Monday, April 27, 2009
Wednesday, April 22, 2009
Prosciutto, Jamón serrano and Jamón ibérico - 'The Holy Grail' of dry cured hams.
While visiting my son Andrew in Philadelphia, back in November, I discovered DiBruno Bros. Italian gourmet market. There are 2 locations, 1 located on South Ninth Street in Philadelphia’s Little Italy and the other Chestnut Street in the prestigious Rittenhouse Square section. While the Rittenhouse Square location offers a more glitzy posh 5th Avenue feel, I prefer to original location on South Ninth Street, nestled in the Italian Market since 1939.
With a vast selection of everything imaginable I was immediately drawn to the Charcuterie area, mainly the Prosciutto section. I am never good at making choices when such a variety is available so I bought a few slices of eight different cured hams, from Italy, Spain and yes, even the United States. For a fraction of what a pound of any individual prosciutto cost, I walked out with a fabulous tasting of eight for under $20. It was the best $20 I ever spent! Later that evening, back home in Westfield, I opened a bottle of a very nice 100% Sangiovese wine, aged in wood for 24 months, which I brought back from a family trip last summer. The wine is called Morellino Di Scansano, Roggiano Riserva 2005. What made this tasting memorable is that I was reliving my trip to Tuscany where we ate wonderful prosciutto and enjoyed locally produced wine daily. It was truly a mental vacation.
Throughout my tasting I thoroughly enjoyed each and every ham! Both refined and immeasurable differences, these hams offered a carnival of flavors. Flavors and sensations included sweet, salty, buttery, gamey, nutty, dry, young, aged, creamy, rich and smooth. Hands down, my favorite was Jamon Iberico de Belloto from the Iberico Peninsula $130.00 per pound, of course the most expensive. Don’t judge quality by higher price as this is not always the indicator. My least favorite was the next most expensive, Prosciutto Di Parma riserva $34.99 per pound.
My personal recommendation is to do exactly what I did. Next time you are privileged to have a great selection of anything you love to eat, buy a small amount of as many as you can and then make your own tasting. Take your time and make an evening of it. Perhaps invite a friend to join you and sit back, sip a nice complimenting beverage and take that mental vacation.
If you have time, a trip to Philadelphia’s Italian Market on South 9th Street makes for a great day trip. It’s what New York’s Little Italy looked like 50 plus years ago. You won’t be disappointed. If you’re considering staying for dinner make a reservation as the most popular local restaurants book up in advance. We tried to get in at Ralph’s Italian restaurant, also on South 9th Street, but we had no reservation and they laughed as they told us they might be able to get us in at 10 PM. Villa Di Roma, again on South 9th Street, is a good alternative as they do not accept reservations. It’s ‘first come first serve’ so get a glass of wine at the bar and hope to get seated in a reasonable amount of time. We had a good dinner there. Try the steamed mussels; you’ll be licking the bowl!
My DiBruno Prosciutto tasting included:
La Quercia Domestic Prosciutto $24.99 per pound
Classico Parma Ham aged 12 months $24.99 per pound
Jamon Serrano aged 12 months $26.99 per pound
Jamon Serrano Riserva aged 18 months $29.99 per pound
Prosciutto Di Parma Rotondo Dolce $29.99 per pound
Prosciutto Di Parma riserva $34.99 per pound
Culatello $59.99 per pound
And my personal favorite:
Jamon Iberico de Belloto from the Iberico Peninsula $130.00 per pound
Unavailable in the United States until December 2007, Jamon Iberico could be the most sought after cured meat on the planet. Rich and nutty, with a melt-in-your-mouth texture, a single slice of this meat can satiate the most critical of palates for hours. Made from Spain's rare black footed pigs, which during the last few months of their life feed solely on fallen acorns, this jamon carries flavors reminiscent of those pigs' diets and eating habits: intensely woodsy and nutty with a high degree of marbling (it turns out that feeding solely on acorns is quite a workout for the pata negra, resulting in a highly marbled meat). Only 8-9% of all Spanish jamon is Jamon Iberico and only a small percentage of all Iberico is designated bellota, meaning the highest, most acorn-fed pigs were used. We are lucky to carry this product, for it is a delicacy that cannot be missed...(Courtesy of DiBruno Bros. website.)
Visit DiBruno Bros. at: http://www.dibruno.com/