Everywhere there is milk, there is cheese. The alchemy of an excellent cheese is well known: the skill of the cheesemaker, the species and diet of the milk source, even goût de terroir. Cheese tasting gives the traveler not only the experience of world flavors, but also of culture and place.
Doug Smith, co-owner and operations manager of Vancouver Island’s Natural Pastures Cheese Co., shares the perfect anecdote to illustrate the growth of Victoria, British Columbia’s cheese culture. “When we started at our local farmers market, we presented a Brie to people they had never really tried it before,” he says. “They would ask things like, ‘Can I eat the mold?’ Now 15 years later, I’ll ask little kids what they want to try, and they’ll say Brie because they love the taste. That’s a very short time period where people didn’t even know what this cheese was and now their children love Brie.”
In Colonial times in Massachusetts, cheese was not on people’s radar. When they landed in Boston in 1630, the Pilgrims brought with them mainly beans and hardtack.
The region is rich with history-making events; the Revolutionary War started in Lexington and Concord on April 19, 1775, followed by the Siege of Boston, the Battle of Bunker Hill and General Washington taking command of the Continental Army on Cambridge Common. That army also ate beans and hard tack. We had the navy bean, the pea bean and the kidney bean. All of them baked.
The folks in houston are serious about food, really serious. And the city, the fourth largest in the country, just received some long overdue recognition; Anthony Bourdain recently came to town to film an episode of his popular television show.
As an internationally renowned heavyweight, Wisconsin is the Midwest’s undisputed champion of cheese. But don’t overlook its scrappy western neighbor. In Minneapolis, an urban creamery, a vibrant dining scene and bustling cheese shops put Minnesota on the cheese enthusiast’s map. True, winters can be brisk, but that’s nothing a locally-sourced cheese plate or a bubbling pot of fondue can’t fix.
It’s a rainy Wednesday night in New Orleans, and the cheese shop is packed. We’re here at St. James, a retailer located on the edge of the city’s business district, sandwiched between a surf-themed dive bar and slick, remodeled hotels. Inside the glassy front of St. James, well-appointed New Orleanians, from girls on a night out to older couples, sit at a couple dozen tables, their attention focused on a tray of four cheeses in the middle of each table. It’s a full house at the Alpine cheese tasting night, and a great night to be a cheese connoisseur in New Orleans.