A few Wednesdays ago, I was invited to quite a unique dinner. Theme? Cheese and prosciutto. Seriously, a cheese lover’s dream come true. Chef Matteo Bergamini of SD26 developed a special menu for the night, featuring the five “Legends from Europe”- Grana Padano, Montasio, Parmigiano Reggiano, Prosciutto di San Daniele, and Prosciutto di Parma. Scroll way to the bottom of the post if you’re interested in learning more.

 The European Union presumably indirectly funded this fantastic dinner. In other words, Europe is trying to have us eat our way out of their recession by encouraging us to purchase Italian cheeses and dry-cured ham in this case. Can’t say that they’re not justified in doing so. Dinner was delectable with the Parmigiano Risotto and Prosciutto di Parma wrapped Rabbit as standouts. The balasmic in the risotto was sublime, like a more elite and refined pairing of sausages and maple syrup. The rabbit was moist with the prosciutto adding the perfect amount of extra sweetness. Standout wine was the Becco Rosso, giving a bit of dryness and bubbly to complement the appetizer.  I was quite disappointed that I didn’t make it to dessert & coffee. Living at home in the burbs of NJ has it’s perks, but not when the last bus is at 9:30pm and you can’t stick around for the finale.

 

Lighting was challenging, so ISO was cranked up to the max. Personally, I love the graininess.

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Cold Appetizer

Prosciutto San Daniele, Grana Padano
Spuma & Watercress Pesto

Fiorini – “Becco Rosso” Lambrusco Gasparossa –
Emilia Romagna

Warm Appetizer

Montasio Cheese Fondue, Poached Egg &
Prosciutto di Parma Tuille

Marina Danieli – “Vigna delle Letizie”
Ribolla Gialla – Friuli –

Pasta

Riso Carnaroli “Acquerello” with Parmigiano
Reggiano Aceto Balsamico Tradizionale

Tenuta Sant’ Antonio – “Monti Garbi”
Valpolicella Superiore Ripasso -Veneto

Entree

Prosciutto di Parma Wrapped Rabbit,
Wild Mushrooms & Montasio Gratin

Abbazia di Novacella – Lagrein – Alto Adige

Dessert
(not photographed)

Grana Padano Mousse, Red Wine
Poached Pear & Grana Padano Chip

Ca’ de Mandorli – “Le Donne dei Boschi”
Brachetto d’Acqui – Piemonte

Caffe, Homemade Biscotti

Some extra information that you may not know:

  • Each of the five featured “Legends from Europe” have the coveted PDO (Protected Designation of Origin) certification from the European Union. This guarantees the authenticity of the traditional production process within defined geographic regions.
  • PDO certification requires that the flavor, texture, and other unique qualities of a traditionally made food are formed through a complex interaction of soil, plant life, and centuries-old production methods that cannot be replicated elsewhere.
  • A trade association, or consorzio, is the official body that protects the production as well as the image represented by the products names. The five consorzi were the hosts of this event.
  • Grana Padano is produced across a defined area of northern Italy. This popular cheese sells about 4 million wheels a year! After 9 months of aging, they’re tested for appearance, aroma, and texture and upon passing, stamped with the PDO certification.
  • Montasio has a mild and delicate flavor. It is made in the Alps in the northeastern corner of Italy, and its origins can be traced back to a 17th century mountain monastery. Depending on how long Montasio has been aged, its qualities can change subtly. Wheels aged for 60-120 days (Fresco) and 121 days to 10 months (Mezzano) are the most common ones imported into the US.
  • Parmigiano Reggiano has a long history dating back nine centuries. It’s produced exclusively in five northern Italian provinces. Upon aging for a year, experts test each wheel before branding the cheeses with the prestigious oval “Consorzio Tutela Parmigiano Reggiano” certification mark. The wheels are then returned back to the aging houses and aged to a full 24 months.
  • Prosciutto di San Daniele was first made by the Celts who settled on a hill overlooking the plains of Friuli Venezia Giulia. They were the first to preserve pigs’ thighs and this process was perfected over centuries. Producers choose special breeds from approved farms in 10 regions in northern and central Italy. In fact, to ensure that each ham is traceable, an identifying number is tattooed on the pig’s thigh at birth. Further codes are stamped at the slaughterhouse and curing facility.
  • Prosciutto de Parma has been produced since the Roman times, when they considered this a delicacy suitable for banquet tables. To qualify for production, specialty bred pigs must be born and raised according to strict guidelines on approved farms in 10 regions of northern and central Italy. Their diet consists of a special blend of cereals, grains, and whey. During the curing process, which lasts for at least 400 days,workers monitor the humidity and temperatures as the hams slowly develop their distinctive flavor. Once branded with the Parma crown, the hams are considered ready for market, although some are aged even longer, for up to 36 months.