Cafe Society

Fresh mozzarella: The texture is as important as the flavor

Are you a member of the date police? (I promise, this isn't going where you think it is.) Date police are folks who scrutinize labels and toss out food the nanosecond the expiration has passed. To a kitchen cop, if it's past the official "use by," it's outta there. I confess I have a quick trigger when it comes to tossing things out. While that may earn me my share of household ridicule when it comes to two-day-old take-out, it's definitely a good thing when it comes to fresh mozzarella. (That's not what you were thinking, now, was it?)

In this week's review, I give a shout out to Lucky Pie Pizza & Tap House for serving only fresh mozzarella at its cheese bar and saving leftovers for the next day's pizzas.

See also: - Good execution turns into good pizza at Lucky Pie - Lucky Pie's Joe Troupe on the woman who wanted her feet soaked -- and dried -- at his restaurant - Jorge de la Torre, dean of culinary education at Johnson & Wales University, dishes on Denver's best hummus, his students and surly service

Refrigeration, I pointed out, plays mean tricks on the texture of this soft, milky cheese. Some of you might have found this puzzling; after all, it's pretty hard to get fresh mozzarella that isn't refrigerated in this town. Even the good, freshly made stuff at Marczyk Fine Foods or Tony's Market is kept artificially cool.

So if everyone does it, why is it so bad? Unlike other cheeses that count on a healthy dose of bacteria for their signature taste, in mozzarella it's all about the milk. As a result, "the flavors are very delicate," explains Jorge de la Torre, dean of culinary education at Johnson & Wales University. "What you're enjoying is the fresh, still-soft texture."

That's right: When you take a bite of fresh mozzarella -- whether on a Caprese salad or with prosciutto on Lucky Pie's cheese plate -- you're tasting the texture as much as the flavor, if such as thing is possible. (And in the crazy inner workings of our cranium, who knows what is and isn't possible.)

To keep the lawyers happy, let me add that if fresh mozzarella isn't eaten the day it's made, it should, in fact, be kept under refrigeration, tightly wrapped in plastic. Just remember that when you take it out, the so-soft-it-pulls-apart cheese -- the one you paid a premium for -- will have morphed into a rubbery ball. Moral of the story? If you buy the good stuff, you should either eat it up or toss it out.

Or put it on a pizza.

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Gretchen Kurtz has worked as a writer for 25 years; during that time she's stomped grapes in Napa, eaten b'stilla in Fez, and baked with Buddy Valastro, aka the Cake Boss. Her work has appeared in publications including Boulevard (Paris), Diversion, the New York Times and Westword. Our restaurant critic since 2012, she loves helping you decide where to eat and drink tonight.
Contact: Gretchen Kurtz