The next time you find yourself admiring a display of viola flowers, think to the cows that graze contentedly on these dainty blooms. Affectionately known as “the cheese of the violas”, Plaisentif is a raw, full fat, cow’s milk cheese that is produced during June when lush alpine pastures burst into color with violas. It is only in this period that the milk possesses a unique taste that hints of floral notes with an essence of nature.
Photo credit: Viola! by Steve Cavrich, CC BY-NC-ND 2.0
The restrictions to producing Plaisentif (only when the violas are in bloom) means that this cheese belongs to a niche market and is bound by certain particularities. The rounds must be aged for a minumum of 80 days – any amount less than that disqualifies it as Plaisentif. Authenticity is assured only if it has the “P” and flower logo branded on the top, and the mass sale of cheese to the public occurs only during the Plaisentif fair which takes place on the 3rd Sunday in September in Perosa Argentina.
Not knowing who does the best, or if we should seek out a producer in particular, we ended up at the display stand of Stefano Aglì. There was a very nice lady who gave us a taste of her Plaisentif and informed us that the higher the cows graze, the better. On average, the rounds are aged for 90 days, and the first thing that came to mind was something definitely floral going on in the overall taste, but in a very delicate way. The texture is semi-hard, with a yellowish hue. We picked up a quarter round for just under 7€.
The Plaisentif fair is a fun event to bring the whole family to (doggies too!) as it includes a parade and contest of the best-decorated carriole (wheelbarrows), medieval characters going about, and waffle-like gofri for purchase in the main square. I made a brief clip of that day and in the beginning there is a foot-powered mill grinder that looks like too much fun!