Janny Hu, Published Sunday August SF Chronicle Food Section
Now that summer tomatoes are finally rounding into form, few pairings are as stellar, or as simple, as sliced tomatoes topped with burrata.
This fresh Italian cheese is as decadent as it gets - a soft shell of mozzarella filled with stringy curds and cream. Put it on tomatoes with a little salt, pepper, olive oil and basil, and you've got a dish bursting with summer.
But as our panelists noted, even plain burrata is a treat. Of the six brands we found in supermarkets and tasted without any fixings, one was good enough on its own to make our Hall of Fame, reserved for products scoring 80 or more out of a possible 100 points.
Di Stefano ($8.49 for 8 ounces at Rainbow Grocery) was a runaway hit, "fresh" and "tender" with a "silky texture" and "creamy, stretchy curds." This burrata was also "very flavorful" - "a little on the salty side," but with "lots of grassy milk flavor" and "a pleasant tang." One taster gave it a perfect score, and all five panelists would buy.
Second place belonged to BelGioioso ($7.99 for 8 ounces at Andronico's), whose "creamy" burrata had "a very delicious milkiness" and a "fresh" flavor, if a bit "under-seasoned." Texturally, this had a "good dual" nature - "soft, tender interior with a slightly firm skin." Three would buy, one might and one would not.
Trader Joe's ($4.99 for 8 ounces at Trader Joe's) was third. While this burrata had a "nice milkiness," its flavor was characterized as "unremarkable," with several panelists commenting that it needed salt. It also had a "singular texture" that veered toward the "dense, rather than stretchy." One would buy and one might, but three would not.
Just behind, in fourth place, was Berkeley's Belfiore ($6.99 for 8 ounces at Whole Foods). With its "pleasant but subtle taste," and "stiff and slightly dry" interior, many likened this to the burrata from Trader Joe's - and indeed, both the Belfiore and Trader Joe's cheeses came in identical plastic tubs. Three would buy and two might.
Angelo & Franco ($6.99 for 8 ounces at Rainbow Grocery) finished fifth, failing to impress with its "watery" interior and "rubbery" exterior. With chewy curds that "last like chewing gum," none of the tasters would buy this brand.
Excerpt taken from The Rosengarten Report issue #74...
BEST IN SHOW: THE ONE AND ONLY MIND-BLOWING PUGLIA-STYLE BURRATA
Drop everything: when it comes to burrata in America, Di Stefano is da bomb. And it's made in southern California.
In fact, Di Stefano, owned and operated by the Bruno family, was the key player in the L.A.-driven development of burrata in the U.S. Back in the 1980s, an earlier incarnation of the current Di Stefano company was already making burrata—possibly the first ones in the U.S. to do so with wide commercial intentions—but having no luck selling it. Mimmo Bruno, the patriarch, told me that "in that decade, I went around to all the restaurants in L.A. with my burrata. No one knew what it was.....and they all said......they would never put this on the menu! In fact, it was the Italian chefs who were the most resistant....they didn't want to take a chance!" However, one L.A.-based Italian-restaurant chef saw its potential, even then: Nancy Silverton of Campanile. Starting in the early 1990s, it cracked her menu—and she is still buying Di Stefano burrata today (along with a few others she buys, and the one she now makes herself!) for her conglomerate of restaurants.
(HISTORICAL NOTE: My wonderful friend Piero Selvaggio of the legendary Valentino in Santa Monica— one of the most gentlemanly men you'll ever meet in the restaurant business—claims that Mimmo has his history wrong. Selvaggio says that after he discovered burrata in Italy around 1990—and loved it, but worried about its import logistics—he found a local cheesemaker artisan in L.A. that he convinced to make burrata. That artisan was, of course, Mimmo Bruno. "Only later, Piero says, "did Nancy Silverton, and then Michael McCarthy"—of the extremely 1990s-trendy Michael's—"get interested.")
Val girl time: WHATEVERRRR!
The important thing is that this historic company— perhaps because it has the experience—is now making the greatest burrata in the U.S. "When Mimmo first made burrata," Selvaggio told me, "it was a 7. Today..... it's a 10."
Burrata is basically an improvisation, because no one has The Recipe from the old country. There is no The Recipe from the old country. They use different milk there, and that gives Pugliese burrata a whole different character. So the game in the U.S. is working your way towards an American approximation of that Italian taste and texture, whatever it takes.
This is why Di Stefano—which, by the way, surfaced as an independent Bruno-family company in 2008, devoted only to burrata production—has excelled: they have been more clever than anyone else in solving the puzzle, having invented a new and dazzling method for making the filling. They take a 6-lb. ball of mozzarella, stretch it into one long string, chill it, and then shred it finely. To these shreds cream is added—imported cream from Italy.
When you receive your Di Stefano burrata, it comes in a crinkly white bag, kind of held in place by a plastic green approximation of a leaf, and a paper green tie. However, when you open the bag and turn it upside down, the burrata slithers out, oozing into its own spread-out shape.....not unlike Grandpa's belly when he sits down. Touch it. Squeeze it. Not grandpa's belly, the burrata. It feels something like a waterbed. And it feels a lot like you're squeezing something you're not supposed to squeeze.
When you cut into it, there is some splooge; intriguingly, however, it was not the sploogiest of our burratas (that honor goes to DeLaurenti of Seattle). But you will soon note some extraordinary things. The mozzarella skin is incredibly thin, almost diaphanous, with the perfect bounce and chew. It's stretchy, that skin....but the truly incredible thing is the stretchiness of the shreds within! They are stretchy, stringy, and impossibly airy..... almost foamy in their airiness. And extremely buttery-milky in flavor. AND....despite a deficit of running splooge.....the shreds seem to soaking in splooge, retaining the splooge, carrying it with them into your waiting mouth. The whole fragile miracle just takes my breath away.
BEST STRATEGY FOR ACQUISITION:
Here's the good news: Di Stefano is carried at Whole Foods, nationwide, when available. Here's the bad news: Di Stefano is claiming that their burratas are good for 30 days (the 8-ounce ones), and you will often see them at Whole Foods towards the outer limit of that expiration date.
Now here's the GREAT NEWS: Di Stefano makes batches of their burrata daily, and the fabulous one I tasted was just three days old. Wanting no less than the best for you.....we have convinced Di Stefano to guarantee that Rosengarten Report readers will receive Di Stefano burratas that are not older than 3 days! Miracolo! To get your Rosengarten's Table, 3-day-old burrata, order online at:
After you order your burrata, email Stefano at email@example.com. Tell him you are a Rosengarten Report reader, and he will ensure you get burrata from the freshest batch--three days old or less!
For the full article including the top 10 burrata and in-depth history and information on burrata, please go here:
"Last night dinner plans in NYC went a bit haywire, so to stave off the hunger, Mamma Parla and I swung by Chelsea Market to grab a few snacks to prepare at a friend’s place while we regrouped. Our choices were a tribute to southern Italy: a bottle of Villa Raiano Greco di Tufo from the Wine Vault, burrata from the very new Lucy’s Whey, and a durum wheat loaf from Amy’s Bread. I was especially impressed by the burrata, which was as creamy and flavorful as any I’ve had in Andria..." - Katie Parla
Brought to you by Food & Wine, sponsored by KitchenAid
Nancy Silverton and Mario Batali make Burrata with Speck, Peas and Mint at the 2009 Food & Wine Classic in Aspen.
Featured in Chowhound, San Francisco Bay Area
Exquisite Di Stefano burrata alla panna … with Italian cream
For weeks I’ve been stalking the burrata wrapped in the green and white packaging and tied, with ribbons. I’ve saw it at Whole Foods today, but my stalking was done at Berkeley Bowl.
I was never there on the day it came in … or I wasn’t going home immediately … etc.
It is delivered at the Berkeley Bowl on Monday, Wednesday and Friday. I bought the last tomatoes for the season on Sunday at Tomato Heaven.
On Monday I made the trek to the Bowl to pick up that just-delivered burrata. It seems that the date might not matter as much as other burrata due to the cream that is used. I had not read this Chronicle article about the burrata until just now when I was Googling to see if there was a website.
It says “the Brunos import cream from Italy. American heavy cream, even the richer manufacturing cream, did not produce results they liked. The interior quickly became hard, says Stefano, while with the Italian panna (cream), the filling remains moist and supple for at least three weeks.”
The burrata at A16 is still on my to-try list The best I’ve had was from Ubuntu. This is better than that.
FYI, according to the cheese maker, the sell by date on the package is 21 days from the date the cheese is made. With Berkeley Bowl, check the date. There was still cheese from Friday’s delivery.
However the Chronicle reviewer ate the burrata two weeks after the make date and wrote “In my experience, burrata sours quickly, losing the fresh, sweet creaminess that is its best feature. But the Di Stefano burrata was luscious, with a thin, intact "skin" of mozzarella surrounding dreamy, buttery, cream-laced curds. It was faintly tart but not remotely sour.”
Since mine was just made it was nothing but sweet, fresh creaminess and so very delicate. It is just as good today.
The cheese maker is 18 years old.
A few restarantsthat had it on the menu; Zuni, Spork. Parcel 104
I just finished the tomato and burrata with lovely eggplant parmigana I made from a variety of Italian eggplant from Tomato Heaven. The last official taste of summer.
Featured in the LA magazine
Featured in the San Francisco Chronicle
Burrata, mozzarella's rich cousin
Sunday, Oct. 4, 2009
Like father, like son. If Stefano Bruno's burrata is really delicious - and it is - it's because he learned at the hands of a master.
Mimmo Bruno, Stefano's father, grew up in the southern Italian region of Puglia, home base for burrata, and has been making cheese since he was a child. Today Mimmo is the national sales manager for BelGioioso, a Wisconsin producer of Italian-style cheeses, and he is Stefano's backer in a new cheesemaking venture in Southern California.
The 9-month-old Di Stefano dairy makes one product only: burrata. Stefano's father may have taught him the cheesemaking, but the young man runs the enterprise. He is all of 18. Because he has recently started college, studying business economics, hired hands make the cheese.
"He started the company for me," says Stefano of his father, "but he's watching over everything I do."
Burrata, a cheese that few Americans knew five years ago, has stormed the nation. Several domestic companies make it now, but some retailers still carry product flown in from Italy. Mozzarella's rich and stylish cousin, burrata can replace it as a partner for tomatoes when you want to serve a more indulgent and less predictable insalata caprese.
To make burrata, the cheesemaker starts with mozzarella - fresh cow's-milk curd kneaded in hot water until pliable. Some of the curd is torn into shreds, called stracciatelle ("rags") in Italian. Another piece of curd is stretched into a thin sheet. The shreds are mixed with heavy cream and then encased in the sheet, like jewels in a drawstring pouch.
For the Di Stefano burrata, the Brunos import cream from Italy. American heavy cream, even the richer manufacturing cream, did not produce results they liked. The interior quickly became hard, says Stefano, while with the Italian panna (cream), the filling remains moist and supple for at least three weeks.
Had I know that the piece I purchased was 2 weeks old, I probably would not have bought it. I only figured that out later, when Stefano told me that the pull date on the package is 21 days from the make date. In my experience, burrata sours quickly, losing the fresh, sweet creaminess that is its best feature. But the Di Stefano burrata was luscious, with a thin, intact "skin" of mozzarella surrounding dreamy, buttery, cream-laced curds. It was faintly tart but not remotely sour.
Bring burrata to room temperature before serving. Cut it into thick wedges; it is too soft to slice. The Di Stefano burrata weighs 8 ounces, perfect for four. Stefano recommends enjoying it on toast with salt, freshly ground black pepper and a drizzle of extra-virgin olive oil. Top with roasted peppers, if you like. A dry rosé or a Sardinian Vermentino would be a good companion.
Look for Di Stefano burrata at Draeger's Markets and Mollie Stone's (both with multiple locations), Petaluma Market, Molinari Delicatessen in San Francisco, Roberts in Woodside, Piedmont Grocery in Oakland, and many other Bay Area locations.