Author Topic: Trying this one last time - Where can I find that delicious cheese used in NY?  (Read 13960 times)

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Offline elohel

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I've been desperately trying to replicate something that tastes even somewhat like NY pizza from the better pizza joints. For me, the biggest thing is the cheese - everyone in my family agrees that the cheese they use is just absolutely delicious. It has a lot of flavor, a slightly salty taste.. but whenever I use mozz and mozz blends, it just tastes like nothing. There is little to no flavor, no saltiness, etc.

I've tried several brands of block mozz from places like costco, walmart, etc. I've tried blending in my own amounts of provolone to amp up the flavor. I even blew $40 on a bag of Grande 50/50 mozz/prov and it still tasted like *nothing* was on the pizza. Currently my go-to pizza cheese is Cooper's Sharp American (it's seriously delicious), but it tastes nothing like a good mozz, of course. Does anyone have any suggestions on a specific brand of mozz that's readily available and tastes great on a pie?

Thanks for any help


Offline mbrulato

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I have not ventured into grating my own cheese, but I've been told by members who insist that grating your own is always better than buying shredded cheese.  There are ingredients added to shredded cheese that prevents clumping in the bag but makes eating it straight out of the bag no so great and it's probably not good for you.  I personally do not like the supermarket brands because they are either tasteless or burn too easily.

Although I have not purchased Grande for home use, I believe most pizzerias around here (NJ) use it.  You might try asking your favorite local pizzeria if they would sell you a bag or block of the cheese they use.  My pizzeria was out of Grande when I called but sold me a bag of Restaurant Depot's house brand Supremo Italiano.  It was delicious!  If you know someone who has a membership there, go!  They have a NY blend, a 3 cheese blend, plain mozzarella, etc. and they do a very good job of competing with brands like Grande.  I've read on the forum that Grande's quality has gone downhill and that RD's cheese is better.  A 5 pound bag of cheese is $12 and they also sell blocks as well but I don't know what the cost is.  I don't know if this helps you, but just my 2 cents based upon what I've read on the forum.  Good luck and I hope you find your perfect cheese ;D

Mary Ann
Mary Ann

Offline communist

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I agree that mozzarella, even Grande which I use, can be a bit bland.  I toss a handful of freshly grated Pecorino Romano on my pies, and it gives the whole pie a flavor kick.  Mark

Offline wheelman

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I've been playing around with NY and ordered flour and cheese from PennMac.  I got grande mozz and provolone blocks and am grating it on a box. 
http://www.pennmac.com/page/27/pizza-baking-supplies
bill

Offline mbrulato

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I agree that mozzarella, even Grande which I use, can be a bit bland.  I toss a handful of freshly grated Pecorino Romano on my pies, and it gives the whole pie a flavor kick.  Mark

Mark,

Good call!  I will definitely try Pecorino on my pizza.  I actually prefer Pecorino to Parmesean when using it on pasta, why not pizza?!

Thanks,
Mary Ann
Mary Ann

Offline norma427

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I tried Sagrento off the block shredded LMPS in bags recently and thought that mozzarella does melt well and has a good taste.  It is kind of expensive, but I recently found it on sale for 2 bags for 5.00.

In my opinion a good mild or medium cheddar in combination with mozzarella also is a good blend.

Norma
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Offline communist

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I actually prefer Pecorino to Parmesean when using it on pasta, why not pizza?!

Thanks,
Mary Ann
I agree with you Mary Ann.  Pecorino Romano is a pungent salty sheep's milk cheese that can stand up to the strong flavor of a tomato sauced pasta.  It is the same with a tomato sauce pizza.  Parmegiana Reggiano, the best imported parmesan cheese, has a wonderful flavor, but I believed it is overwhelmed when married to a tomato sauce.  Mark

scott123

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Jeremy, since we talked about this last, I've acquired some additional information on this subject. 

Let me first reiterate something I said previously.  You can have the best mozzarella cheese on the planet, but if you don't have the right thickness factor, the right sauce quantity/consistency, the right cheese grate size/quantity and the right oven setup, it won't melt properly and the taste will be impaired.  Cheese can't just melt. In order to give off it's full flavor, it has to bubble and very lightly brown.  In order to bubble, it has to get intense heat from below- and the only way that occurs is if the crust is thin enough. One wouldn't think that stretching skills are integral to the flavor of the cheese, but they are.  If you can't stretch a really thin pie, and you can't bake it up relatively quickly, forget getting the taste you're looking for out of the cheese.

Thicker crusts and inferior oven setups tend to produce pies that look like this:

http://student.plattsburgh.edu/kcuti001/ny/menu/cheese.jpg

The cheese is melted, but only barely melted- and thus is tasteless.

On the other end of the spectrum, when you bake at too low of a temp, for too long, the cheese will dry out and you'll get browning:

http://theravenousprincess.files.wordpress.com/2012/02/larosa-pizza-week-21.jpg

Technically, browning produces flavor, but it's not the flavor you want. Also, certain cheeses are more prone to browning than others.

Here's, imo, the perfect storm of all the factors that go into melting cheese (courtesy Bakeshack)

http://www.pizzamaking.com/forum/index.php?action=dlattach;topic=25297.0;attach=134303;image

Fast bake time, thin crust, good top heat, good cheese quantity, good cheese grate, proper sauce consistency (not too thick, not too watery), proper sauce quantity and a good quality commercial mozzarella.  Marlon happened to have done this in a wood fired oven, but you can achieve this in most home ovens with the right setup.

The bottom line, though, is that before you can even begin to start judging cheeses, your pizza making skills have to be pretty finely honed.

If you have all these factors dialed in and are just missing the high quality cheese aspect of the equation, here is my advice.

First, Grande has slipped in recent years, in a major way. Cosmetically, it's flawless.  It melts beautifully, but it has almost no flavor, other than salt.  When you walk into a NY pizzeria, one of the smells that should hit you as you open the door is buttered popcorn.  It should really be in your face.  This comes from the cheese, and, in a good cheese, will be detectable when you're grating it.  Whenever you grate cheese (and you should ALWAYS grate cheese by hand), grate a mound and then stick your face in it.  You should get a good whiff of buttery goodness. If you don't, the cheese is bunk.

Romano, provolone and cheddar are workarounds for flavor deprived mozzarella.  I don't mind a little romano on my pies, but a truly good mozzarella shouldn't require augmentation, and, while a few of the places I grew up with used hard cheese (most likely romano and parm), provolone has always been pretty rare and cheddar has been nonexistent.

So, you want a commercial mozzarella that isn't Grande.  I'm still looking for the mozzarella of my dreams, but, so far, I like the Calabro.  You probably won't have access to Calabro, though.  How far are you from St. Paul?  If you're close, I would find someone with a tax id and have them join up to Restaurant Depot.  Either that or call RD and try to finagle a one day pass ("I'm opening up shop, but don't have my paperwork in yet" or something to that effect).

The RD's house brand, as Maryann pointed out, is better than Grande, but you're going to want to try other brands as well.  You're best bet is to post the brands you have available here and we should be able to advise a course of action.

If you don't live near RD, then it's going to get harder but not impossible.  Wherever there's pizzerias, there's distributors selling commercial cheese.  Do your research and find one that sells to the public- or use the tax id you would have used for RD and find someone with a low minimum order.  If worse comes to worse, you can start going around to pizzerias and see if anyone will sell you cheese.  Offer them double what they're paying for it and someone should bite.

I'd like to be able to tell you buy cheese "X," but cheeses vary regionally, so I don't know what will be available to you. Minnesota isn't far from Wisconsin, and, while Grande is to be avoided, you should be able  to find a good Wisconsin wholesale mozzarella.  Remember, whole milk, low moisture, by the brick (6-7 lb.).

Unopened cheese has a relatively long shelf life, but I don't trust either the turnover or the shipping methods at Pennmac. Besides, the only viable candidate I see on their list is the F&A, and, at $42 plus shipping for a loaf, that's outrageous.  Your local pizzerias are most likely paying around $20 a loaf. If you offer them $30-$40, that should make it worth their while and you'll know you're getting fresh cheese. If you can, though, find out the brand they're using before you commit.
« Last Edit: October 07, 2013, 01:37:36 PM by scott123 »

Offline chasenpse

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Scott - How would you rate calabro vs the RD brand? I've got a friend who has a RD membership and just got the OK from her boss to use the account so I plan on picking up some supplies and ingredients to test out, would love to hear your opinion.
If Tetris has taught me anything, itís that errors pile up and accomplishments disappear.

scott123

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Nick, so far, my exposure to RD has only been second hand.  I've spoken with a pizzeria owner who's told me that the RD is superior to Grande, and I trust his opinion.  I just got an RD card of my own and will be checking out their cheeses within the next couple weeks. If they've got Calabro, I might go for that again over gambling on the RD.  Right now, if you've got both in front of you, I'd grab the Calabro. Calabro is out of of CT, so you might be able to track it down.

Out of a scale of 1 to 10, if the best cheese I've ever had (from my youth) was a 10, then I'd place Grande at 4 and Calabro at 7.

Edit:  Another means for tracking down the best cheese is color and texture.  There are exceptions (Grande), but I've found the best commercial cheeses to be the yellowest and the firmest.  Aging removes moisture and can cut into profits, so quite a few places like to cut corners and age their cheese a bit less.  The higher water content dilutes the flavor and creates a cheese that's more prone to curdling, though. Supermarket cheese is a classic example of cheese that's supposed to be aged, but really isn't and thus suffers greatly in the process.
« Last Edit: October 07, 2013, 01:24:34 PM by scott123 »


scott123

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Btw, I did some digging on Calabro and found this:

http://www.calabrocheese.com/cheese2.html

Quote
Our Mozzarella is soft and elastic in texture and creamy white in color. It bakes consistently to perfect stringiness and has become a standard not only on the dairy shelves, but in the institutional markets as well. Frank J. Pepe's Pizza of New Haven, where the pizza originated, uses exclusively or Mozzarella.

Now, I think we know, for certain, that Pepe's mixes up it's cheese brands, based on pricing, but it's still interesting.

Also, before I forget, I want to give a huge shout out to Nick (Gabaghool) for both turning me on to the Calabro and for confirming my ideas about the buttered popcorn aspect of great cheese.

Offline mbrulato

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Scott,

Do you know if RD has Calabro brand?

Mary Ann
Mary Ann

scott123

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Mary Ann, Pine Brook had me on hold for 15 minutes, but I was able to get through to the Dairy/Deli department in Union and they told me they only carry the Calabro 'balls,' which means they only carry the fresh mozzeralla, not the aged.

I'm pretty sure that we should be able to find something better than Calabro.
« Last Edit: October 07, 2013, 02:16:54 PM by scott123 »

Offline Pete-zza

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Scott,

As you can see from Reply 4 at http://www.pizzamaking.com/forum/index.php/topic,3545.msg29973.html#msg29973, I inquired at Calabro about Pepe's use of their cheeses. I guess they are going slow with their redesign of their website. It's been about seven years now.

Peter

Offline communist

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Scott, hold your horses!  I really like Grande, especially its resistance to browning and meltability.  Romano gives it the flavor kick it needs.  I have made 30 pies with Grande for two events over the past 2 weeks, and have gotten rave reviews.  I have used Grande for years now.  Granted, we all have our favorite brands, and over the years forum regulars have their favorites, which I respect.  I admire your critical pizza expertise - but rating Grande a 4 is a bit too extreme, IMHO :D  Mark

scott123

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As you can see from Reply 4 at http://www.pizzamaking.com/forum/index.php/topic,3545.msg29973.html#msg29973, I inquired at Calabro about Pepe's use of their cheeses.

Thanks, Peter, that's great to know.  I wouldn't be at all surprised if the Calabro's was a bit more expensive, and that, once the younger generation of the Pepe's clan took over, they started cutting corners.  Not that Pepe's cheese is bad, mind you, but the cheese I had (possibly Polly-O) when I was there wasn't as good as Calabro.

scott123

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I admire your critical pizza expertise - but rating Grande a 4 is a bit too extreme, IMHO :D  Mark

 ;D Mark, didn't you just say that Grande is kind of bland?  What would make you feel better? A 5 out of 10?   :)

I have a cheese in my mind and am on a quest to find it. If I do, it will make Grande look like a 4, trust me. In the mean time, keep an eye out for Calabro.  If you try Calabro, you'll never go back to Grande. Cheese can get pretty subjective, but I guarantee you that if you, personally, do a double blind taste test between the Calabro and the Grande, you'll choose the Calabro.
« Last Edit: October 07, 2013, 03:06:20 PM by scott123 »

Offline communist

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, keep an eye out for Calabro. you'll never go back to
I have had Calabro ricotta, and it is very good.  Unfortunately, I have not been able to get in ordered in thru my local Price Chopper any more.  I will try to track down the mozzarella.   Mark

scott123

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Also, Mark, just to be fair, my 1 to 10 scale doesn't include supermarket mozzarella. It's only commercial mozzarellas- that all tend to melt really well and are somewhat close in flavor. I think that most of us on the forum, if we're really focusing on the cheese, can tell the difference between calabro and grande, but many of your guests might not. I'm definitely splitting hairs  ;D

Offline Chaze215

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Scott, the RD by me sells block Saputo mozzarella. I'm a fan since u told me about Frigo sold at Shoprite.
Chaz


 

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