I've eaten my share of mozzarella di bufala. We get pretty great imports now, all DOC name protected versions, but there's something different about eating the stuff in the place where it's actually made. Last month, when in Italy, the buffalo mozzarella I ate was like a totally different animal. One quality set it apart from any I'd had in the States.
Perhaps it was because I was in Salerno, in Campania, in the region best known for mozzarella di bufala, that I tasted these most superlative versions.
The richness was palpable. The milkiness was there. The fattiness oozed. Each ball, each bite, each shred screamed mozzarella di bufala. But one thing was different.
The gaminess. Water buffalo milk is a bit more animal-y (in a most pleasant kind of way) than cow milk, and that I knew. And that I tasted, in buffalo mozzarella I'd had in the States. But the gaminess of the Italian cheese was so much more intense. And I think it's because the cheese had a longer finish. That hay-like scent, a bit of barnyard-y aroma, and an I-can't-put-my-finger-on-what-exactly-this-is all lingered for a long while after the presence of cheese. So intense, only tempered by some focaccia and fruit, or a bit of honey and figs.
Often, though, restaurants served the cheese plain, sold by weight, with nothing else alongside. Just a plate of cheese, and they'd slice it tableside. No salt, no oil, no bread. And perhaps that's why I could truly identify all of those buffalo elements. Nothing else in the mix to muddle. Purity at its best, and most definitely a concept to bring back home.
(Images: Nora Singley)