This has been one busy December so far. Supper clubs, parties, carols, concerts, gatherings, seeing old friends and new and we haven’t even got to Christmas yet. So when I received an invitation to attend an evening exploring the ages of Parmesan I did think, actually yes please – without hesitation. December is all about cheese, wine, indulgence and celebration.
The event was held at Adam Handling’s (ex-Masterchef Professionals) The Frog, E1 in partnership with Parmigiano Reggiano. Parmigiano Reggiano is one of the world’s oldest cheeses. It is still being made in artisan dairies by hand today as it would have been eight hundred years ago. You can follow their news on Twitter @ParmesanUK
You might be interested to know that The Frog has just been named one of London’s top 11 best restaurants of 2016 by Richard Vines, chief food critic at Bloomberg. It’s the only one of the top eleven I have eaten at and judging by the quality of the rest of the bunch, this made the meal all the more special.
Here is what we ate:
Cheese & Truffle Doughnut made with 24 month Parmigiano Reggiano
“Paper Road” Sauvignon Blanc, New Zealand, 2014
Mac & Cheese – The Frog Way made with 30 month Parmigiano Reggiano
Macon Villages, Domaine Perraud, Chardonnay, France, 2014
Burnt Honey, Parmesan, Malt & Lemon made with 18th month Parmigiano Reggiano
Goru, The Old Man – Monastrell/Syrah/Petit Verdot, Spain, 2014
My thoughts on the food:
As a MasterChef addict – I can’t think of many series that I haven’t watched since it first started all those years ago with Lloyd Grossman – I was thrilled to have an opportunity to taste food created by one of its ex-contestants.
With each course, we tasted the Parmesan on its own to appreciate the varying flavours notes according to the age of the cheese. This 24 month old Parmesan had a richness and subtle saltiness to it that worked in harmony with the earthy truffle shavings. The Parmesan was finely grated in a cloud-like mound along with the truffle over the warm doughnuts which had a crisp, slightly sweet exterior, revealing an oozy cheesy custard in its centre. It was the dish of the night for me. I would definitely return to The Frog and order again and I would happily scoff it for my main too.
The main course Mac & Cheese – The Frog way, features a 30 month old Parmesan also sampled on its own in order to appreciate its natural flavour. Considering it was only 6 months older than the previous Parmesan, this one was distinctly saltier and what I loved most about it was the crystal crunch. The crunchy tang in cheese of this age creates a crackly bite with a real umami hit. It transformed this mac & cheese into a turbo charged cheese bomb. The sauce again was cloud-like. Forget bechamel – this was lifted into a cheesy froth by being put through a cheffy canister and squirted onto the macaroni to form a volcanic lava of soft, cheesy foamy lava from heaven. I’ve never eaten a dish like it before. It was decadent beyond belief, so I couldn’t finish it but at the same time it didn’t leave me feeling stodgily full which reflect’s Adam’s lightness of touch.
Dessert included a Parmigiano “Ice” using an 18th month old Parmesan and liquid nitrogen – a perfect showstopper dessert with Adam scooping this magical smoke and ice over the pass and onto our dessert plates. The flavour was mellow, appropriate for a sweet dish. The best flavour on the plate for me was the bittersweet superfine slices of lemon. It’s tartness counteracted the sweetness of the dessert as a whole and I loved the added texture of the meringue shards and the crunch of the honeycomb.
Adam explained each course to us before we tried it, which helped paint a picture of the food we were about to enjoy. I managed to have a chat with him about how his kitchen works, having a large team to manage and how they are fully booked into next year already. I am not sure how much Masterchef had to do with Adam’s success as a chef. He was always a natural talent, classically trained, that may have been propelled into a successful career regardless of the tv show, but it was a treat to see him at work, running his kitchen like a true pro and enlightening us on how to eat Parmigiano Reggiano.
Thanks to Parmigiano Reggiano for inviting me along to this event. All views my own.