When I travelled to Austria a few years ago, I was able to experience a delicious artisan cheese – but only for one night. Let me explain, the first night we enjoyed the cheese, then the next evening at the hotel we asked a gentleman with the service staff if we could have the same cheese again. He said, “No, it was a onetime batch from a farmer ‘down the road’ and we can’t get anymore right now.”  Talk about local and special, plus that response made us crave the mild, yet flavourful soft cheese rolled in cracked peppercorns even more!

First Food Memory = Cheese

Cheese is one of my earliest and fondest food memories. As a child, my mother would take me to the ‘European Delicatessen’ in our town about twice a month. It would be compared to a Whole Foods or Speciality Food Store today. At the store, many cheese samples  waited for me. I would look forward to this taste testing every time. As a kid, I remember the cheese being room temperature, smooth in texture and tasting delicious.

Earth Day 2013

To celebrate April 22, 2013 Earth Day, I’m blogging about artisan cheese making. Artisan cheese making can be a great fit for sustainable farming. As a value-added component of a sustainable farming plan, cheese making can be another step in the cycle of land to food. And with an increasing public focus on understanding where your food comes from, artisan cheese is produced in small batches, primarily by hand, often using traditional; production and aging methods. It may be made with limited supply (similar to my Austrian experience) and for unusual applications.

Regional Artisan Cheese

Both Canada and the USA are observing a revival of the time-honoured craft of artisan cheese making.

  • Local to me in Ontario is Gunn’s Hill Artisan Cheese. I first sampled their cheese at a food and drink show this time last year. Their cheeses were the best food being sampled at the event. I bought a package of the Five Brothers Semi Hard immediately at their booth. Yum!
  • For people local to Quebec (Canada’s French province), it has a rich, regional artisan cheese scene. Various organizations have been founded around Quebec to bring together cheese lovers and encourage others to visit. One great example is the Route des Formages, which teaches their website visitors about cheese tasting and allows them to plan a cheese tasting trip to Quebec.
  • In the USA, Wisconsin, Vermont, California, Washington and other states house many artisan cheese makers.  Often these cheese makers are using their own farm raised cow, goat and sheep milk to make their handcraft products.

Cheese it up

Simply switching the type of cheese used in a dish can give it a more unique taste. It can completely change the experience of the meal. With artisan cheeses on trend, restaurant menus are calling out these items, for example, on-farm goat, smoked gouda and aged cheddars to name a few. When I was in San Francisco a few weeks ago, my hotel was directly across from the Ferry Buildings, where there is an area that show cases locally grown and produced food. I visited Cowgirl Creamery Artisan Cheese Shop, Sidekick Cafe and Milk Bar. The Cowgirl Creamery got its start making wonderful, fresh, organic cheeses – cottage cheese, crème fraiche, fromage blanc, and quark. When Fons Smith, a dairy scientist from the Netherlands, came to intern at Cowgirl Creamery, he helped develop their first aged, soft-ripened cheese. And the rest is yummy history. At the Sidekick Cafe and Milk Bar, I had to have the mac & cheese with Red Hawk. Red Hawk is usually a standalone table cheese from Cowgirl and is described as adventurous, pungent, washed rind and sumptuous. It was all that and simply delicious!

Cheese-Monforte-Dairy

Hello my name is Jane, and I last had delicious artisan cheese five hours ago. When will you have your next artisan cheese experience?