Where I come from, cheese is religion. My family home is about five minutes from the Cabot Cheese Factory, where famous cheddar is made. Every year we attend the Independence Day parade in the town of Cabot, VT, where they literally throw cheese packets into the arms of adoring fans. My best friend and I have a strict “No cheese left behind” policy when we eat together. It is enforced with a strong hand. Simply put: I love cheese, and you should to.
Though I consider myself a connoisseur, even I must admit that there are those who know better. So, I reached out to my friend Charlotte Pradie, who works at Saxelby Cheesemongers, New York City’s premier purveyor of gourmet fromage. I asked her what cheese she’s really digging these days, and why. Pradie wrote me a detailed list of her current top three, and, lucky for you, she gave me permission to share it with the world.
Marieke Super Gouda
Holland Family Farm (raw cow milk/animal rennet, Thorp, WI)
Charlotte Pradie (CP): Marieke Penterman and her family relocated from the Netherlands to the nether regions of northern Wisconsin to pursue their cheesemaking dreams. They produce an array of award-winning goudas that would make their cousins across the pond blush! The cheese is crafted from the milk of Holstein-Fresian cows, the breed developed for its dairying prowess in Holland. Each wax-coated wheel is aged for over 18 months, during which time it develops a dense, firm paste and a caramelly sweet, grassy flavor. The wheels of Marieke Premium Gouda are studded with crystalline crunchy bits known as tyrosine, which are clusters of protein that calcify during the aging process.
Crown Finish Caves (pasteurized goat milk, Brooklyn, NY)
CP: Little buttons of goats’ milk cheese bathed in chocolate whiskey from Kings County Distillery. The name comes from the building where the distillery is housed–The Paymaster building was built in 1899 to serve as a bank for the employees of the Brooklyn Navy Yard. Paymaster is produced at Coach Farms in upstate New York, and shipped to Crown Finish Caves in Crown Heights Brooklyn when it’s just a few days old. The cheeses are washed with whiskey for three weeks before they’re ready to be eaten. The rind develops a tawny golden hue, and the cheese is lightly pungent with a ripe fruit and barnyard undertone. The cheeses are produced in the lactic coagulation method, meaning that the milk acidifies slowly and the curd sets overnight. That process results in a chalky, yet creamy texture that breaks down to gooey-ness over time. Crown Finish Caves, the affineur responsible for Paymaster, was originally a 19th century brewery. You could say that this humble little cheese pays homage to Brooklyn’s industrial past and is the embodiment of the repurposing and reinvention of small food industry in 21st century Brooklyn!
Meadow Creek Dairy (raw cow milk/animal rennet, Galax, VA)
CP: A delicious washed rind cheese in a delicious square format. The members of the Feete family are traditionalists when it comes to raising their herd, only making cheese when the cows are on pasture, from April to October. The result: an intense, beefy, and pungent cheese whose straw-colored paste reflects all the goodness of the Virginia mountain grass the cows are munching on. When extremely ripe, Grayson can achieve the consistency of buttercream frosting–an eating opportunity not to be missed! Aged three months.