January 20, 2015

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Grana Padano Cheese shipped from Italy

"We still bring in the giant wheels of Grana Padano cheese from Italy"

When Bus Fuller and his son Stan opened their first Earls in the early eighties it was a simple beer and burger restaurant. Stan knew his burgers well, after all he had grown up in the business, but he wanted to start to elevate the food, so he traveled to some of the world’s great food countries for inspiration.

First on the list was Italy. Stan tasted Italian pasta, learned what really fresh tomato sauce tasted like and knew that his chefs, given these fresh ingredients, could create simple versions of these classic dishes for his guests back home. Caesar salad, balsamic vinegar & olive oil dip for breads, authentic Italian pasta all joined the menu – all they were missing was the real Italian cheese.

Back in the early eighties “parmesan”, a powdery sorry excuse for Parmiagina Reggiano was what was available to consumers – but Stan knew better, he had tasted the real thing in Italy.  Parmiagina Reggiano, made with a low fat milk from grass and hay fed cows matured to a hard wheel in cellars throughout the Parma and Reggio Emilia regions of Italy. Parmiagina and its cousin Grana Padano had a distinct flavour and texture that could not be replicated, nor did he want to, asking his chefs to bring in the real thing to the old Earls test kitchen in North Vancouver. 

A few weeks later a 60 pound wheel of Parmiagina from Italy showed up. It took a year, several types of knives, including an axe, and finally another trip to Italy to learn the technique for cutting the wheel into manageable chunks for grating, all while trying varying producers of the cheese. In the end, an 18 month aged Grano Padano, a close cousin of Parmiagina from the neighboring region, aged slightly longer to smooth out the more course texture of the Parmiagina and sweeter than its salty cousin, was the cheese of choice. To this day we still bring in the giant wheels of Grana Padano cheese from Italy for our Caesar salad and pastas, cut up the wheels by hand then hand grate our cheese daily. It’s the same cheese you would get in Italy and the same cheese we have been proudly serving for over 30 years.