By John Garland
Toma della Rocca exists, most profoundly for me, in a very specific memory. It was buried under a mountain of others from the fall of 2005, until I read Michael Paterniti’s 2013 book The Telling Room, in which the author ventures to Spain in search of a legendary Castillian cheese called Páramo de Guzmán.
When he partakes from the final extant wheel of the cheese with its creator, he describes it as “a Herculean cheese, you could tell that immediately, tangy and tart, melting and then flaring again…tasting of minerals and luscious buttercream, of chamomile and thyme…its richness overwhelmed all previous thoughts, tastes, memories.”
Hearing this description brought me back to the tiny Tuscan village of Pienza. It’s a town famous for its pecorino, which is what I intended to order from a small shop just off the main drag. Instead, I was offered a taste of the creamy, luscious Toma della Rocca. It’s a Piedmontese product made from a blend of cow, sheep and goat’s milk. Rich like a brie, but more moist and slightly runny near the rind, it boasts a wonderful herbal component with a tangy finish. On that day, I drank a glass of their house white wine. I don’t know what it was, except it was light and bubbly with a subtle sweetness.
So, how to recreate that pairing with beer? I figured hefeweizen might be the way to go—its straw and citrus notes could blend in among the creaminess, and it could cut the richness with some mellow spice. I spied Steel Toe Brewing’s Sommer Vice and the pair succeeded—the wheat beer accentuates the grassiness of the cheese. For an incredible sandwich, spread Toma della Rocca on a baguette with paper-thin prosciutto and thinly sliced yellow peaches.
Because beer and cheese are pretty much the two best things on the planet, our new segment Beer/Cheese will attempt to pair the two and tell a story in the process. Pick up today’s pairing at Lake Wine & Spirits.