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cowgirl creamery
Three beauties from California's Cowgirl Creamery: Red Hawk washed-rind triple-cream; Pierce Point, an herb-crusted version of Brin d'Amour, and Mt. Tam, a bloomy-rinded triple-créme. Made from organic cow's milk from Marin County's Straus Family Creamery.
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Cheese, Butter, Yogurt & Eggs

A Cornucopia of Dairy Delights

 

 

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Contemplate the photograph at the left.  A mere 20 years ago, gourmet cheeses like these were most likely imports from Europe. The cheeses America was known for were mass-marketed ones like Cracker Barrel and Kraft slices.  There always were family dairies that made small amounts of fine cheese—or individual cheese makers who kept a few goats or sheep—but only locals had access to their limited production.

What a difference a few years make. Today America’s artisanal cheeses are winning top awards at international competitions. As the country's collective gourmet palate became more sophisticated, restaurants and retail demand encouraged more handmade cheese production; and virtually every state now has its share of fine farmstead cheeses. The greatest homage: affluent couples seeking lifestyle changes or second careers are moving to country, farms, studying the craft, and making great cheese. 

Don't Forget The Milk and Eggs

Where there’s fine cheese, there’s fine butter, milk, yogurt, ice cream and other artisanal dairy products.  If you haven’t tried your local dairy’s organic milk—or organic eggs—you will be converted.  All milk and eggs do not  taste the same. Just as with any other food made with TLC, there is a big difference.

U.S. Versus Europe

To paraphrase Judy Garland’s character in Meet Me In St. Louis: Be happy you live in America. There’s no need to go to France to indulge your passion for great cheese. Spectacular cheese is made right here, and American cheeses are winning top awards at international competitions: Among many honors, in 2007, a Fiscalini Bandage Wrapped Cheddar from California was voted the world’s best Cheddar at the World Cheese Championships in London.

Straus organic milk and cream
It looks like what Grandma
drank, and tastes as good too. Photo courtesy Straus Family Creamery.


Of course, we love our Cabrales from Spain; and our cheese palate was weaned on some chevres that have been perfected over 1000 years of cheese-making in France. And there are American Europhiles: old habits die hard. The exclusive Wine and Food Connoisseurs Club in New York City still adheres to a largely European cheese plate at its bi-weekly dinners.  Over time, we hope THE NIBBLE’s Cheese Section will become a great reference point for our favorite cheeses and yours—no matter what the provenance.

Nibble Tip

If you can’t get the best selection of fine dairy products in your area, don’t worry. Many artisanal dairies and cheese makers have e-commerce capabilities and can send their products to gourmets everywhere. If you’re well-provisioned, think of sending gifts to foodie friends living in non-foodie-focused places.

If you read about a cheese or get a tip from a friend, call the cheesemaker. If they don’t have direct e-commerce, chances are there is a retailer who can get their cheese to you. Murray’s Cheese in New York City, for example, carries the finest cheeses from artisanal producers throughout the country (and the world).

Old Chatham cheeses

Old Chatham Sheepherding
Company is one of many fine
dairies that will ship its cheese to
needy foodies everywhere.

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