Authentic Parmigiano Reggiano at bargain prices

Giovanni Adamo is cheese manager at La Bottega in Ottawa.

The Special of the Week flyer from La Bottega Fine Food Shop was sent to me by a faithful reader too late for me personally to make the drive to Ottawa by Sunday but perhaps others can take advantage of what is being billed as a Parmigiano Reggiano “super special.” Indeed, that it is.

Until Sunday, Bottega is offering real-deal Parmigiano from Reggiano at $2.20 per 100 grams or $21.99 a kilogram. That’s about half-price of what Parmigiano Reggiano generally sells for in Ontario.

The only retailer that comes close to the Bottega price, as far as I know, is our neighbourhood Costco, bless its multinational soul, which has Parmigiano priced at $25.39 a kilo. Costco, like Bottega, offers it in one-kilo pieces. Costco’s supplier is Ambrosi while Bottega’s is made by Agriform. Both are biggies in Reggiano cheese production in Italy.

Pat Nicastro, proprietor of Bottega, says the Parmigiano Reggiano on sale is “a fantastic Scelto-quality Reggiano dated December 2007, aged 24 months.” (Scelto means specially selected in Italian.) Bottega orders the cheese by the pallet from its supplier where its ranks as the biggest customer. “We are both driving important year-end sales. We are passing on the savings to our customers.”

La Bottega is located in Ottawa’s Byward Market. It carries 200 types of cheese from around the world—plus every Italian delicacy imaginable.

Cheese that is certified as Parmigiano Reggiano is strictly linked to a specific geographical area in Italy. Milk production and its process into cheese takes place in the provinces of Parma, Reggio Emilia, Modena, Bologna (on the left side of Reno river) and Mantua (on the right side of Po River). Click here for information about the consortium that regulates Parmigiano Reggiano.

For a gorgeous video on how the King of Italian Cheese is made—and has been made for 800+ years—click here.

Cheese the new gold?

Is this the new white gold?

Dairy has become more expensive than some top cuts of meat in Canada, and the cost is hitting restaurants and food processors the hardest, says the head of the food services industry, according to a news report by CBC News this week.

“A kilogram of cheese is more expensive than a kilogram of steak. A litre of milk is the same price as a litre of orange juice from Florida,” said Garth Whyte, president and CEO of the Canadian Restaurant and Foodservices Association.

“They now call cheese white gold,” he said. “It’s very, very expensive. I saw it today. A 500 gram brick at an [Ottawa] grocery store was on sale — $2 off. It was $6 for 500 grams, so it was $12 a kilogram. A top sirloin steak was on sale for $9 a kilogram,” said Whyte in an interview with CBC News Monday.

The association has called for a 16.5 per cent reduction in the price of industrial milk at a meeting Monday with the Canadian Dairy Commission in Ottawa.

The report got me thinking. (I hear you saying, Uh, oh!) Mr. Whyte deals with industrial milk so he’s talking mass-produced cheese, industrial rather than artisinal. The question for me is just what have I been paying recently for really good cheese?

Bonnie & Floyd, a wonderful sheep’s milk cheese, was $70 a kilogram at Fifth Town Artisan Cheese last week. My recollection is I paid the same $70 a kilo at Thin Blue Line Cheese Boutique for superb Tomme de Gaston about a month ago. At Cheese Boutique, Migneron de Charlevoix is $64.50 a kilo this week while Benedictine Blue goes for $49.90 a kilo. The six-year-old cheddar from Black River Cheese in my fridge cost $46.23 a kilo.

Clearly, Mr. Whyte would have a heart attack if he knew the price of artisinal cheese. No question, the best cheese is expensive . . . but it’s sooooooooooooo good!

And quite a bargain when compared to actual gold which today is trading at $42,751.23 a kilo.