It’s a sub-zero December evening in small-town northern Vermont, and the dining room of the Highland Lodge is packed. A side closet overflows with down coats and wet snow boots. In one corner of the dining room, rosy-cheeked people of all ages circle around a fondue pot, while on the other side, revelers in holiday sweaters graze across small mountains of cheese wedges. A shout goes out for everyone to quiet down, and a man with a gray sweater and five o’clock shadow stands up on a chair above the crowd. “2016 was a rough year,” he says, “But I’ve got a feeling 2017 is going to be Jasper Hill’s best year yet.” The crowd smiles and raises their drinks in agreement, before joining in a joyous cheer. They are on board with Mateo Kehler. “Something special is happening here.”
For decades, the words “swiss cheese” were riddled with sapless connotations and visions of yellow apertured cheese with a bland texture.
The reputation was gleaned largely from large, format-style cheeses, including mass produced versions of Emmentaler, Gruyère and Raclette, which were exported at the expense of artisan varieties. But those days are over. Once ruled by the subsidies and production controls of the government-funded cheese cartels, the Swiss cheese market has experienced a renaissance, as cheesemakers have begun to reimagine the identity of this variety.
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.
Picture a postcard-perfect, charm-filled town. On the way there, the hills roll gently and the roads are dotted with farm stands. As you enter New York’s downtown Hudson, Federal, Victorian and Queen Anne buildings are home to cute cafés, pedigreed restaurants, art galleries, antique stores and vintage clothing shops. The picturesque main drag is Warren Street, which slopes gently towards the Hudson River and boasts the gourmet shop and cheese mecca Talbott & Arding. Continue reading →
Shepherd’s Way Farm, a farmstead sheep dairy and creamery, conjures images of the ancient pastoral seasonal rhythm that has guided our collective agrarian history. Flocks of animals are grazing, moving from pasture to pasture, gathering sustenance and producing milk that would nourish the community in coming seasons.
Cheese Connoisseur: You have written about wines and spirits from around the world. I live in upstate New York and am proud of our wines. What can you tell me about production in New York so that I can claim bragging rights and spread the word?
Ron Kapon: There are wineries in all 50 states. Yes, dear readers, Alaska and Hawaii do make wine. Clearly, California is the juggernaut with 89 percent of all U.S. wines coming from the Golden State. Eureka! On a global scale, the United States is the fourth-largest wine producing country after France, Italy and Spain. New York is the third state in the production of wine and fourth in total number of wineries with 320. The state of Washington is number two in the production of wine. As for wineries, California leads the count with 3,782, Washington boasts 681 and Oregon has 599.