F&W Free Preview All You Coastal Living Cooking Light Food and Wine tab Health myRecipes Southern Living Sunset
My F&W
quick save (...)

The Great American Cheese Plate

World-class artisans are making cheese in almost every corner of America, from Oregon to Georgia. Here, the best appear in a truly national cheese course.

The perfect cheese plate should include a mix of fresh, aged, soft and hard cheeses, arranged in the order in which they should be tasted: from the lightest and freshest to the ripest and most intense. Here, cheese expert Laura Werlin lists quintessential American cheeses by style, starting with fresh cheeses and ending with washed-rind cheeses.

Fresh Cheeses

Fresh cheeses are ready to eat as soon as they are made—no aging required. They generally have the mild, minerally flavors of their primary ingredients: milk and salt.

(1) Basket-Molded Chèvre: Pure Luck Grade A Goat Dairy, Dripping Springs, TX To create this silky chèvre, the cheesemakers hand-ladle curds made from the farm’s goat milk into basket molds to drain (purelucktexas.com).

Cottage Cheese: Cowgirl Creamery, Point Reyes Station, CA Crème fraîche gives this cottage cheese its tang and richness (cowgirlcreamery.com).

Fresh Mozzarella: Crave Brothers Dairy Farm, Waterloo, WI The Crave brothers milk their own herd of 600 cows for their buttery mozzarella (cravecheese.com).

Semisoft Cheeses

Mild semisoft cheeses are most often aged from a few days to a few months. They melt beautifully under the slightest heat.

(2) Crescenza: Bellwether Farms, Petaluma, CA This handmade cheese has the perfect semisoft texture: creamy yet firm (bellwetherfarms.com).

Franklin’s Teleme: San Luis Obispo, CA Franklin Peluso’s masterful cheese, dusted with rice flour on the outside, is oozy-soft within (franklinscheese.com).

Farmstead Creamy Havarti: Willamette Valley Cheese Company, Salem, OR This American take on the Danish cheese is great in a grilled cheese sandwich (wvcheeseco.com).

Soft-Ripened Cheeses

Distinguished by their white "bloomy" rinds and creamy interiors, soft-ripened cheeses get softer instead of harder as they age. The best-known are Brie and Camembert.

(3) Green Hill: Sweet Grass Dairy, Thomasville, GA This cheese produced near the Georgia-Florida border gets its sweet, grassy flavors from the pasture that feeds the herd of Jersey cows at nearby Green Hill Dairy (sweetgrassdairy.com).

Pee Wee Pyramid: Cypress Grove Chèvre, Arcata, CA A light, lemony goat cheese from the makers of perennial favorite Humboldt Fog (cypressgrovechevre.com).

Seastack: Mt. Townsend Creamery, Port Townsend, WA Launched in May 2006, Mt. Townsend has been garnering praise for its complex cheeses, like the creamy, citrusy, cow’s-milk Seastack (mttownsend creamery.com).

Surface-Ripened Cheeses

Surface-ripened cheeses are sometimes firm and sometimes molten, but they all have similarly wrinkly rinds and intensely flavored interiors. Special molds ensure that their exteriors ripen first.

(4) Bijou: Vermont Butter & Cheese Company, Websterville, VT This unctuous two-ounce goat’s-milk round was introduced in 2006. Unwrap it and store it in the fridge, and it firms up to become a fantastic grating cheese; keep it covered and it just gets creamier ( vtbutterandcheeseco.com ).

Fleur-de-Lis: Bittersweet Plantation Dairy, Gonzales, LA Famed Louisiana chef John Folse’s superrich Guernsey cow’s-milk cheese evolves over time from firm to pure liquid (jfolse.com).

Pyramid: Juniper Grove Farm, Redmond, OR Pierre Kolisch makes this earthy, slightly chalky, pyramid-shaped cheese from raw goat’s milk (junipergrove farm.com).

Semihard Cheeses

A broad category ranging from cheddar to Gouda, semihard cheeses can be aged anywhere from a few months to a few years, and sometimes longer.

(5) Flagship Reserve: Beecher’s Handmade Cheese, Seattle, WA A cheddarlike cow’s-milk cheese, Beecher’s Flagship Reserve develops its nutty, sharp flavors while it ages in cloth wrapping for at least a year (beechershandmadecheese.com).

Classico: Tumalo Farms, Bend, OR This goat’s-milk cheese is sweet, like many Dutch Goudas, and nutty, like an aged Italian cheese (tumalofarms.com).

Pleasant Ridge Reserve: Uplands Cheese Company, Dodgeville, WI An Alpine-style, golden, grassy cheese made from the milk of mixed-breed cows (uplandscheese.com).

Hard Cheeses

Hard cheeses like Parmigiano-Reggiano are defined by their firm, granular texture and salty-sharp taste.

(6) Sarvecchio Parmesan: Sartori Foods, Plymouth, WI SarVecchio is the closest thing to an American Parmigiano; moister and less assertive than its Italian cousin, it has a great balance of nutty, salty and caramelly flavors (sartorifoods.com).

Queso de Mano: Haystack Mountain Goat Dairy, Niwot, CO Loosely translated as "handmade cheese," sweet-tart Queso de Mano was this goat dairy’s first raw-milk cheese (haystackgoatcheese.com).

Super Aged Gouda: Winchester Cheese Company, Winchester, CA This Gouda is made in the Dutch "Boere Kaas" (farm-made) fashion with unpasteurized cow’s milk (winchestercheese.com).

Blue Cheeses

Blue cheeses get their color from rich veins of mold and range in texture from creamy to creamy-crumbly to hard.

(7) Rogue River Blue: Rogue Creamery, Central Point, OR Rogue Creamery’s herbaceous, salty-sweet raw cow’s-milk cheese is aged in Syrah-Merlot grape leaves that have been soaked in pear brandy (roguecreamery.com).

Big Woods Blue: Shepherd’s Way Farms, Nerstrand, MN This bacony blue made with sheep’s milk is a perfect example of the crumbly style (shepherdswayfarms.com).

Cayuga Blue: Lively Run Goat Dairy, Interlaken, NY Cayuga Blue gets its minty, lightly spicy flavors from the milk of this small dairy’s own goats (livelyrun.com).

Washed-rind Cheeses

These cheeses get their characteristic orange-pink rinds from being "washed" (rubbed, really) with a solution of salt water and beneficial bacteria. Often described as stinky (in a good way), washed-rind cheeses can smell stronger than they taste.

(8) Grayson: Meadow Creek Dairy, Galax, VA Made from the milk of Jersey cows, this soft, square-shaped cheese has earned a cult following for its beefy brown-butter flavors (meadowcreekdairy.com).

Hooligan: Cato Corner Farm, Colchester, CT This mushroomy, yeasty cow’s-milk cheese comes from mother-son duo Elizabeth MacAlister and Mark Gillman (catocornerfarm.com).

Sarabande: Dancing Cow Farm, Bridport, VT A pyramid-shaped raw cow’s-milk cheese, caramelly Sarabande is aged for 60 days (dancingcowcheese.com).

Laura Werlin is the author of four books on cheese. Her most recent is Laura Werlin’s Cheese Essentials.

Published November 2007
You Might Also Like

Comments

Add A Comment

    Add a Comment

    See our terms
    You must be logged in to comment. or
    advertisement
    The Dish
    Receive delicious recipes and smart wine advice 4x per week in this e-newsletter.
    The Wine List Weekly pairing plus best bottles to buy.
    F&W Daily One sensational dish served fresh every day.
    American Express Publishing ("AEP") may use your email address to send you account updates and offers that may interest you. To learn more about the ways we may use your email address and about your privacy choices, read the AEP Privacy Statement.
    How we use your email address
    advertisement
    Congratulations to Nicholas Elmi, winner of Top Chef: New Orleans, the 11th season of Bravo's Emmy-Award winning, hit reality series.

    Join celebrity chefs, renowned winemakers and epicurean insiders at the culinary world’s most spectacular weekend, the FOOD & WINE Classic in Aspen, June 20-22.