Heaven in a dish – Azienda Agricola Zoff

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Cheese – aromatic, beautiful, pungent, stinky, delicious cheese; there is more to wine tourism than just wine!  While I could spend hours a day exploring the micro regions of Friuli, I was excited to experience more of the food aspects of the diverse region. Azienda Agricola Zoff is a small, local dairy that specializes in regional products from traditional sources.  The Pezzata Rossa cows deliver milk that is rich in butter fat, that helps the family do their job.  The Zoffs have been making cheese for 15 years, but have been raising cows here for generations, drawing on the cultural history that brings in the German, Swiss and Austrian cultures of northern Italy. After we had a brief tour of the dairy, where we learned that happy cows do indeed make happy cheese, we sat down to taste the cheese. One of the more unique offerings was the Caciotta, which is a fresh cheese that can be enhanced with flavorings.  IN this case, the flavored version had rose petals and thyme.  The creamy fresh cheese is rubbed with the flavorings after about 10 days, when the new rind is perfectly ready to bind to the flower petals and herbs.  The fresh creamy cheese is a wonderful palate cleanser and snack. Next, we tried the Latteria.  This time, we could taste both the fresh version, only 4 days old, and an aged version, which had been resting for 2 months.  As expected, the aged version was nutty and rich. We also were able to sample a famous offering:  the yogurt!  Those of us who are used to the tangy, tart, and thick American style yogurt might be confused by the creamy fluff that was served in a small dish.  but if you’ve traveled to France, and many other parts of Europe, the style of yogurt is younger and fresher, and much thinner.  Even commercial yogurts here are different than our palates are used to.  Here at Agricola Zoff, they make yogurt in the tradition methods; here, fermentation is stopped earlier in the process, allowing some of the natural sweetness of milk to remain.  The result, is a rich, naturally slightly sweet, slice of heaven.  As health nuts are aware of, yogurt is full of amazing health benefits, and this is no exception.  Beppino, the patriarch of the Zoff family, even touted that this is paradiso, heaven!  I’d be inclined to agree.  He also let us in on his secret for long life:  A spoonful of dulce de leche in a bowl of his yogurt, and you will live forever!  I’m ok with that. Here in the Bay Area, we are blessed with several micro dairies and creameries.  I have found that the closet product to the Zoff yogurt – which I had to replicate because it left me craving more – is the Saint Benoit natural yogurt.  Available at Whole Foods and other small markets, this French-style creamy yogurt is the closest approximation to heaven I can muster without making the […]

Abbazia de Rosazzo -the Abbey of the Roses

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Located in the town of Udine, at the top of Italy’s cuff of the boot, the Abbazia de Rosazzo has an ancient history as a powerful outpost for Rome that is centuries old. Located at a crossroads of cultures just 10 kilometers from the curret Slovenian border, the Abbey is where ancient traditions are of prayer, wine and olive oil are observed.  The first church was deciated in approximately 1070, and the cutlure of wine was brought by the Benadictines in the end of the 15th century. This is the birthplace of some of the most famous Friulian varitals, including Ribolla, which was the favorite of the Venetian Doge.  As such, this is one of the oldest wine cellars in Friuli. While living in peace for centuries, the abbey fell out of power and was abandoned.  However, due to it’s location, it became a military stronghold, while maintaining the strong culture of viticulture.  The current winemaking family arrived from Istria in the 20s, bringing with it five generations of winemaking tradition.  Specializing in the white wines of Friuli, the Abbazia’s wine Rosazzo is a blend of Friulano, the regional varietal of Friuli, Pinot Blanc, Sauvignon Blanc, Malvasia, and Ribolla, The white wines of Friuli are full of citrus and floral notes, and are light and refreshing with a nice medium body.  Even though it was raining and chilly, the white was refreshing and welcome. The living history of the Abbazia is worth a stop, both for the history, and the wines!   Google