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Updated: 20 weeks 1 day ago

Now Here’s a Fresh Idea

June 26, 2018 - 11:00am

From Turin, Italy, to San Francisco is 6.000 miles, a long journey if you’re a cheese. Fresh cheeses like ricotta and mozzarella have to travel by air, which makes the cost spike. Border inspections or missing paperwork can delay entry, further shortening the precious selling time. So here’s one Italian company’s solution to the fresh-cheese challenge: produce it in California. Northern Italian know-how meets West Coast milk. 

The first California cheeses from Alta Langa — makers of the popular La Tur—are showing up in retail stores this month, five years after the company hatched the idea. You’re going to love them.

Margherita (pictured above) and Caprino, the debut cheeses from Alta Langa Fresco—that’s the American arm—are produced at a facility in Modesto that mostly makes Hispanic cheeses. Alta Langa’s cheesemaker traveled to Modesto to work with the team there and fine-tune the procedures. Both Margherita and Caprino are simple recipes but new ones—not reproductions of cheeses Alta Langa makes in Italy. The big hurdles were bureaucratic, not technical. Whole batches had to be tossed after the California Department of Food and Agriculture reviewed labels and said, “You can’t call it that.” Welcome to the U.S.

Caprino is a fresh six-ounce disk made of pure goat’s milk, drained for about 48 hours before it is placed in its tub. Notice the surface markings from the draining rack. Caprino is an individual cheese, not curds pumped into a tub. It is light on the tongue and creamy, not remotely fudgy or gummy, with a clean, bright, lemony flavor. 

Margherita is a mixed-milk cream cheese, although CDFA won’t permit that term. (Cream cheese has to be entirely cow’s milk.) Jesse Schwartzburg, Alta Langa Fresco’s representative here, says the blend is roughly 10 percent sheep’s milk, 15 percent goat’s milk and the remainder cow’s milk, including some cow’s cream. 

What a luscious result. Packed in an 8-ounce tub, Margherita is so fluffy it seems whipped. It has a lovely sour-cream flavor, a buttery note and a slight tang. It spreads like frosting. Schwartzburg suggests using it on focaccia with avocado and Marash chili. I’m going to be spreading it on everything in sight. Scrape a little fresh garlic into it, slather it on levain toast and top with sliced tomatoes. Lunch is served.

Availability will improve, but for now, look for Alta Langa Fresco Caprino and Margherita at these Northern California retailers: Franklin Bros. Market (Berkeley), Market Hall Foods (Berkeley and Oakland), Star Grocery (Berkeley), Mollie Stone’s (Greenbrae), Woodlands Market (Kentfield), Fisher’s (Larkspur), Gambrel and Co. (Redwood City), Petaluma Market (Petaluma), Rainbow Grocery (San Francisco), Staff of Life (Santa Cruz), Sunshine Foods (St. Helena), Atelier (Yountville). The Truffle Cheese Shop in Denver should have Margherita.

Categories: Food