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Fiscalini Bandage Wrapped Cheddar
Looking like part of a dreamy moonscape, we wish the moon were made of Fiscalini’s Bandage Wrapped Cheddar instead of green cheese. Photos by B.A. Van Sise.
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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

KAREN HOCHMAN
is Editorial Director of THE NIBBLE.

 

May 2007

Product Reviews / Main Nibbles / Cheese

Fiscalini Farmstead Cheeses

Award-Winnning Cheeses, Bandaged Wrapped and “Gold”

CAPSULE REPORT: One of the great cheesemakers in America, Fiscalini Farmstead has contributed some iconic cheeses to the semi-hard cow’s milk category. Cheddar lovers must try the Bandage Wrapped Cheddar and San Joaquin Gold: cheeses so wonderful, we give them as gifts.

There are many artisan cheesemakers in America, but only a small percentage of farmstead cheesemakers: those who own and tend the animals whose milk makes the cheese. That’s because dairying is a completely different skill from cheesemaking, requiring land, labor and incremental investment and risk. Most cheesemakers buy their milk from a nearby dairy. There are less than a dozen farmstead cheesemakers in California, and about the same in Wisconsin, our two largest cheesemaking states.

Since 1914, the Fiscalini family has been making cheese in central California; prior to then, Fiscalinis were cheesemakers in Switzerland for 300 years. Today, the fourth generation governs 530 acres in Modesto, where they tend a herd of 1,400 Holsteins that make the milk that creates several cheddars and a Parmesan. The cheeses, created by senior cheesemaker Jorge “Mariano” Gonzalez, earn awards at competitions worldwide. In fact, Fiscalini cheeses just won two gold medals and a silver medal in the Cheddar categories at the 2007 World Cheese Awards in London. The 18-month Bandage Wrapped Cheddar won the Wyke Farms Trophy as best extra mature cheddar in the world, the first time in the 20-year history of the awards that the trophy has been awarded to a cheesemaker outside of Great Britain. The 30-month Bandage Wrapped Cheddar won won a silver medal and the block Fiscalini cheddar won another gold medal.

Perhaps it’s the skill of the cheesemaker, perhaps it’s the raw milk*, perhaps it’s that the milk is as good as it gets. “Great cheese comes from happy cows,” as the saying goes, and the Fiscalinis aim to keep their Holsteins among the happiest cows in the land. They roam over the large acreage, are cooled by summer breezes and misted with water as needed; Fiscalini Farms was the first dairy in the U.S. to be certified by Validus for compliance in animal-welfare issues. Fiscalini Farms also was among the first dairies in California to be certified by the California Dairy Quality Assurance Program for environmental responsibility.

*Fiscalini Farmstead makes its cheeses from raw (unpasteurized) milk. Many cheesemakers, as well as cheese connoisseurs, believe that the pasteurization process, while destroying harmful bacteria, also destroys beneficial bacteria that add to the flavor of the cheese. In the U.S., raw milk cheeses must be aged for 60 days before they are sold, by which time any harmful bacteria in the milk die off.

The Cheeses

Fiscalini’s two signature cheeses, in our opinion, are the Bandage Wrapped Cheddar and their San Joaquin Gold, a proprietary recipe that created a “gold rush” the moment it was introduced. Both are “must-trys.” Enjoy them with prunes, figs, walnuts and almonds.

Bandage Wrapped Cheddar
Sharp and sophisticated Bandage Wrapped Cheddar.

Bandage Wrapped Cheddar

It is relatively rare for an English-style farmhouse cheddar in such a large format to be produced in the U.S. Mariano Gonzalez handcrafts and inspects every 60-pound wheel of Bandage Wrapped Cheddar. Bandage Wrapped refers to the cloth that is wrapped around the young cheese to protect it during the long aging process, as opposed to other cheeses, like Parmigiano-Reggiano, that form natural rinds (still other cheeses are waxed). The cheese is aged for sale at both 18 and 30 months; the 30-month is more complex, although some people prefer younger cheeses. Try both, if just to see what another year of aging does, and then decide which you prefer. The cheese was voted “Best Farmhouse Cheese” at the 2002 American Cheese Society Awards. Delicious with big reds like Zinfandel.

  • 8-Ounce Wedge
    18 Months
    $9.00
    30 Months
    $12.00

San Joaquin Gold

Made in 28-pound wheels from unpasteurized cow’s milk, this semi-hard cheese—a cross in style between a Cheddar and Parmigiano Reggiano—has a natural rind and a sweet-salty, buttery taste: very flavorful yet mellow, lacking sharpness or pungency. Beyond the cheese board and snacking, it is one of the most versatile semi-hard cheeses you will encounter. It grates and melts beautifully, making it a wonderful cheese for topping soups, salads and chili, grilled cheese sandwiches and macaroni and cheese. One of our editors uses it for cheese garlic bread. Its Parmesan nuances make it a candidate to substitute for Parmigiano-Reggiano on a Caesar salad. Serve it as a cheese course with Italian reds or Cabernet Sauvignon.

  • 16 Ounces
    $15.00
Fiscalini
Mellow, sweet-salty San Joaquin Gold.
Fiscalini Lionza
Alpine-style Lionza.

Lionza

Lionza is an homage to the origins of the Fiscalini family, a remote mountain hamlet in the Ticino region of Switzerland where John Fiscalini’s family has been dairying for more than 300 years. An Alpine-style cheese made in 26-pound wheels (slightly larger than traditional Swiss wheels), it has the taste, aroma and texture of cheeses made in the area today. As you can see in the photo, it has a few irregular eyes, a light paste and a natural rind. A fragrant and nutty cheese with caramel notes and a touch of fruitiness, a table cheese that is perfect on a cheese board, on fruit skewers, in salads, pasta and egg dishes, grated for gratins or in a fondue. If you usually purchase Emmenthaler, try Lionza.

  • 16-Ounce Package
    $13.00

Flavored Cheddars

Our first bite of Fiscalini Flavored Cheddar was the Saffron. Those who love saffron will delight in this cheese: The rare spice is infused into the milk and the flavor is imbued in each bite. We were thrilled to find another food in which we could enjoy saffron.

Other Flavored Cheddars include caraway, dill, garlic, pepper, sage and tarragon. Most have won awards—see the list below the photo at the right. In the abundance of this tasting, we’re saving these flavors for a separate tasting. Ditto for the Smoked Flavored Cheddar, smoked over apple and cherry woods, which won a silver medal at the American Cheese Society competition in 2004 and a gold medal in 2006.

  • Flavored Cheddars
    16 Ounces
    $11.00
  • Smoked Flavored Cheddar
    16 Ounces
    $13.00

Fiscalini Saffron Cheese
Heavenly Saffron Flavored Cheddar.

AWARDS
Caraway: Best Flavored Cheddar 2002, 2003 &
2006, American Cheese Society
Dill: Bronze Medal-Flavored Cheddar, 2004 World Cheese Awards
Garlic: Bronze Medal-Flavored Cheddar, 2003,
2006 World Cheese Awards
Saffron: Silver medal-Flavored Cheddar, 2002 American Cheese Society
Sage: Gold Medal-Farmstead Flavored Cheddar, 2005 American Cheese Society
Tarragon: Bronze Medal-Flavored Cheddar, 2001 World Cheese Awards

Purple Moon
Purple Moon Cabernet-soaked cheddar.

Purple Moon

Farmhouse Cheddar soaked in Cabernet Sauvignon, Purple Moon is a gourmet version of Port Wine Cheddar. It is less sophisticated than the other cheddars we’ve profiled—more of a “fun cheese.” Still, it looks pretty (and different) on a cheese board, and fits into a menu of retro foods. The illustration of the cow in the moon, holding a bunch of grapes, will appeal to the young and the young at heart.

  • 8-Ounce Package
    $8.99

Horsefeathers

A spread of cheddar, horseradish and sour cream, won a World Cheese Award in 2003. Use it on crackers, with pretzels, or as with beef and vegetables.

It’s not easy to find these cheeses at retail. Even the best cheese stores seem to carry them in rotation, under the “so many cheeses, so little space” reality. Anytime you’re at a good cheese counter, simply ask what they have from Fiscalini Farmstead, and grab it. Fortunately, they’re only a day away by mail order on the company’s website.

FISCALINI FARMS

Cheddar & Alpine-Style Cheeses

 

The company also has a variety of gift baskets, of which our two favorites are:

  • Holiday Trio
    1/2 pound each of 30-month aged
    Bandage Wrapped Cheddar, San
    Joaquin Gold and Lionza
    $25.00
  • Farm Fromage Oval Basket
    ½ pound of each of the 7 flavored cheddars
    $80.00

Purchase online at
FiscaliniCheese.com

Or telephone 1.800.610.FARM.

Some cheeses are also available at fine retailers. Prices and flavor availability are verified at publication but are subject to change. Shipping additional.

Fiscalini Gift Basket

Above, California State Gift Basket, 1 pound each of 18-month Bandage Wrapped Cheddar, San Joaquin Gold and Lionza, $55.00.

© Copyright 2005-2014 Lifestyle Direct Direct, Inc. All rights reserved. Images are copyright of their respective owners.

 



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