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Local cheese challenge!

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Someone started a thread a while back claiming there was no "proper" cheese in the US. Of course s/he was quickly disabused of this notion. However, that brings up an interesting phenomenon: the rise of artisan cheese making across the US.

Now, I live in Northern California. We're incredibly spoiled with the amazing array of local products and always on the first wave of any food trend. But more and more I'm running across references to artisan cheesemakers in places I don't think of as food trendsetters, most recently Tennessee.

So here's a the challenge: find the cheesemaker closest to you, whether it's just down the road or 100 miles away. It might be closer than you think!

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  1. Indiana here. This is a place not typically thought of as a chowish destination or a foodie haven, yet there are some wonderful artisanal and/or farmstead cheeses to be found within a short drive time for me (< 3 hrs). Offhand, the producers I can think of are Jacobs and Brichford Cheese, Caprini Creamery, Canal Junction Cheese, and Traders Point Creamery (all of which are farmstead, I believe). There's also a local cheesemaker who uses extra Traders Point milk to create flavored cheeses. Of course, there is the nationally recognized and quite well known Capriole goat cheese!

    I am delighted by the trend in local cheesemaking (and the production of quality local food in general!_

    2 Replies
    1. re: nofunlatte

      I am obsessed with Swiss Connection's grass fed Kase (raw milk) and Maybury (pasteurized) cheddars. They are located in Clay City, Indiana. They have several other cheeses available as well.

      1. re: Smores

        I forgot about Swiss Connection! Yes, I've had the Kase (not the Maybury, though). Hmmm, time to make a cheese tour of Indiana.

    2. I live in the Seattle-Tacoma area, so of course Beecher's is a well-known (and often-visited) local cheese producer.

      Another one I tried for the first time about a year ago is Mt. Townsend Creamery, located in Port Townsend on the Olympic Peninsula. They have some soft cheeses that are nice, and I really liked their New Moon and Red Alder cheeses.

      This is a great challenge. There are a food number of WA state cheese producers located on my side of the mountains...I am going to make it a mission to try them all!

      6 Replies
      1. re: jlhinwa

        jlhinwa,

        try Samish Bay cheese in Bow,Wa(exit 235? I think) off I-5,
        samishbaycheese.com.It's a working farm,organic,raise their own meats also.
        Just stopped yesterday on way home from Vancouver,BC and dropped an easy $150 on fresh and aged selection of cheeses and their own sausages.
        Good luck!

        1. re: grangie angie

          I bought BC cheeses on my last trip to Vancouver. The Tiger Blue was one of the best blue cheeses I've ever had.

          I'm going to try to find cheeses made in my county -- I'm currently not aware of any, although in my childhood we would visit a cheese factory in Pleasanton, which is in the south eastern part of my county. I wouldn't be surprised if there were cheesemakers again in that area.

          1. re: Ruth Lafler

            I'll be really curious to see if you find any!

            1. re: Caitlin McGrath

              A quick search turned up these in Alameda and Contra Costa counties:

              Pacific Cheese in Hayward manufactures and wholesales cheese
              http://www.pacificcheese.com/our-story/

              Belfiore in Berkeley
              http://www.belfiorecheese.com/

              Berkeley Farms makes cottage cheese
              http://www.berkeleyfarms.com/products...

              Queso Salazar in Brentwood
              http://www.homecook.me/quesosalazar

              Then some other dairy producers that popped up, but not making cheese now.

              Challenge Dairy in Dublin makes butter, but no cheese afaik
              http://challengedairy.com/our-story/c...

              Pavel's Yogurt in San Leandro, but no cheese afaik
              http://pavels.net/

              Safeway processes fluid milk in San Leandro
              http://inside.mines.edu/~anewman/safe...

              1. re: Melanie Wong

                Yeah, I'd spaced about Belfiore.

          2. re: grangie angie

            Thank you for the recommendation! We will have to make the trip up there.

            I like this challenge...it's going to be a lot of fun!

            We tried cheese curds for the first time two weeks ago while in Wisconsin. Mr.jlh loved them...of course it just so happens that Beecher's sells cheese curds in their Pike Place Market store. Tomorrow's family day outing is going to include a stop at Beecher's. we've been there a number of times but it never gets old for me.

        2. Great idea!
          As one who lives in France you might think I'd be spoiled for choice. The fact is that in my local area all I can get is chevre. Mind you I can get a wonderful variety of these wonderful cheeses.

          To get an array of the many other cheeses in France I have to go to a specialist cheese shop of my local Hypermarket. At lunch today we had: gaperon, cantal, Neufhatal & Forme de Aumbert.. Wonderful cheeses, but none them truly local.

          So, keep up the good work. When, if ever, we return to the states we'll have a valuable reference.

          1. Utah surprisingly has a few!
            Just up the road 20 minutes from me is Rockhill Creamery: http://www.rockhillcheese.com/

            Also: http://www.beehivecheese.com/ in Salt Lake City and http://www.shepherdscheese.com/ in Tooele.

            2 Replies
            1. re: YvonneChristine

              barely buzzed cheese is delightful!

              1. re: nofunlatte

                I agree.

            2. I live in Pasadena, CA (Los Angeles area), and we have Gioia Cheese for fresh burrata and other goodies: http://www.gioiacheeseinc.com/

              1 Reply
              1. re: ElsieDee

                Oh, man -- fresh, local burrata. Deeply envious.

              2. Wow, talk about a softball for my usual cheese rant. OK, here goes: I live in dairy farming country. There are dairy farms within just a few miles of my home, and I can see dairy cattle from the windows at work. But local artisan cheeses, that I could purchase either at the farm or at my farmer's market....hardly. There is one cheesemaker (name escapes me, very small producer) whose goods are sometimes (as in perhaps once a month or so) for sale at another farmer's booth at the farmer's market in Merced. It may be made by the same folks that sell wonderful pastured eggs (Amsterdam Farms), although the cheese does not rise to the same level of perfection as those eggs, by any means. That’s pretty much it.

                Hilmar Cheese is a large cheese-maker in Merced County (Turlock) but it is not artisan and I can’t buy it locally, although they do have a tour of their factory where tastings are given. (If you have driven down Highway 99 you've passed their large factory). Most of their cheese is sold to large retailers for private labels. I suspect I can buy it as Raley's store brand.

                Even Joseph Cheese, started by Joseph Gallo, which is sold throughout the US and internationally per its website, isn't generally found in the stores around here, at least under its own name, even though the farm is less than ten miles from my house, and I drive by it all the time. (So, per your challenge, I suppose that Joseph Farms could be the closest cheese maker to me, although no, there is no tasting room, at least that I have ever found. One can purchase it on line and ship to anywhere, of course).

                Now, I live in a relatively small town. I get that. The frustrating part is not even so much that I have to go to the bay area, or order on line, to find good to great cheese, although that is what I do (along with begging friends who visit from the bay area to bring cheese when they visit...). The frustrating part is that I am sure, in fact I know, that there are small family farms making cheese in this area. However, they don't sell it here. I am much more likely to find their products at the Ferry Building Plaza than at my own farmer's market. For example, I've never seen Fiscalini Farms (based out of Modesto) locally, but I can buy their San Joaquin Gold at Cowgirl Creamery. Or at the Glen Ellen Village Market (got some there the last time I was visiting my Dad in GE). And Fiscalini isn’t even all that small (the list of retailers that carries it on their website is quite long).

                I’ve seen more obscure San Joaquin Valley local cheese than Fiscalini at Cowgirl also. On a related note, I went online and noticed that Cowgirl Creamery has a ‘cheese library’ to help you determine the products they carry. Interesting, you can search by country, (as well as by cheese characteristics) with “USA” being one of the options. I think it would be wonderful if Cowgirl could be convinced to break out the database at least by regions, if not by state or county……

                Edited to add: if anyone does know of any artisan cheeses made in the Central Valley, and for sale in the CV, please prove me wrong and clue me in as to where to find them! Rant over...

                10 Replies
                1. re: susancinsf

                  That IS aggravating, susan! We don't seem to have the same problem here in BC. Lots of in-province artisanal cheeses available at our local fine cheese purveyor in Vancouver at any rate. Summer is the best as Little Qualicum Cheeseworks is at many of the farmers' markets -- I love their cheese curds, which to my knowledge are not available in retail stores on the mainland (they are on Vancouver Island).

                  1. re: susancinsf

                    Susan, I stumbled across a reference to Organic Pastures, out of Fresno, which offers a raw cheddar. Here is their site: http://www.organicpastures.com/produc...

                    1. re: ElsieDee

                      cool! thanks...I entered my (Merced) zip code in their store finder, and came up with options to purchase the products in Turlock (20 miles away) and Mariposa (40 miles away), among others further afield. Will keep an eye out for it and report back when I try it.

                      1. re: susancinsf

                        Looking forward to the report.

                        Also, I found the California Artisan Cheese Guild, here: http://www.cacheeseguild.org/ and it might give some leads.

                    2. re: susancinsf

                      Cowgirl Creamery distributes those California artisan cheeses all over the country to any retailer that wants to buy them. What you need to do is convince a retail store in your area that there is demand for Fiscalini or other cheese and to stock it. Or place a special order through the store and get all your friends to do the same.

                      1. re: Melanie Wong

                        Good point. I've been successful in doing something similar with Straus dairy products (they had them at Raley's but discontinued them: brought them back after I complained; dont know if it was coincidence but sometimes I think they stock them just for me at the local store, I know Raleys/Nob Hill more broadly carries them)...I've mentioned it to the Raley's manager that I would like to see Fiscalini cheese and got a shrug. Need to work it from the Fiscalini end.

                      2. re: susancinsf

                        >(along with begging friends who visit from the bay area to >bring cheese when they visit...).

                        If you have to beg, are they friends?

                        Cheers!

                        1. re: susancinsf

                          The artisan Farmer's Market cheesemaker I mentioned in my rant was at the Merced FM this morning, it is Buroughs Family Farms, in Denair (between Turlock and Modesto in Stanislaus County, and about 35 miles from here). They were selling both aged and non-aged organic gouda-style cheese. Their website does list several places to purchase in Merced including Joe's on the Go Cafe (which is a good little place for lunch, coffee or take out foods for early dinner in its own right, and right next to my hair salon, so yay! Will have to look for it there):

                          Burroughs Family Farms
                          www.BurroughsFamilyFarms.com

                          1. re: susancinsf

                            That's great! Then those are the retailers that you need to convince to stock Fiscalini (and give Fiscalini their contact info for a sales call).

                            http://www.burroughsfamilyfarms.com/c...

                            1. re: susancinsf

                              I spent Thanksgiving with my sister's in-laws in Merced and they gave us little Thanksgivukkah baskets that included the aged gouda.

                              Also, Grocery Outlet in Oakland has San Joaquin Gold for $8.99 a pound this week and I stocked up, so I have fridge full of Central Valley cheese.

                          2. Mojave, CA: Keep coming across references to Soledad Goats for fresh cheese. Will try to make it to a farmer's market to try. Here's one review - http://southpasadena.patch.com/groups...

                            1 Reply
                            1. re: ElsieDee

                              Those cheeses sound delicious! Isn't it amazing what we can find if we look?

                            2. Wow, such a great challenge. I just had a Google road trip and the closest cheesemaker I could find is Cedar Hill Farms in Darlington, MD (42 miles). I have never heard of or seen their cheeses but apparently they sell to several restaurants in the area and seem to have some interesting cheeses including a coffee thyme and cocoa cayenne flavored cheddars.

                              The next closest is FireFly Farms in Chester County, PA (80 miles). I have seen their cheeses at the local Whole Foods and I think I have tried their Black and Blue cheese.

                              Thanks for the idea, now I'll be hunting down some local cheeses.

                              2 Replies
                              1. re: fldhkybnva

                                That's great. And thank you for getting into the exploratory nature of this challenge!

                                1. re: Ruth Lafler

                                  I must be related to Magellan as I'm quite the explorer. Last week someone mentioned a favorite brand of pickles and I've been stopping in every grocery store I pass...crazy food obsessed much? I'm sure I'll be in every cheese shop hunting for these cheeses.

                              2. Connecticut is blessed with several cheese makers: see
                                http://www.ctmuseumquest.com/?page_id...

                                I'm most familiar with Cato Corner Farms whose catalog features not only good cheese but inventive names (Womanchego, Dairyere); Beaver Brook Farm, and Beltane Farm, specialists in goat cheese.

                                1. I thought I'd bump this thread up in conjunction with the cheese of the month and American cheese month.

                                  When I was looking for American cheeses on igourmet I ran across a delicious-looking blue cheese from Florida -- anyone live nearby: http://winterparkdairy.com/

                                  Here's an article about artisan cheesemaking in Florida: http://www.tampabay.com/features/food...

                                  1. Ruggles Hill Creamery goat cheese, from Massachusetts, available at Formaggio's in Cambridge and Boston is the only one of the 18 listed artisanal farms making cow's milk or goat cheese according to a Massachusetts government link. I'm going to try to find some of the others. Of course Old Chatham makes first-rate sheep's milk cheeses found over the border in NY.

                                    1. The closest to us in western Virginia are Caromont Farm near Charlottesville and Meadow Creek Dairy down in Floyd (near Va's western 'tail').

                                      I know and love the Meadow Creek cheeses -- Appalachian is my favorite, but I also enjoy Mountaineer (a firm, Swiss-y type). Their most honored product is Grayson, a washed-rind Tallegio-type; but I haven't managed to warm to anything in that category yet. Appalachian is solid but soft, and really evokes mountain meadows. My mouth is watering a little as I think about it -- can't wait for Tuesday, when the cheese shop in town is open again!

                                      A local couple that have been selling goat milk for several years have just recently put out their first cheese (plain chevre), and it's wonderful. I imagine freshness counts for quite a bit in goat cheese, and this is sweeter and less tangy than any I've ever had. They're off to a good start, but will probably be selling locally only (Rockbridge and Augusta counties) for the foreseeable future.

                                      1. Last night we had Pennyroyal goat milk ricotta served with a dry-farmed tomato salad grown by Mariquita Farms, dressed simply with fresh basil, salt and extra virgin olive oil and served with grilled bread at Hayes Street Grill in SF. Pennyroyal is a farmstead cheese venture from the folks at Navarro Vineyards in Boonville, CA. The ricotta has a lusciously smooth texture, nothing that hints of graininess. Basically it feels like a lower fat version of fresh chevre with the same grassy taste. Very lovely.

                                         
                                        2 Replies
                                        1. re: Melanie Wong

                                          Pennyroyal was sold at the Albany Farmer's Market (CA) until the end of October when the market closed.

                                          1. re: wally

                                            Pennyroyal sells at the Saturday morning Santa Rosa CA farmers market at LBC. That's a year round market. And you can arrange for pick up of your Navarro wine or juice purchases, saving shipping costs.