lovely, but nothing I haven’t seen before.
Where it gets interesting is with the specialty cheeses. There is a kind of ‘leaf bocconcini’ which is flat, and gets rolled, swiss roll style, around a filling – you can buy it filled or unfilled. There are bocconcini filled with tomatoes, olives or fresh cream, smoked provoline filled with chilli and olives, fresh provoline (the aforementioned burrini) with a centre of fresh butter or porcini butter, or the blue heart, which has a centre of blue cheese. There are mozzarellas which have been kneaded with salami and basil or chilli and fennel and air-dried, and others that have been mixed with oregano or olives or sun dried tomatoes and cured for a month or so. And there are little donut-shaped cheeses for picnics, again with fascinating ingredients mixed into them. And huge, cured porcini mozzarella cheeses.
Oh, and they have fresh (unhomogenised) milk and cream, yoghurt made from cow, goat or sheeps’ milk, goats cheese with fresh flowers pressed onto it, and yoghurt cheese flavoured with sweet or savoury flavours. And big bunches of basil, vine grown tomatoes, broad beans, walnuts, and ciabbata bread. You can pretty much walk into this shop and be sorted for dinner.
All these cheeses, incidentally, are made with non-animal rennets, so provided you avoid the ones with actual salami in them, they are fine for vegetarians. They do stock some other Italian cheeses (like parmesan and pecorino) which are made elsewhere, and do contain animal rennet, but from my point of view, it’s pretty much cheese heaven.
I wanted to try everything (I did get to try a couple of things, in fact – and there’s a cured porcini mozzarella that I have my eye on for next time), but managed to exercise some restraint, and left with a porcini burrino, a provolone which had been flavoured with oregano and cured, a mozzarella which was kneaded with tomato and salami, and a plain scamorza. Oh, and some ciabbata and basil and tomatoes. And some yoghurt cheese, because I can never resist that, even though I know how to make it myself. Dinner tonight will be bread and cheese and salad and utterly delectable.
I then took myself back to Gewürzhaus, the spice shop which mugged me last time I went there, to replenish my supplies of lavender salt and Oma Rosa’s Gulasch… and also to be tempted by other gorgeous things. I am in something of a baking frame of mind – it’s the approach of Christmas, I think, or maybe just the fact that my name is Catherine and I am always in a baking frame of mind – so I ended up with an astonishingly good vanilla sugar (it has a really heady scent, beyond anything I’ve smelled recently), a nutmeg and orange sugar that smells like Christmas, a chocolate spice (cocoa mixed with various spicy goodies which I am too lazy to go and read off the bottle just now) that will make my next chocolate cake particularly excellent, and a really interesting pistachio and cardamom sugar, which I think I will use to make a middle-eastern sort of shortbread that will certainly be delicious. Oh, and I got a tandoori masala spice mix, for next time I feel like doing the Indian cooking thing. And some random licorice root that I have no clue what to do with, but I know I was looking for it recently and couldn’t find it anywhere, so no doubt I will think of something.
And then I got absolutely seduced by their gift packs. I want them all! Or at the very least, I want to buy them for other people! But the people I want to buy them for all either live overseas (which means that I will be spending $50 just on postage getting the spices to them) or are not people I can budget quite that much for this Christmas, which is very sad. I shall have to find some cunning way to manage this…
But for now, I just need to pop out to the greengrocer to get a few more things for salad. We can even eat on the porch and look at our garden which is slowly beginning to resemble a garden! Don’t you wish you were having dinner with us?