Locality, Farm-to-Table, and the Future of American Cheese: Musings on This Year’s American Cheese Society’s Conference

by Alifair Skebe

Earlier this month the American Cheese Society (ACS) celebrated its 30th anniversary in Madison, WI, the largest dairy-producing state in the United States. The conference ‘A Dairy State of Mind’ brought together cheese makers, dairy scientists, cheese retailers, importers, and distributors and featured ACS’ national, annual cheese competition of over 1790 cheeses and various workshops.

Cheese makers meet Cheesemongers. L-R Mary Quicke of Quickes Farm, Eric Paul of The Cheese Traveler, and Chris of Consider Bardwell Farm
Cheesemakers meet Cheesemongers. L-R Mary Quicke of Quickes Farm, Eric Paul of The Cheese Traveler, and Chris Gray of Consider Bardwell Farm

Eric Paul, Cheesemonger-owner of The Cheese Traveler, remarks, “The State of Wisconsin and the City of Madison were great hosts. We toured farms and hung out with local cheese makers and checked out the amazing delights of the city.” Many cheesemakers were like Chris Roelli, of Roelli Cheese and the beloved Dunbarton Blue, who woke up at 3 AM to milk the animals and make cheese before driving into the conference to meet and network with fellow cheesemakers, distributors, and retailers.

City retailers got into the excitement of ACS: Fromagination, a retailer located on the square, converted its cheese display to showcase local and regional Wisconsin cheeses. Slipping away from the conference, Mr. Paul explored the Madison Farmers’ Market, the largest producer-only market in the U.S. A coveted spot in this market took Nancy Potter of our favored Potter’s Crackers four years to get in!

During the busy day Mr. Paul ate lots of fried cheese curd (click here to see Gordon Edgar’s blog post on this regional specialty); and imbibed reasonable, but copious amounts of, New Glaurus Spotted Cow Ale, a regional specialty, all while amidst old friends, making new friends, attending workshops, tasting some of our favorite cheeses and products, and discovering new ones.

Madison, WI Farmer's Market, currently the largest outdoor market in the USA
Madison, WI Farmer’s Market, currently the largest outdoor market in the USA

The conference themes “farm-to-table,” and “local” are concepts that we at The Cheese Traveler set out to put into practice. Odessa Piper, founder of the famed Madison restaurant L’Etoile and 1970s pioneer of the sustainable, locally-sourced movement, in her opening keynote address outlined the ideas behind ‘local’ and ‘farm to table’ and shared her reflections on a life in the industry. She noted that the definitions are not a simple designation of miles from a central location, but rather, “local [or terroir] is a distance best measured by our hearts.” Locality is a relationship of the consumer to the producer. Eric Paul of The Cheese Traveler adds, “This relationship is, in some ways, sentimental; it’s about our individual relationship to the bounty of the land. It has to do with going to the land and seeing and experiencing it.”

Uplands Cheese, makers of Pleasant Ridge and Rush Creek reserve award-winning cheeses
Uplands Cheese, makers of Pleasant Ridge and Rush Creek reserve award-winning cheeses

This topic resonated throughout the conference. Valerie Henbest, while talking about the importance of signage on cheese during her panel An International View of Cheesemongering, said, “[the sign] ties the customer to the story – distance needs more poetry.” In other words, the greater the distance a customer is located from the terroir, the greater the need for ‘poetry,’ a story or beautiful words that capture the spirit of the land. Through language rather than personal experience, the relationship can be felt. As a merchant retailer, The Cheese Traveler travels to the producer to develop a relationship and returns to its customers in Albany to share the story of the cheese makers and their cheeses. As well, The Cheese Traveler shares with blog readers a love of traditional, artisanally-crafted cheese and foods.

A quick snapshot of The International Cheese Guild's Annual Ceremony

A quick snapshot of The International Guild du Fromage (International Cheese Guild)’s Annual Induction Ceremony

At the Keynote breakfast and later at the induction ceremony for the International Guild du Fromage, Eric had the pleasure of spending time with Mary Quicke of Quickes Farmhouse Cheddar located in Devon, England. Quicke’s family has been making traditional cheddar in Devon from raw, grass-fed milk on their 450 year old, 1,200 acres estate. She described the farm as a fascinating place where Pangaea had once been united. Ms. Quicke asked if we sell her cheese at The Cheese Traveler. Without hesitation, Eric answered that his shop does sell her traditional clothbound cheddar, because the story of cheese is the story of tradition: even though there are delicious American farmhouse cheddars, made and aged in the traditional British way, great American producers descend from European ancestors. Eric calls European cheeses “the antecedents of American cheeses,” because of his background in Classical philology. The Cheese Traveler wants its customers to be aware of this tradition, so the shop sells both domestic and imported small-scale, traditional cheeses.

As a cheese shop, The Cheese Traveler’s role is to develop relationships with producers and become knowledgeable about all aspects of the cheeses sold in our shop. At ACS, Eric was able to talk with U.S and international cheese makers about their farms and their methods of cheese making. In addition to the aforementioned conversations and discoveries, Eric developed three important relationships with some of America’s most acclaimed cheese makers: Jasper Hill Farm, Consider Bardwell Farm, and Uplands Cheese. We are excited about how these new developments will change our shop for the better!

Jasper Hill Farm. Out of Mr. Paul’s meetings, there came about a new and very exciting development. In the coming weeks, Eric and his team of cheesemongers will begin periodic visits to Jasper Hill Farm to taste and select the cheeses sold at The Cheese Traveler. This hand-selecting will deepen our relationship with Jasper Hill – their cheese makers, the farmland, and ultimately the story of their cheeses – and ensure that we are getting the tastiest cheese. Jasper Hill Farm won five awards this year, including three first place finishes and the coveted Best of Show award for Winnimere. We are planning our first visit up to Greensboro, Vermont on August 25th and 26th. Zoe Brickley of Jasper Hill, who prior to moving to Vermont was a manager at Murray’s Cheese in New York City, will come down to The Cheese Traveler later that week for guest cheesemonger, training, and lots of tasting. We’ll announce the date of Brickley’s visit on Facebook and Twitter.

Consider Bardwell Farm. Eric spoke with Chris Gray about touring and making cheese at Consider Bardwell Farm. Consider Bardwell has been a great supporter of The Cheese Traveler, helping out and sampling at our Grand Opening last November. Be sure to check them out at the Washington County Cheese Tour, which is coming up on September 7th & 8th (Click here to go to the Washington County Cheese Tour’s website). The Cheese Traveler is thrilled to be one of the sponsors of the tour this year!

Uplands Cheese. The day after ACS, Eric rented a car and drove an hour west of Madison to Dodgeville to visit Uplands Cheese. As Eric drove out to Dodgeville, he saw Wisconsin’s sloping hills, different from the state’s terrain that had been scraped flat by receding glaciers at the end of the last ice age. Eric spent the afternoon with Andy Hatch, who just a few days prior announced that he was buying the farm from the original owners and who happens to have family in Schoharie, County. They walked the fields, visited the herd, toured the cheese making and aging rooms, and tasted three different batches of Pleasant Ridge Reserve.1

Wisconsin's Farm fields at Uplands Cheese
Wisconsin’s Farm fields at Uplands Cheese

Eric talked with Andy about how he and his cheese makers develop the complexity in their cheeses: raw grass-fed milk and careful aging. They produce rich, complex milk by cultivating a complex mixed breed of cows and encourage complex microflora in the milk (good bacterial diversity) by only feeding cows grass and rotating them from paddock to paddock. As Andy walked with Eric through the creamery, he told him that the goal of the cheese making process is precision and consistency. Andy went on to say that a careful and laborious aging process brings out the complex flavor in the Pleasant Ridge Reserve Cheese. Young wheels are washed and turned daily and aged on wood, cheeses in the middle of their aging are washed 3x per week and turned, and cheeses at the end of their aging are washed 2x per week. Andy and Eric tasted three batches of Pleasant Ridge Reserve, enjoying the complex flavor and differences in each batch. We are eagerly anticipating the coming season of Rush Creek Reserve this fall.2

Competition: This year over 1795 cheeses were entered in the competition. Here are some of the award-winning cheeses that you can find in our shop:

Best of Show – Jasper Hill Farm Winnimere.

  • First3– Old Chatham Sheepherding Co. Ewe’s Blue,4 Jasper Hill Farm Winnimere, Spring Brook Tarentaise, Cabot Clothbound Cheddar, Rogue River Blue, Boston Post Dairy Eleven Brothers.
  • Second – Rupert, Marieke Premium Gouda, Caveman Blue, Baetje Farm Bloomsdale, Grafton Village Vermont Clothbound Cheddar.
  • Third – Cooperstown Cheese Jersey Girl,5 Jasper Hill Farm Harbison, Upland’s Pleasant Ridge Reserve, Avalanche Goat Cheddar, Evalon, Dancing Fern.

New Cheeses: Of course there were also new cheeses from familiar and new creameries. We are excited to bring you these cheeses in the coming weeks and months.

  • Meadowood Farm – in Cazenovia, in Madison County, NY, is in our backyard. Meadowood Farm makes farmstead sheep, and cow and with sheep mixed milk cheeses. We plan on getting Rippleton (a washed-rind, sheep’s milk cheese reminiscent of the washed-rind sheep’s milk cheeses from Corsica, but washed in fresh, unfermented beer from Empire Brewing in Syracuse), and Ledyard (a ripened, sheep’s milk similar to the leaf-wrapped robiolas from Piedmont, aged in wild grape leaves that have been soaked in a wheat beer brewed with local concord grapes). Look for Meadowood Farm cheeses in the shop in September after everyone returns from vacationing in early September.
  • Ruggles Hill Creamery – every Ruggles Hill creamery goat cheese we tasted confirmed for us that they are making some of the best goat cheeses in America. They are a micro-creamery, meaning they milk only 28 goats. This limited supply could also mean that it will be difficult for us to get their cheese, however we’re hoping that Eric’s hometown connections will help (he was raised in Hardwick, where the Ruggles Hill farm and creamery are located.
  • Floryis Truckle – this was a delicious cloth-bound cheddar aged over 12 months. It is made in Missouri and was honored with 2nd place in its category. It had a rich texture and complex layered flavors that were not too sweet: reminiscent of the British clothbound cheddar.

    Sampling Floryis Truckle

    Sampling Floryis Truckle

  • Bleu Mont Creamery –Willi Lehner has a tiny creamery in Wisconsin where he uses grass-fed milk from Uplands Cheese. Lehner took home a numerous awards in the competition including the first creamery ever to tie itself when their 12 Month Bandaged Cheddar and Big Sky Grana tied for 3rd in the Best of Show competition. Everything Eric tasted from them was delicious and full of flavor. Lehner makes cheese in very limited supply, but we are excited to try to get some over the next few months.

Specialty Food: Accompaniments are a cheeses best friend and so at ACS there were many tasty accompaniments we enjoyed and plan to bring to the shop. Here is a sampling of what you might expect to see coming to the shop:

  • Creminelli Salami – we tasted some great Creminili salami at the show and we are sure their salami will eventually make its way to our shop, particularly the bacon salami, the Camanial and the luscious Musica.
  • Smoking Goose Charcuterie – a new small production salumier out of Indiana, who sources their meat from local, sustainable, natural farms. They are experimenters who are not afraid to make great tasting, more exotic meats. They have a wonderful duck prosciutto.
  • Treat – Sarah Marx Feldner has a little bake shop in Milwaukee, WI where she makes spiced pecans. She makes a candied pecan and a candied spiced pecan that have excellent flavor and a wonderfully, crispy, candied coating.

Special acknowledgement goes out to David, Josh, Callen, Leigh, Joanne Tilley and Ali who did an awesome job sampling and selling the delicious, traditional and artisan products we have at the shop and at the Delmar Farmer’s Market while Eric was away. Great job everyone! The shop and market stand looked great!

1 Pleasant Ridge Reserve, which won 3rd place this year, is the only cheese to win Best of Show at the American Cheese Society 3x’s, the only 3x winner in the Cheese Category at the Good Food Award, a winner of Best of Show at the U.S. Cheese Championship (making it is the only cheese to win both ACS and the US Cheese Championship), and a super gold winner at the Guild of Fine Foods’ World Cheese Awards. Pleasant Ridge Reserve is a mainstay on our cheese counter.

2 Uplands makes Rush Creek Reserve when the animals are coming to the end of their lactation cycle and they are producing richer milk. Rush Creek is an un-cooked, un-pressed, washed rind cheese that is wrapped in spruce bark, made in the style of Vacherin Mont d’Or.

3 Cheese that win fist place in their category complete for Best Of Show.

4 We carry Old Chatham’s Shaker Blue which is made in smaller batches from raw milk. The texture tends to be slightly more firm than Ewe’s Blue; the flavor is more complex with earthy, brothy, lanolin notes.

5 Sharon Tomaselli, the cheese maker of Cooperstown Cheese let out the happiest shriek of the competition when Jersey Girl was announced the winner third place winner in the prestigious open category American Original.

Dairying and Cheese Erotica

by Alifair Skebe

In celebration of National Dairy Month, cheese will “bare it all.” Warning: explicit cheese photos in this post.

To begin, the ancients knew about large-scale dairying. Look at the cows “leaving” their “huts,” as described in the caption (zoom in for readability):

Image from Antiquity of Dairying

Image from “Antiquity of Dairying”

The circular-shaped shafts look like they could be attached to an udder or two, no? And curiously, the cows are lined up in rows, very similar to the way they are in dairy factories today. That’s also a longhouse “hut” of the Northern European variety. Today’s small milking factories are built with a similar longhouse shape.

American Dairy Month was established to bring attention to the needs of the dairy industry, namely to deal with a surplus of milk supply (read about it in our post here). Long ago, cheese makers found a use for excess milk: to turn it into a delicious, nutritious, shelf-stable product that could last through the seasons.

As they turned their milk into “curds and whey” by adding culture and rennet, the curds were made into cheese and the whey was fed to the kids, the pigs, and the dogs. In the 18th Century, whey was a favored morning drink much like coffee or tea. Nutritionally, whey provides a heap of protein, minerals, and vitamins potassium and B-2. Some of our local cheese makers feed whey to their pigs as a superior nutritional supplement to avoid fattening them on grain.

Medieval Cheese Making 1

Medieval Cheese Making 2Medieval Cheese Making 3

Those are some happy medieval dogs! As the cheese sits in the mold as pictured above, more whey will drain out over several days before the wheels will be moved to long-term aging. See how the dogs featured in the pictures lap up the various streams of whey draining on either sides of the cheese? There’s so much there, they don’t even have to fight over it!

Cream can also be siphoned off the whey and get churned into a delicious butter, such as the Italian “Burro” that The Cheese Traveler carries in the shop. Made from the cream of named-controlled Parmigiano Reggiano milk/whey, Burro is a distinctive sweet cream butter that hints at the dense flavor of the aged cheese.

Medieval Maven Making Butter

Medieval Maven Making Butter

At The Cheese Traveler, we cheesemongers spend much of our time undressing, unwrapping, tasting, and rewrapping wheels of cheese to make certain that the cheese is as delicious when it gets to the customer as when it leaves the cave and the farm. Thus as we celebrate dairy, we also celebrate the erotic nature of cheese, the dressing and tasting and redressing. Our beloved milk has given to us the ability to make and enjoy cheese, the foundation of our passion. Thus, we offer you a little Swiss aged mountain cheese erotica with Eric, the Cheese Traveler, and Nicolette, cheesemonger and collage artist:

Planing a morsel of cheese. Perfect for tasting.

Planing a morsel of cheese. Perfect for tasting.

Loving the Unterwasser

Loving the Unterwasser

Undressing Hebleumann


Planing Hebleumann




Behind closed doors, we jokingly refer to these photos as “cheese porn.” Come in to get yours. The cheesemongers will be delighted to taste along with you.

American Limburger Files: Part 1

by Alifair Skebe

“Oh they have Limburger,” a customer exclaims and points to a small, foil-wrapped brick cheese prominently sitting in the center of the cheese case. With the same uncertainty as a flip of a coin, a customer will then smile enthusiastically, or raise an eyebrow, or curl a nostril, or nostalgically sigh: “My grandparents (…or my husband or my great-grandfather) loved that cheese!”

It would seem that a certain generation of the American populace loves and is dedicated to the flavor of the famous Limburger.

Limburger literally means “coming from the place of lime trees.” The cheese takes its namesake from Limburg, a small province on the northern border of Belgium, Germany, and the Netherlands and was developed by Trappist monks in the early 19th century. Once exported to Germany, the cheese became wildly popular and a German national staple.

Limburger cheese at homeA classic “smear-ripened” brick cheese, Limburger is a fragrant cheese from the washed-rind family of cheeses and similar to Epoisses, Tisiter, Taleggio, and Muenster. Brevibacterium linens give the cheese its inimitable essence and taste, and carotenoids lend the cheese its characteristic orange-colored rind. The “smear” comes from the cheesemaker spraying or sponging a Brevibacterium linen bath over the cheese as it ages. The washing keeps the cheese moist, prevents contamination by undesirable bacteria, lends a healthy antibody to the rind, and converts lactose to lactase, a more digestible form of dairy for most people.

Peoples carrying the Limburger tradition from Germany, Austria, Belgium, and Switzerland immigrated to the United States in the latter half of the 19th century, finally settling in Wisconsin and the Midwest, then outskirts of the heartland of American cheese. In point of fact, these immigrants extended the reach of American cheesemaking into the Midwest from its stronghold New York, American’s then-cheese capitol, with Limburger finding its niche in the city of Monroe in Green County, Wisconsin. The immigrants brought with them not only the tradition of Limburger-making, but also a taste for washed-rind cheese, rivaling the then-current, national cheese: English-style cheddar.Monroe Pioneers of the Cheesemaking Industry

Limburger, with its full-bodied, strong flavor, relatively brief ripening period, and noted health benefits, provided a compelling food staple for a working public at the onset of the industrial North. A slice of Limburger smeared on pumpernickel or rye with a dollop of mustard and onions, complimented by a glass of beer and a pickle could warm the heart and go far. A small amount of cheese could satisfy both the tastebuds and the belly.

Limburger, as such, grew to be a working class and immigrant’s cheese, both maligned in an effort to assimilate them into American life. The cheese became the brunt of many an off-colored joke in the decades to follow, first in literature and then in film and radio. Mark Twain’s gothic satire “The Invalid’s Story” played off B-linens’ kinship to body odor and Abbott and Costello, Our Gang (The Little Rascals), and The Three Stooges played their part in castigating the defenseless cheese, relegating it to a seemingly endless recycling of jokes, each shaping the young viewers’ perceptions of it (and the cheese consumer) as an uncouth “stinker.”

Coupled with the rise of The Chemistry Era that promised clean food without contamination, Limburger’s reputation was unduly soiled. Processed foods, rather than the traditional, were the wave of the future. Advertising promised a cheaper, better product than the original, devoid of any bacterial culture—a fatal blow for cheese. In 1937, the same year that Kraft’s sales of boxed mac’n cheese soared, Green County Limburger reached a surplus. Rather than flooding the market with cheese or “plowing it under,” suggested by Chicago Daily News, cheesemakers declared a Limburger Holiday. But this was no restful celebration. The worst was yet to come.

In an article for Lapham’s Quarterly, Ben Schwartz correctly surmises that in the decades following the American Depression, media perception hammered the final nail in Limburger’s proverbial coffin. The good-natured humor once levied against Limburger took a dark and sinister turn. Newspapers reported in 1935 that German immigrant Bruno Richard Hauptmann, otherwise known as the Lindberg-baby killer, had a favorite jail snack of Limburger sandwiches, and in 1948 it was reported that Ohio mass murderer Richard Murl Davis’ last meal consisted of none other than a Limburger sandwich. Once poked at in good sport, the cheese was now linked to “Nazi-types” and to murderers. It was only a matter of time before the tarnished reputation would drive American Limburger cheesemakers to other pursuits.

Untainted by the class and ethnic warfare of the American “melting pot,” Limburger, affectionately termed “Limy,” is well-produced, loved, and consumed abroad. There, the tradition is more about taste and heritage than fitting into an aseptic mold. Henry Dee of Austria recalls of his young adulthood: “There is nothing better than some fresh cold ham, horseradish, a limy, fresh rye bread, and of course, a “humpen” of cold beer. Yep, I’ll be in heaven!”

Many an imported Limburger foil-wrapped brick can be found on U.S. grocery shelves today; however, only one certified Limburger cheesemaker has survived in America—Myron Olson. Chalet Cheese Cooperative, where he works, stands alone as the single domestic Limburger factory, located in the once-proud Limburger capital of the States: Monroe of Green County, Wisconsin. Many more Limburger-lovers have survived and populate the States, nostalgic for the days when Limy sandwiches were commonplace, and they are eager to commune with pleasant past memories of family and friends with a scent and a taste. Some yearn for a good cheese. We aim to deliver both the tradition and the taste experience in the best possible way.

Limburger Tapas

The Cheese Traveler recommends the Limburger classic Germanic pairing: 1) the tapas (or sandwich); rye bread, a smear of Limburger, grain mustard, pickle relish, and a fresh slice of onion; 2) the beer; Blue Label Chimay (some also recommend a Dubbel or a Tripel—we are currently in the process of testing this pairing). And because Limburger is in the washed-rind family, classic sweet pairings from other countries such as France and Italy can offer a delicious alternative to the savory tradition. For a funky fusion experience, try Limburger on rye with a dollop of chestnut honey mustard, aged balsamic, or fig jam paired with a sweet desert wine such as Sauternes. The best pairing can nullify any acidity of the cheese and bring out pleasant nuances in the paste.

Limburger and Accompaniments

If Limburger has peaked your interest and is still beyond your reach, but you want to test your palate on the gooey sublime that only a smear-ripened cheese can offer, try Belgian Charmoix, Irish Ardrahan, Italian Stracchino di Videsta, Californian Red Hawk, or Twig Wheel or Oma from Vermont, to name a few. Each is light, fragrant, earthy, vegetal, slightly yeasty, even eggy, bordering on sweet custard-notes and delightfully soft on the tongue. At room temperature, they open to these complex flavors resounding at different taste regions and linger for minutes still revealing new layers of flavor.

We at The Cheese Traveler want you to test your palate with these cheeses. Mention the blog post between now and March 15, 2013 and we will hook you up with a flight of washed-rind cheeses to taste. You can find your accompanying mustard and relish in our pantry section. And you can pick up a fresh baked-daily from scratch, traditional rye loaf of bread from our next-door neighbor All Good Bakers: W-Sun, 9:30-3. We will offer cheese classes in the coming months, so stay tuned.

The Simple Meal Is a-Plenty

by Alifair Skebe

What do the Quebequoise poutine, chili cheese fries, and Albany’s Bomber’s “piggy fries” have in common?

Each boasts a gravy, a meat, and a cheese drenched over french-fried potatoes. Reach a fork into the mix to pull out a potato and a string of cheese clinging to the plate. The softened potato naturally pairs with a hot melted cheese and meat sauce. This is the beauty of such a meal. It’s so simple yet offers the flexibility of a variety of ingredients in each category. Which gravy? which meat? and which cheese?

The Quebequois have made an art of creating satisfying answers to these questions. Poutine is a national dish originating in the Quebec province of Chicoutimi in the 19th Century. And yes, Quebec takes the invention very seriously. There is an entire website devoted to the poutine: check out poutinewar.com. Poutineries can be found in every province with long menus of multiple combinations of cheese, meat, and gravy that comprise the dish, and fine restaurants feature their own exquisite variations. Eric and I discovered the wonders of the poutine in May 2010 in Montreal while looking for after-hours eats. We wandered into La Banquise to find what some consider the best poutinerie or the most “overrated” in Montreal. Suffice to say, we were hooked!

Montreal's Poutinerie La Banquise

Montreal’s Poutinerie La Banquise

Back in Albany, only four hours away from Montreal, the closest pub snack we could find to the poutine was Bomber’s “Piggy Fries,” which is a load of pulled pork, BBQ sauce and melted cheddar cheese over french fried potatoes. When Capital City Gastropub opened in our neighborhood, we were stunned by and quite happy with its “finer” version of the poutine drenched in duck gravy. Now the Gastropub features a number of poutines: one with mushrooms and another with foie gras! Check out their fall menu here.

Of course, we also like to make poutine fresh at home with our choice of yummy cheese and potatoes.

We at The Cheese Traveler have created a close second to the poutine: boiled and baked potatoes to cut down on the artery-clogging shot of cheese-meat-gravy and fried carcinogen.

So here ’tis:

Adirondack Blue Potatoes sprinkled in Challerhocker and a pat of Butter.

Challerhocker (which lingers around the cheese cave) is a flavorful addition to these boiled and baked potatoes.

Challerhocker (which translates as “one who lingers around the cheese cave”) is a flavorful addition to these boiled and baked potatoes.


10 small heritage Adirondack blue potatoes (thank you Farmer Jon and DJ Stacey!)
1 small onion
1/2 cup fresh parsley
2 cloves garlic
1/2 cup Challerhocker grated (or substitute any one of our good-melting Alpine cheeses)
A pat of butter
Salt and pepper to taste


Boil potatoes in salt. When soft, drain the potato broth to be used in any number of other dishes as a starchy stock for soups.

Mixing up the ingredients.

Mixing up the ingredients.

Place boiled potatoes on a flat baking pan or a big steel bowl as shown here. Mix them with other ingredients.

Putting the potatoes in the oven to melt the cheese...also making toasts from All Good Bakers rye bread. Very yummy together!

Putting the potatoes in the oven to melt the cheese…also making toasts from All Good Bakers rye bread. Very yummy together!

Bake for thirty minutes in a 350 degree oven or until all cheese is beautifully melted over the potatoes. Feel free to turn them once or twice to keep the potatoes coated in butter and cheese.

Weekend Adventures of The Cheese Traveler

by Alifair Skebe

After a blustery Saturday Delmar Market, The Cheese Travelers headed to Saratoga for the Wine & Food and Fall Ferrari Festival at SPAC. Just as we arrived at the gate, a late summer storm was setting in. Dark gray clouds loomed toward us. Many of the vendors from the Grand Tasting Event were packing up before the impending downpour. A gray-suited gentleman begged us to leave, his finger pointed ominously toward the cloud mass in the distance. Winds began whipping the leaves. People in their finery dashed across the lawn in various directions; barefoot women toted their shoes in hand. The hot red Ferraris that lined the manicured lawn were disappearing one by one.

As this chaos unfolded on the lawn, we ducked into the second tent to find Forever Cheese. It was nice to reconnect with our friends after the American Cheese Society Conference last month. We sampled some lovely cheeses: a star amongst them was Forever’s new Paski Sir, a Croatian sheep’s milk cheese with a buttery straw-colored paste and natural rind. The Pizzuta Sicilian Almonds were a delightful accompaniment, as was the Mitica Perata (Pear) Jam, a delicate paste with light, fresh, chunks of pear.

The rains abated in the evening, and left an intimate group for the after-party. “Italian” tacos, grilled chicken, and garlic spinach catered by Brian Molino, Executive Chef of Prime business dining, complemented some lovely Chiantis, notably the 2007 Terre de’ pari, an elegant, silky texture balanced by earthy, complex, full-bodied fruit notes and a smooth, light tannic finish. Surprisingly complex for an organic wine.

Sunday morning emerged from the storm as a beautiful sunny day. We packed up the three young cheesemongers for the Washington County Cheese Tour, our mission to visit the farms to see the animals and cheesemaking facilities. Everyone was excited about learning more about the farms whose cheeses we sell.

Our first stop: Sweet Spring Farm.

Nestled behind a pine woods on a lush rolling hillside overlooking the Argyle mountains, Sweet Spring is a small farmstead with 28 Nubian goats. Owner and cheesemaker Jeff prefers the Nubian breed to other breeds for their “higher butterfat content and rich smooth-tasting milk without the goaty flavor.” We have been longing to try his delicate bloomy rind goat cheese “White Lily” which has garnered some critical attention.

Jeff stood outside the double french doors gesturing to his cheesemaking facility on the other side of the glass. The steel surfaces were impeccably clean and fifteen young bloomy rind cheeses were just visible inside their aging refrigerators. His room was small, “cute” (according to Autumn, our young “cheesemongerette”) and beautifully organized. Jeff continued, “the goaty or ‘bucky’ flavor concentrates in the fat,” which then concentrates in the cheese and grows more intense as it ages.

Shadow of Eric of The Cheese Traveler looking in at the Sweet Spring Cheese Room.

He told us a charming story about his failed attempt at making goat butter, which is very tricky to make because goats don’t really have much fat in their milk and the butter has to be made using a centrifuge. His goats are “primarily grass fed on fresh grass and hay in the winter, and a little grain for supplement.”

What makes Jeff’s process so interesting to us is his scale of production: he milks the goats on the farm into milk cans and transports them by carriage up to the cheesemaking room. (This process is the origin of the cheese named “Carriage House.”) He then pasteurizes and processes the milk into cheese in a protected cheese room, and ripens the young cheeses upstairs and ages the natural rind cheeses in the cellar below. “White Lily” was as lovely as we expected — a dense textured paste with a clean, delicate flavor and low acidity on the palate. And we got a sneak peek of the ash-dusted, Valencay-style pyramid only available at the Saratoga Farmer’s Market.

Sadly, “White Lily” had sold out by the time we got there, so we bought “Carriage House” instead, a hard, natural rind Gouda-style goat cheese aged a year and specifically for the annual Cheese Tour. Typically this cheese is made in a smaller format than the one we bought and aged half as long. We wondered what the cheese would have been like in a younger version, as this one tasted fairly sharp on the finish with a lingering acidity. And contrary to what we had heard, it had a pungent “goaty” finish. Of course, that didn’t matter to the hungry cheesemongers who ripped into the cheese to nosh with Terra Chips on the way to the next farm. Luckily, I saved a small piece for a special “Carriage House” Swiss Chard Soup the following evening. (Recipe to come).

We piled into the cheese van in anticipation of our next stop: Consider Bardwell.

We know the award-winning cheeses of this farm well, as we sell several of them at market. Consider Bardwell won two second place awards this year at The American Cheese Society 2012 for Manchester and Rupert and are highly decorated in their four-year history of the contest.

We crossed the New York border and wound around W. Pawlet Street through the town of West Pawlet. Instantly , we understood the derivation of Consider Bardwell’s cheese names, so different from the types of tradition from which they come. Names like Rupert (a cooked curd Comte/Gruyere-style), and Pawlet (washed rind Italian-style), and Dorset (washed rind French-style), Manchester, and Danby come from street names, town names, and the Rupert Town Forest surrounding the farm.  This fact speaks to the vision of Consider Bardwell.

I kissed a goat and I liked it!

The farm recently received a significant USDA grant to turn the pastureland around the farm, which had been the first dairy co-op in VT founded in the 19th century, back into perennial grasslands for organic grazing. Consider Bardwell raises and milks only goats, and a few heritage whey-fed Hereford pigs, but their cows’ milk comes from neighboring farms in Vermont and just across the border in New York State. Their vision is to create both farmstead and artisan cheeses, thereby bringing the dairy farms around them into cheese production and protecting the lands from pesticide use and restoring the agricultural history of the region.

Goat Mural at the entrance to the Cheese Cave

Pawlet, Dorset, and Manchester Cave

In our socks, we toured the two new cheese caves filled with our favorites and a few experiments, such as three wheels of the goat’s milk Equinox (styled after the sheep’s milk cheeses of Sardinia and soon to be renamed Danby) rubbed with sumac, giving the rind the deep red color of paprika. The farm has grown over the years, and each year, the owners add a new project.

Rupert and Danby Cave

We spent our last moments on the farm sampling cheeses and some crispy cheese crackers made there. We bought some cool Consider Bardwell T-shirts and visited with the animals.

We fed the baby goats a mix of grasses, sweet woodruff, and clover–boy did they love the clover– and they were tame enough to let us pet their necks. Goats’ eyes never quite get represented correctly in pictures, because if they did it would probably scare folks away from them! Their pupils are black slits the run horizontally across the eye.

Across the street the bucks are kept, because they would sour the milk if they were any closer to the dames. We tried feeding one of the males who seemed very interested in smelling us. He wouldn’t eat the grasses, but sniffed and sniffed until he blew out a massive sneeze on Eric and Alifair! What an end to our day.

And while we did not visit 3-Corner Field Farm this year (we visited last year) you can read about them in The Masticating Monkey’s Two-Part article “The Washington County Cheese Tour” (Post 1) and (Post 2). You can also find their cheeses at our market stand. Come by soon!

Don’t I look cute until I sneeze on you!

Spotlight on Cheese: Pyrenees-style Brebis Cheeses

by Alifair Skebe

Battenkill Brebis, made in Shushan, NY, is a sheep’s milk cheese made in the French Pyrenees tradition.

The cheeses from the South of France have been made in this way for over four thousand years. The oldest known version is Roncal which comes from the Basque region in Northern Spain. Battenkill Brebis, like the sheep’s milk, name controlled cheese Ossau-Iraty from the Pyrenees, has a slightly higher moisture content than Roncal. This style of cheesemaking became of interest to American cheesemakers after Vermont Shepherd, founded by Cindy and David Major began making perennial, award-winning cheese in 1990. They were the first U.S. cheesemakers to construct a natural cheese cave, which they built in the side of hill on their Vermont farm. They studied brebis cheese making in the Pyrenees among skilled cheesemakers and brought a grand tradition to the States. Many Vermont sheep’s milk cheesemakers apprenticed and produced cheese for VT Shepherd. This made them pioneers in the American cheesemaking business, educating cheesemakers and sustaining public interest in Pyrenees cheeses.

Whole wheel of Battenkill Brebis

Continuing in this American cheesemaking tradition, Karen Weinberg makes her award winning Battenkill Brebis and Frere Fumant (a smoked version). She has just released the first wheels of Battenkill Brebis of the year. This young version of the aged sheep’s milk cheese comes from the earliest milk of the Spring and is aged three months. The character will change throughout the year as the cheese ages longer and new wheels are made from milk of later pastures.

These wheels have a rich texture because of the high butterfat content of sheep’s milk. The flavor profile is nutty with delicate notes of pasture “flora”—the wild grasses, herbs, and flowers of the Spring pasture (this flavor can change slightly throughout the year, depending on the perennials on which the animals graze). The cheesemaker, through the ripening process, harmonizes these natural flavors to create a good salt balance and a good tasting cheese. This cheese has been a recent winner at the American Cheese Society annual competition and featured as the Spring 2010 centerfold cheese in Culture Magazine.

It is traditional to pair Pyrenees cheeses with locally produced cerise noir (black cherry) or fig preserves or a dark honey. It is also delicious with toasted nuts. A classic wine pairing is Madiran or Cahors (same grape as Malbec) which are both made in the Pyrenees region of France.


Orloff, Paige Smith. “On the Make with Battenkill Brebis” Culture Magazine. Spring 2010, 56.

Roberts, Jeffrey P. The Atlas of American Artisan Cheese. Vermont: Chelsea Green Publishing Co., 2007.

Spotlight on Cheese: Burrata

by Alifair Skebe

Classic Burrata by Maplebrook Fine Cheese Bennington, Vermont


The first of the heirloom tomatoes are ripening on the vines. The luscious red clusters are ready to pick. What better to pair them with than the delectable cream-infused mozzarella “burrata,” fresh basil, and crusty bread?

Burrata has been recently coined “the new brie,” “the meta-mozzarella,”  or “the postmodern version of mozzarella.” An invented tradition, this cow’s milk cheese (originally made from the milk of Podolian cattle) is a variant on the pasta filata (or stretched curd) mozzarella and filled with the tender, creamy scraps left over from the cheesemaking process. Its name refers to the “buttery” salted fresh cream curds inside its thin skin. Originated nearly 80 years ago and made in Apulia and Basilicata of Southern Italy’s Puglia region, burrata is difficult to find outside of Italy; it is literally a farm to table cheese, produced and eaten the same day.

Saving the cheeselover the cost of air-freighting and still offering the old-world tradition in North America, some fine U.S. farmstead and artisanal cheese producers have begun to make the cheese at home. Maplebrook Fine Cheese of Bennington, Vermont recently hired the Italian cheesemaker Domenico Marchitelli, who has been making the cheese for 25 years in Puglia. His Maplebrook burrata was named one of the top five cheeses of 2011 by Food & Wine editor Kristin Donnelley who writes: “Burrata is like the molten chocolate cake of cheese…this Vermont version, made by a Puglian cheesemaker, is as good as it gets.” The Cheese Traveler is excited to announce that we just got in a few of these lovely cheeses, and they are available for purchase at market.

Slicing open a burrata, the creamy center begins to spill out like a double or triple cream cheese, but the texture and flavor are like none other. The texture is soft, delightfully fragrant and light on the palate. At one time a purely economical cheese because it used what had been considered the “waste” of the process, burrata is now highly sought after and prized for its uniquely decadent taste, mouthfeel, and rarity.

Cheesemaker in Italy holding a burrata pouch ready to be filled

Mr. Marchitelli of Maplebrook “does not believe in sacrificing old world techniques in his cheesemaking.” To make burrata, the curds from the mozzarella-making process are recycled into a fresh, salted cream and poured into a little mozzarella pouch, then closed and wrapped in asphodel, a native wildflower. New Jersey poet William Carlos Williams immortalized the flower in the modern imagination:

Italian Asphodel

Of asphodel, that greeny flower,

like a buttercup

upon its branching stem-

save that it’s green and wooden-

I come, my sweet,

to sing to you.

More often today, you will find the cheese wrapped in plastic or preserved in salt brine. In early 2011, cheesemaker Richardo Olanda of Andria, Italy took viewers on a tour of his family’s cheeseworks in CIANetwork’s video feature “Burrata: Puglia’s Molten Mozzarella.” You can see how Olanda makes the cheese here. Compare this to Domenico Marchitelli’s process here. For a step-by-step description of the entire burrata-making process, check out Serious Eats‘ article from the series “Snapshots from Italy” by correspondent Carey Jones.

After you have purchased your burrata from The Cheese Traveler, consider this fine recipe for “Caprese salad with Burrata” served at the Wine Bar in Chicago’s Lincoln Park. (You can substitute the dried tomatoes for garden or farm-fresh ones!)

Vintage 338′s Caprese salad

Chef Blaze Correia

1/4 burrata cheese ball

3 ounces mesclun mix

2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

Salt and pepper to taste

2 ounces diced fresh tomatoes

1 ounce sun-dried tomatoes, cut in matchsticks

1/2 ounce fresh basil leaves, cut in matchsticks

2 tablespoons balsamic reduction

Chopped fresh parsley (optional)

In a bowl toss mesclun mix with half the olive oil and salt and pepper to taste. Arrange on a plate.

Top with diced tomatoes, cheese. Throw a pinch of salt and pepper on top and drizzle with the remaining olive oil. Add the sundried tomatoes and basil. Drizzle the balsamic reduction either over the entire plate or on the side. Garnish with chopped parsley. 1 serving.
Balsamic reduction

1 liter aged balsamic vinegar

1 tablespoon sugar (optional)

In a saucepan over high heat, bring the balsamic vinegar to a boil, then turn down the heat to medium-low and simmer. Stir to prevent from burning or scorching. Cook down by half or two-thirds until the vinegar is syrupy and coats the back of a metal spoon.

As the vinegar reduces it will naturally sweeten. If you wish it to be sweeter, add the sugar during the cooking process, stirring until it dissolves.

Pour ice and cool water into a bowl. Remove the reduction from the heat and pour into a squeeze bottle, secure top, and place in the ice bath. After about 20 minutes, the reduction will thicken and be ready to use. Makes 1/3 to 1/2 liter.


Jenkins, Steve. Cheese Primer. New York: Workman Publishing, 1996, p. 252.

Jones, Carey. “Snapshots from Italy: Making Burrata The Meta-Mozzarella.” Serious Eats. April 1, 2009. online.

Zeldes, Leah. “Eat This: Caprese Salad Making the Most of the Tomato Season.” Dining Chicago. September 15, 2010. online.


Food & Wine, Special Contributor. “Best Cheeses of 2011.” The Daily Meal. December 30, 2011. online http://www.thedailymeal.com/best-cheeses-year#ixzz22JHLuEcv