About a month ago I hopped on a plane and flew to Meredith Publishing's headquarters in Des Moines.
These guys are just too good to me, I'm so very grateful for the opportunities I receive!
This trip was a little different than the first though- this was for an Allstars get together.
You know, when I try to explain to people exactly what I do with Allrecipes, and how I found myself affiliated with them, it's a little difficult.
I cook. A lot.
I use Allrecipes, a lot.
They made me one of their Allstars.
It's the people, though, that make being an Allstar amazing. Of course the Allrecipes staff themselves are always so sweet and fun- both the website staff in Seattle and the magazine staff in Des Moines- but my fellow Allstars are such an amazingly wonderful group of ladies (and a few men).
You know how great it is when you find your tribe?
These folks are my tribe. :-)
So on this last trip we crammed so much fun into just a few days. The night we arrived we had a super fun cocktail party at West End Architectural Salvage. Such a cool place! It's wear they film the show West End Salvage on DIY.
The next day we got to participate in a cooking competition with Potatoes USA in the Better Homes and Gardens Test Kitchens, split into teams for a Super Bowl photoshoot competition (my team won!), tour the offices, see a sneak peak of Allrecipes' new Dinner Spinner TV show on the CW before it aired, learn about all kinds of behind-the-scenes stuff...I'm sure I'm leaving lots and lots of things out. My tribe and I were just having so much fun!
You might imagine that they feed us very well at these things. I mean...it's kind of their whole deal, right?
You'd be right.
You'd be right.
Breakfast, lunch, snacks...we were definitely spoiled.
In the midst of all of that food one thing REALLY stuck out (and boy do I wish I'd taken a picture!)- the BelGioioso sponsored wine and cheese break the afternoon of the second day.
Crackers, fruit, wine...and more cheese than we could possibly have finished on our own.
LOADS of cheese
But my goodness was it good cheese. Delectable cheese. Stop-you-in-your-tracks good cheese.
That was a nice afternoon break!
That evening after a quick stop in at the hotel to get changed we were treated to a meal that made this foodie happy at a place called Aposto. It's located in a beautiful old home in Des Moines- the kind of place that would be perfect for a date night. Not only is the location beautifully but the chef is a James Beard Semi-Finalist.
It was pretty wonderful.
Our meal began with a cheese and wine pairing during which the representative from BelGioioso walked us through our personal cheese trays from BelGioioso's La Bottega di BelGioioso line of cheeses. She explained what made each cheese special and how best to savor it while the chef followed up with explanations of why he had paired each wine with the individual cheeses.
Let me just tell you...I could experience that every day without getting bored!
At the end of the tasting before being served the rest of our meal the representative was kind enough to offer each of us her card- and said to email her with our info so she could send us a sampler when we got home.
You know I got right on that!
I was expecting a box with some small cheese samples...and I was excited about it!
What I received was a beautiful wooden box branded with the La Bottega logo. Tucked inside, wrapped in a white cloth, were 9 full size cheeses. That's in addition to the cheese board they sent us home with in Des Moines!
Ladies and gentlemen...my cheese drawer is quite happy at the moment!
Now I'll pause right here and say that neither BelGioioso nor Allrecipes asked me to share anything about these cheeses with you. They didn't even suggest it. I just really wanted to because I was so impressed with these cheeses and the care the (Wisconsin based!) company puts into their product. I'm going to go ahead and put the disclaimer down there at the bottom of the post just because I got the product for free...but I'd be telling you about this cheese even if they hadn't sent me a thing!
BelGioioso is based in Wisconsin, however it has a deeper history- the company was founded in 1979 by Errico Auricchio, whose great-grandfather was a cheesemaker in Italy. He moved his family to the US with the dream of crafting the best Italian cheeses in the United States.
After finding the best milk for his cheese in Wisconsin and started his business- along with the two master cheesemakers he brought with him from Italy, who still work for the company!
All of the milk used in BelGioioso cheese is sourced from within 30 miles of the cheese plant from farmers who do not use artificial growth hormones and all of the milk is antibiotic free. Generally milk is made into cheese the same day it comes from the cow- I was pretty impressed by that fact!
On to the cheeses I received!
American Grana: This is one seriously delicious Parmesan! It has a deep, nutty flavor that I can't get enough of! It's aged for at least 24 months.
Gorgonzola: Personally I love blue cheese, but this one was a surprise to lots of people at the tasting. Even people who don't typically like blue cheese loved the deep flavor and smooth texture. It is hand wrapped in foil and sealed with film with microperferations to keep the cheese alive.
Peperoncino: I'm not going to lie- I haven't tried this one yet! It wasn't part of our tasting, but it looks like it's going to be delicious! How can it not be? It's Asiago with spicy red peppers and Peperoncino. I'm really looking forward to putting this on my next cheese platter!
Provolone Extra: This provolone is aged for over 24 months. It has a sharp aroma and it is delicious if you're a Provolone fan!
Fontina Snacking Cheese: This was the only cheese I received that wasn't from the La Bottega line- but it's great as well. It's the perfect size to grab as a snack or tuck in a lunch. It's mild with a sweet, buttery flavor.
Artigiano Classico: The Artigiano line is made up of cheeses created by BelGioioso's master cheesemaker. This is sweet, nutty, and just creamy enough!
Artigiano Balsamic & Cipolline Onion: If you take the Classico variety and mix in balsamic vinegar and sweet cipolline onions you get this tasty creation! It is flavored on 3 sides to make sure that flavor permeates the cheese completely.
Vino Rosso: This is also another take on the Classico, only this has been flavored with red wine on three sides to make sure it's flavored throughout!
Crescenza-Stracchino: I saved this one for last because IT IS MY FAVORITE. Ohmygosh. So good! It's soft and spreadable. It's mild, yet tangy. We were instructed to let it kind of melt in our mouth during the pairing. Then we tried it with strawberry and prosecco. I will always have this in my fridge moving forward!