Continuing with the National Goat Cheese Month theme here at C+C, today we venture to Italy to sample one of its most delicious cheeses, Caprino. Based on the Italian word capra, which means goat, caprini are delectable little goat’s-milk cheeses from the country’s Piedmont region, which borders France and Switzerland. It’s not surprising then that caprini resemble French chevres in shape and texture, but the sumptuous Caprino Tartufo I sampled is in a class all of its own.
Though it’s actually a Caprino Stagionato on the Wine Spectator list, I couldn’t find that cheese (often aged and seasoned) anywhere in the Twin Cities, and the Caprino Tartufo is a worthy substitute. Left to sit on the counter for just an hour, the cheese oozed runny paste when I cut into it. It lacked a strong goat odor and taste; instead, the clean creaminess made it a refreshing start to my dinner. The truffle (tartufo) added an earthy touch but didn’t overwhelm the cheese’s smooth flavor.
In his “Cheese Primer,” Steven Jenkins notes that Italians often eat their caprini with a drizzle of olive oil and cracked black pepper, so I got out my special bottle of Israeli extra-virgin olive oil and poured a dab onto the cheese, topping it with pepper. I tasted each ingredient separately upon taking my first bite – the fruity splash of the olive oil stands out at the beginning, then you get a smooth swallow of the cheese, and finally the spiciness of the pepper bursts through at the end. It would be a stand-out appetizer at a summer dinner party, provided you buy enough caprini to keep your goat-cheese-loving guests sated. Sommelier Mauro Cirilli recommends serving caprini with a light-bodied white wine, such as a Sauvignon Blanc from Italy’s Fruili-Venezia region.