Anna Juhl, founder and tour host of Cheese Journeys, which creates food travel opportunities around artisan cheeses while promoting the awareness of producers, serves as the guide throughout our nine-day Cheddar expedition through some of England’s most beautiful countryside in Devon and Somerset.
Macaroni and cheese is as American as hot dogs, burgers and apple pie. You would be hard-pressed to find a citizen in any part of the country that has not spooned up the creamy cheesy dish at least once, with most developing a fondness or downright addiction for the rich dish in early childhood. For many parents, the pasta and cheese dish was the original easy-to-make, nutritious fast food that the whole family could enjoy in just a matter of minutes.
It may be surprising to some that Aspen, CO-based Avalanche Cheese’s much lauded Hand Bandaged Goat Cheddar was inspired by not just traditional English Cheddars, but also Scottish cheesemakers.
Yet, it was 2006, the year Wendy Mitchell, the dairy’s co-founder and head cheesemaker spent living in Edinburgh, Scotland that served as the inspiration for this cheese.
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.”
Room temperature and naked.
That’s how Cheddar lovers say they want their favorite aged cheese served, perhaps paired with a cracker. Admittedly, a slice of mature Cheddar is a palate pleaser par excellence needing little garnishment.