Being a cheese guy, every time I receive a Guffanti raffia-wrapped Robiola I feel as lucky as a bride-to-be when she's given a baby blue box from Tiffany’s. These goat's milk discs are both beautiful and delicious; truly meant be savored.
Luigi Guffanti is the premier supplier of small-format Italian artisan cheese to America, and their reputation is hard-earned and well deserved. My current favorite of their Robiola offerings is a creamy, fragrant version enveloped in cherry leaves. These small (100-gram) cheeses are wrapped in wine-vinegar-soaked leaves and aged in an abandoned silver mine located near the dairy. Aging the cheese in this naturally humidity-controlled, cave-like atmosphere contributes to its complex flavor development.
Robiola has a deeply earthy, almost mushroomy flavor (imparted by the leaves) mixed with a slightly tangy goat’s milk bite and a hint of minerality. It is best served when soft to the touch and must be brought to room temperature for maximum enjoyment. The leaves completely surround the cheese and should be trimmed or peeled off prior to serving. When you unwrap each disc, you release the wonderful aroma of a forest floor in summertime.
This particular Robiola is a farmstead cheese, meaning it is produced on the farm that cares for the goats that produce the milk. In fact, Guffanti is a committed family-owned dairy operation dating back to 1876, and it's still run by descendants of the founder (Giovanni Guffanti Fiori, Luigi’s great-grandson and head affineur
at the company, is a friend of mine). The dairy and aging facilities are located in Arona, about 60 kilometers northwest of Milan on the border of Piedmont and Lombardy. Guffanti's history of producing great cheeses themselves, aging cheeses for other producers, and exporting these Italian products to America is unparalleled. They are righteously proud of their tradition and reputation; plus they are really nice people.
You can follow Raymond's cheese adventures on Facebook, Twitter, and his website. Additional reporting by Madeleine James.