Saturday, July 18, 2009

Mozzarella Throwdown

I just got back from summer vacation in New Jersey. The Italian food there is to DIE for, and I ate my own weight in it - including fresh mozzarella.

Here's the deal with fresh mozz: I simply cannot find the real deal in the Bay area. I've found many cheeses claiming to be fresh mozzarella, but they're in hermetically-sealed, commercially-branded packages with smeary purple "best by"dates stamped on them. Worst of all, most of them include vinegar as a primary ingredient. I can understand pickling your so-called mozzarella if you were, say, making a transoceanic voyage on a tallship. 400 years ago. But in the 21st century? What the hell.

So imagine my delight when I spied this tub of real fresh mozzarella at the Montclair, NJ Farmers' Market. There they were, creamy-white rondures of actual fresh mozz, packaged haphazardly in plastic wrap, bobbing happily in their ice water bath. Taken home and unwrapped, this mozz is so fresh it squirts a little fresh milk when you slice into it with a knife. Try to find that in North Beach.

There were other things at the market - I bought a jar of fresh raspberry preserves that made me weep with happiness, that I was subsequently unable to smuggle aboard the return flight, damn it - but the fresh mozz really exemplified what I miss about living in New Jersey, foodwise. (There are many other reasons to miss NJ, including but not limited to Cindy, Dave, Matt, Beth, Margo, Ocean Grove, Frank's Deli in Asbury Park, and Sausage Giambotta. Also: Torino North.)

San Francisco has a lot going for it, but any place where I can't find real fresh mozzarella EVER, and getting my hands on broccoli raab (which is grown in California, hello) is a major challenge, and when I do find it it's like, $3.50 a bunch... well, the Golden Gate Bridge can suck it. I'll take the Pulaski Skyway.

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