Grana Padano…if Parmesan is the king of cheeses, then Grana is its Grandparent.
Born about 1,000 years before Parm, Grana is the original hard cheese. It is also severely underrated. Find one that is aged around 16 months, you will be happy you sought it out! These cows are afforded more scenery, walking a meandering path. They can eat flowers as well as grass giving this cheese a smooth delicate flavor & texture. This is fantastic over pasta, salad or drizzled with a good honey, such as lavender!
I think that the greatest shame of hard cheese is that all anyone ever wants to is grate it, which I personally find is madness. My preference is to either break into chunks or simply flake it off. The latter is my favorite way.
When you look at cheese, you see that there are natural grooves in it. This is where the flavor is. If you cut cheese into cubes, (in my humble opinion, an atrocity and total waste of cheese) you lose the essence of the flavor. When broken into chunks or flaked off, you get all the wonderful subtleties that cheese holds.
Always make sure you are shopping with a reputable dealer. The real deal on imported cheese is that they are generally stamped for authenticity.
I know that there are plenty of those who feel that Parm is the only way to go, however I say that you should at the very least give it a taste. At worst, you won’t love it as much, at best you will love it more!
For more on Grana Padano check out these sites: