Back in December, Chef Elizabeth Falkner traveled to Razza in Jersey City to demonstrate the versatility of Emmi USA Swiss Cheese.
By Rowan O’Connell-Gates
Pizza and Italy go together like coffee and cream. So it’s understandable that many purists bristle at the idea of making pies without the traditional Italian ingredients of tomato, mozzarella, and basil. Elizabeth Falkner is out to challenge that narrow minded approach. On December 16th, Falkner kicked off her “Swiss Cheese Pizza Tour” with a guest chef appearance at Razza in Jersey City, NJ.
Falkner has partnered with the largest Swiss cheese importer, Emmi USA, to promote the use of Swiss cheese as a viable topping for America’s favorite food. Dan Richer is the chef at Razza and he generally uses just two cheeses on his pizza: Mozzarella, and Scamorza. Both are Italian, so one can understand Richer’s surprise when the evenings Swiss cheese pizzas came out both delicious and beautifully melted.
“I tested seven or so of [Emmi USA’s] cheeses and they all melt so nicely, better than--I'm going to say it--better than any Italian cheese melts,” Richer said. “We’re always thinking about different cheeses and trying to achieve specific characteristics out of the cheese, and meltability is pretty much the main characteristic that we're looking for in pizza cheese, and all of the swiss cheese’s melt incredibly well.”
Falkner and Richer spent the evening creating three different Swiss cheese pizzas, “Swiss Onion Soup Pizza”, “Alpha Marseilles”, and “Finnochio 2.0”. The pizzas sported very different flavor profiles but all included at least one of the Emmi USA Swiss cheese varieties provided: Emmentaler AOP, Le Gruyère AOP, and Kaltbach Le Gruyère AOP.
Those trying the Swiss cheese creations were first offered a plate of the Emmi USA cheeses. Having the opportunity to try the cheeses in both their natural state and melted on a pizza, deepened the overall experience and ones appreciation for the flavor of Emmi USA’s cheeses.
When it came time for pizza, I settled on the “Finnochio 2.0”. Falkner created the pie as an homage to a 2012 Fennel pizza that won her a pizza competition in Naples, Italy. Back then, it featured a classic Italian cheese, Caciocavallo. At Razza? Le Gruyère AOP.
“I wanted that braised fennel, cause I just love that flavor in this cold weather,” Falkner said. “So its quadruple fennel, you've go braised fennel with onions as the base, fennel sausage, fennel fronds, and then it gets hit with fennel pollen or ground up fennel seeds at the end.”
In a word, the pizza was phenomenal. As was her savory-sweet deconstructed dessert of apple tarte tatin, cultured cream, and shaved Kaltbach Le Gruyère AOP. And the beauty of Falkner’s tour is that no single night will be the same. After Razza she’s headed to Zero Zero in San Francisco, Chauhan Ale & Masala House in Nashville, Pizzeria Lola in Minneapolis, and many more. For each venue Falkner will tailor the Swiss cheeses to the ingredients and culinary style of her hosts. At Chauhan Ale & Masala House, Falkner already has plans to use the Northern Indian restaurants Naan as a vessel for the melted Swiss cheeses. And at Pizzeria Lola, Falkner hopes to tap into Chef Ann Kim’s Korean inspired cuisine.
“ [We want to go to] Mozza in LA, still working on a date for that but Nancy Silvertons a friend of mine,” Falkner said. “[In fact] all these guys are friends of mine so i'm like "Hey, let's do some swiss cheese pizzas together!”