Roll In The Cheese | Valentina Cirasola | Author and Designer

Hello everyone,
I am back after one month of vacation and preparation of the launch for my book #3 , just published last weekend.

(Find cheese utensils at:
(Find cheese markers at

It is so vivid in my mind how many times I have eaten cheeses at the end of each lunch and dinner in this last trip back home to Europe.
Europeans eat cheese with ease because they walk a lot, thus burn those calorie day by day. Cheese is not seen as something to entertain with, but something to enjoy everyday with a glass of wine.
In Europe we serve it without any pretense, we take cheese out of the refrigerator while we are preparing dinner and we leave it on the counter at room temperature to bring out the full bloom of each taste. The same is valid when serving cheeses at parties.

(Find cheese pots and boards at:
Many serving utensils are part of the ritual of putting cheese on the table, from knives, cleavers, marker signs to fondue pots, raclette grill and cheese cart.
There is nothing sophisticated about serving plain cheese. It comes from the milk of an animal and often is kept in rustic stone cellars, or left to ferment for months.
I can’t wait to have a bunch of boisterous friends sitting around a fondue pot tasting the latest cheese I brought from Europe. I have a Canestrato Pugliese, aged in caves for a year, with a hard rind and dark yellow interior color.  The mature version is savory and aromatic. Best paired with a red Primitivo from Manduria, a wine with a lot of round body.

The vessels needed to serve any cheese are slate stones, wooden boards, marble slabs, or clay platters, the rougher the better. It is good to mark each cheese with the proper marker fork to distinguish goat cheese from cow or sheep milk products and in the absence of these small markers, a hand-written tag placed near each specialty will suffice. The basic cutlery is simple: a cleaver and a semi-heart shaped knife will cut hard and semi-hard cheeses; a thin blade knife will cut a semi-soft cheeses and a round knife will be the spreader for soft cheeses; a shaver will help shaving the cheese, although this utensil is more used at the table to shave a hard cheese directly over the plate. If you want to get fancy and make a good presentation add grape scissors to all cheese cutleries.
One of my favorite cutters is the Swiss scraper “Girolle” used with “Tête de Moine” or Monk’s Head, a cheese from switzerland. The Girolle will shave the “Tête de Moine” cheese in small florettes, or ruffles. It is an expensive cheese, but it is worth it.

(Photo above found on:

I have seen cheese paired with jelly, grapes, edible flowers or other extravagant food. My favorite accompaniments are raw celery or fennel slivers, olives, nuts, or chicory heads to cut the sharp smell and balance the flavors. Don’t be afraid of serving smelly cheeses. The fermented cheeses at the end of a dinner are good to help the digestion. If you add truffle sliced paper-thin over any soft cheese, mamma mia, what a kick in flavor and in the presentation!

Stores are filling up with all kinds of food and table accessories. This is the right time to get some of these fun utensils and make your food look really good for the holidays.
Once they are in your kitchen repertoire, you will find that it is easier to treat yourself everyday, rather than waiting for the holiday to roll around to use them again.

Cheeses are a good source of calcium and protein. Don’t be afraid of having small bites everyday. Visit my Pinterest board for food inspiration –

Copyright © 2012 Valentina Cirasola, All Rights Reserved

Valentina Cirasola has been a lifetime designer in fashion and interiors. Her extensive knowledge of colors and materials led her in both directions successfully. Besides her regular work, Valentina is now teaching etiquette, table manners, table setting and life-style. Her deep interest in food led her as an autodidact in the studies of food in history, natural remedies, nutrition and well-being, then finally she wrote two books on Italian regional cuisine and one book on the subject of colors. Find Valentina’s three books on



Dinner At 7:00 pm | Valentina Cirasola | Author and Designer



Dusk is coloring the sky with ochre color and tone down shades of red, the evening will be arriving soon, the aroma of food is filling the home, the clink of wine glasses and flatware is making the air festive.

You just get dressed beautifully, take a bottle or two of wine, or dessert as a gift to the host and show up at 7:00 pm at your host’s door. If the invitation comes from an Italian family, be ready to do some serious eating and enjoy the most delicious food always prepared by the host.

In Italian homes the dining table is never decorated in a fussy way with useless objects on it. The table is dressed for food, Italian people entertaining with tasty simplicity, but they get you with food. The menu valorizes quality, variety and simplicity. Appearance of food is an important part of what makes our food so appetizing, especially when the table is filled with food of bright vivid colors. Food is the most important subject in the Italian culture. We get up in the morning and we already talk of what we are going to eat for lunch, or dinner. Shopping for food falls in the daily chores and in between work, family and errands.

We take out our small trolleys to the market and fill it with fish, vegetable, charcuterie, meat, cheese (let’s not forget the cheeses, please) and fresh breads. It seems like a whole lot of food, but it will last for a few days. A few items are bought daily, the majority will serve to make the simplest and most flavorful food.
(Click on each photo to view it larger).

Let’s go back to dinner at 7:00 pm. When you get invited by an Italian family at 7:00 it always means dinner, not after dinner drink get together, as some people think. In fact a few days ago, some friends of mine were telling me about their disappointment when they invite people of different race in their home for the evening and they come with a full stomach with the answer is “sorry we already ate, we can’t eat anymore”. Imagine how the host feels after cooking all day and really looking forward to sit down with friends to relax. And how about all that food that goes untouched, not good. My suggestions was to specify that the invitation is for dinner and not for goofing around after dark. On the other hand, those people who eat at 5:00 in the afternoon might think that dinner at 7:00 pm  is too late and refuse the invitation. Oh well, we can’t please everybody. Italians love to eat dinner with the moon rays, not sun rays.

Dinners in the evening will extend well into the small hours of the night. It starts with an apéritif and hors-d’oeuvres of different kind, wet with prosecco sparkling wine. Conversation, jokes and laughs fill the air until every guest is in. Then the real dinner start, either sitting down or self-service type, in either case, the plates are ceramics and the cutlery are not plastic. This is for the respect of the guests and for the respect of food.
Dinner consists of many different courses from pasta or rice, fish or meat and various vegetables.
Wine, wine and wine is served.

In the winter the fireplace is on making the evening really cozy, in the summer all the windows and doors to the balconies are open to get the fresh breeze in.

Conversation shifting from politics to religion, from gossip to intellectual subjects keeps the night young. Italians love to talk about everything, political correctness is not the center of their world.

The evening dinner ends with a cart filled of cheeses to roll around the guests, more wines to pair with the cheeses variety and later, the same cart will bring the desserts, cookies or pastries. Thank goodness Italian sweets are not that sweet so we can indulge in more than one portion. Conversation continues smoothly with coffee, teas or more wines for people like me who don’t drink coffee at night.

At this point, soft music comes on, some guests will leave and some will remain, but those who will stay will enjoy a very nice glass of Port, Whiskey or Brandy culminating the conversation in something really intellectual, pleasant and interesting.
It’s an honor to eat at someone’s dining table, breaking bread together is an act of sharing love, intimacy and friendship since the beginning of time.

Dinner at 7:00 pm is a serious business for the Italians, don’t go unprepared. Ciao,

Copyright © 2011 Valentina Cirasola, All Rights Reserved

Valentina Cirasola is an Italian Interior Designer with a passion for kitchens and cooking. She loves to remodel homes and loves to turn ugly spaces into castles, but especially loves to design kitchens and wine grottos.
She is  the author of two regional Italian cookbooks available in this site at the Books Page: Come Mia Nonna – A Return To Simplicity.
Sins Of A Queen – Italian Appetizers and Desserts















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