Eating My Curds and Whey

By now everyone knows that Little Miss Muffet was sitting on her tuffet and ate her curds and whey. While I still have no idea what a tuffet is and whether or not I can buy one at Pottery Barn, I have a better idea of what curds are after last night’s mozzarella demonstration at da Campo Osteria in Fort Lauderdale.

Curds are essentially solid parts of soured milk. If you’ve ever been to Montreal or most anywhere in Quebec, you’ve surely had curds while eating poutine. And, those curds are used to created the mozzarella at da Campo Osteria. The restaurant offers something pretty cool that you can’t find at any other restaurant in the area: fresh-pulled mozzarella that’s literally made tableside. Much like the popular tableside-made guacamole offered at Mexican restaurants, the fresh-pulled mozzarella experience is a chance to see your food being created by the trusty hands of the staff.

And, last night I got my own chance to make some for a group of 12 or so journalists. Chef de Cuisine Joseph Quinn gave us overly hungry journalists a hands-on demonstration of why the mozzarella at da Campo Osteria so yummy and memorable. And if I can give you any advice when making mozzarella, it’s, well, don’t try it at home. Unless Chef Quinn lives with you.

You start by pouring hot water (between 160-180 degrees Farenheit) into a bowl of curds.

Then you roll it a bit in your hands, getting out all the bumps in the curds.

Now it’s my turn! After taking about 15 minutes to glove up (they made me put on four gloves per hand to withstand the 180-degree water), I gave it a go. And, let’s just say, it wasn’t as easy as Chef Joseph Quinn made it look.

“Just knead the mozzarella like bread dough,” Chef Joseph Quinn said. Too bad he didn’t know I’ve never kneaded bread dough before!

“Give it a twirl,” Chef Joseph Quinn said. So that’s me trying to give the mozzarella a twirl. As you can see, the chef needed to help me out with the twirl part…

It’s all about presentation was what I learned. Here, Chef Joseph Quinn taught me to gently place the newly formed mozzarella on a “Super Plate,” which was comprised of heirloom tomatoes, prosciutto di parma, pesto and olive tapenade.

Add a little olive oil…

… and a sprinkle of salt…

… and voila! Fresh-pulled mozzarella with accoutrements are ready to eat!

Beyond the hands-on experience of making fresh-pulled mozzarella for 12 other journalists to eat and pretend to like (all the while hiding their discarded and spitted-out portions in their linen napkins), the night was not over. Da Campo Osteria invited us to seven additional groupings of food.

The Tagliatelle Amatriciana (left), which included pancetta, pomodoro and chili oil (and paired with a 2008 Antinori “Peppoli” Cianti Classico), was served with the Lemon Ricotta Ravioli, which included peperonata and brown sage butter (and paired with 2009 Antinori Cervaro de lla Sala).

The Lamb Meatballs Spaghetti, plated with ricotta and arugula, was paired with a 2007 Antinori Marchese Chianti Classico Riserva.

The Grilled Lamb T-Bone was served with white bean proscuitto ragu, rapini and balsamic port glaze, and paired with a 2007 Conn Creek Cabernet Sauvignon.

The Seared Diver Scallops with truffle potatoes, balsamic onion jam and salsa verde was paired with a 2009 Stag’s Leap wine cellar’s “Karia” Vine Yard.

Chef Quinn said this was one of the restaurant’s most popular dishes: Braised Osso Bucco served with mozzarella-filled polenta, gremolata, argula and pan gravy, and served with 2009 Antinori Guado Tasso “Bruciato.”

And to finish off the meal was a fantastic plate of light, refreshing house-made sorberti paired with limoncello.

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