Say Cheese!

March 25, 2015


Took a fascinating cheese class last night with Matt Rubiner, of Rubiner's Cheese in Great Barrington.

I don't think I've ever eaten so much cheese. And I learned a lot. 

This class was a romp up Route 7 from Monterey, Massachussetts (Rawson Brook Farm), to Highgate, Vermont (Boucher Farm).  Matt says this is now the densest cheese route in America, and who am I to disagree?

The cheeses we ate were delicious; high points, for me, were the sweet, simple Rawson Brook Farm Chevre, which is about as basic as cheese can be.  I also loved the Dorset from Consider Bardwell Farm, the Crawford from Twig Farm and the rather remarkable Orb Weaver Old, from Orb Weaver Farm, which had a sweet, honest earthy quality. But we weren't just tasting cheese. Among the fascinating facts I learned last night:

Everything we thought we knew about cheese changed a few of years ago when a professor at Harvard, Rachel Dutton, sequenced the genome of cheeses. Professor Dutton is doing really interesting things; here's an article about her. 

A professor at the University of Vermont, Paul Kindstedt, is changing what we know about blue-veined cheeses. 

And for anyone who happens to be lactose-intolerant, you can not only eat cheese (most of the lactose in cheese is drained out with the whey), but you might be able to drink the milk of Ayrshire cows, who produce milk so different from that of other cattle that it is naturally homogenized.

I'm sure shops all over America are offering cheese classes.  I can't guarantee they'll be as instructive – or as deliciously entertaining – as Matt's, but it's certainly worth exploring.  When I first started writing about food there were almost no artisanal American cheeses.  I will never forget my first taste of American goatcheese, when Laurie Chenel began making it in the late seventies up in the Napa Valley. But what really thrills me is that, as our cheesemakers become increasingly adept at their craft, our knowledge about the subject keeps growing. It is, to me at least, endlessly fascinating.





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  • allisondbl says:

    Ruth – Utterly fascinating entry and now I’m totally craving cheese … Thank you. ;(
    FWIW, with regard to American cheeses, next time you’re in San Francisco, check out Cowgirl Creamery. Their Mt. Tam and Red Hawk are American cheeses that can – and have – compete(d) with any fromage anywhere in the world and take home the medals!
    And they offer tours and classes: (Not associated with them; just a true turophile!)

  • Ruth Reichl says:

    Thanks Alley. Actually, I’ve known the Cowgirl women forever – met Peggy when she was working at Chez Panisse. And in that vein, one of the early Cowgirl people was Kate Arding, who’s just opened a terrific cheese, takeout, food shop in Hudson NY with her partner Mona Talbott. Mona cooked at Chez Panisse, and then set up the fantastic kitchen at the American Academy in Rome. They’re both wonderful, as is their shop, Talbott and Arding.
    (I’m not associated with them either; just grateful that they’ve moved into my neighborhood.)

  • allisondbl says:

    Ruth – and now you evil woman you have given me yet ANOTHER reason to wander up the Hudson at some point; no lack of lovely foodie choices up there and now … CHEESE! (And it’s a little hard to resist a place on Cherry ALLEY …) Thanks, Alley