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A special moment in cheese history was made in Toronto last Thursday, November 18, as Cheese Boutique's Maître Fromager Afrim Pristine and MLSE's current culinary director Chris Zielinski cut into one of the last produced 10-foot tall provolone cheeses, created by renowned Italian cheesemakers --Auricchio -- it's one of four left in the world.
"I don't know much about life, but I know about cheese," says Pristine. "This is a big deal."
Considered to be one of Italy's most famous provolone producers, Auricchio is known for creating some of the world's best cheese. Family-run since 1877, they stopped producing this jaw dropping cheese after production staff had concerns about how dangerous it could be to work with it. Thus, resulting in it truly being priceless. As described by Pristine, this provolone could be considered the Mona Lisa of cheese. It will never be made again.
As luck would have it, this provolone conceived in Italy found its way to Toronto due to Cheese Boutique's founder Fatos Pristine, who commissioned it after a chance encounter with those from Auricchio back in 2006. This giant 900lbs product spent over a decade ageing in the store's cheese vault.
"It was because of my dad really, and today I'm fairly emotional actually because of that," Pristine says, regarding Cheese Boutique's possession of this provolone. "It's been a part of my family for 15 years. I don't have kids, but this has been it for 15 years."
This provolone has gotten all sorts of visitors, from local celebrity chefs to even Hilary Duff, basking in its glory.
"This is something very special; this is something I hung up with my dad," Pristine says, noting how the tables have turned, as he recently took down the cheese with the help of his nephew Fatos Pristine Jr., a fourth generation at Cheese Boutique.
Finally reaching its peak flavour, the cheese was transported to its new home at Real Sports, where it was originally claimed 15 years ago by then culinary director Robert Bartley. Taking a minimum of 10 people to carry it, the transportation of the cheese from Cheese Boutique to Real Sports was even documented. Rolling out the red carpet for this one, this cheese isn't only special due to its one-of-a-kind nature, historic creation and lengthy ageing process, but also from a sentimental perspective from Pristine himself.
"This cheese will never be made again. We babied this thing and we cared for it and we gave it the love and the respect because, for me, cheese gave my family and me everything. Everything," Pristine says. "We're a 50-year family business and without cheese, I'm not standing in front of you today. So no matter what cheese I think about, I have respect for because of what it gave my family and me."
"I've cut thousands of cheese in my lifetime, but nothing like this, so we're going to see how it goes," Pristine says before surrounding the provolone with an army of chefs, taking around seven minutes to successfully split open the cheese.
To get your hands on a taste of this rare cheese, you'll have to make your way down to Real Sports and enjoy it on their new burger -- The Champ. You really won't be able to get this burger anywhere else in the city. Accompanying the Auricchio provolone is only the best. White truffle aioli, Ontario smoked bacon jam, fluffy brioche buns made via Cheese Boutique's baking program and a thick, grass-fed local Ontario beef patty, from of course, non-other than the Cheese Boutique. This blend of ground and aged-beef ends up tasting like a well-aged steak, paired with this sharp provolone, it's safe to say your burger cravings will be more than satisfied.
If you're looking to try this cheese, don't wait too long to visit Real Sports. According to Zielinski, the provolone is likely to only last until the end of December, as a result of how busy the restaurant gets on game nights.