America, We've Stepped Up Our Cheese Game
The wedges, blocks, and wheels that are redefining American cheese.
By: James Gaddy
April 2014 Issue of DETAILS
For too long, cheese born in the USA was defined by those rubbery, wax-dipped bricks of schoolbus-orange Cheddar found in the refrigerated section of your local supermarket. But those days are over.
"The bar has definitely been raised since I started, in terms of the sheer number of farms producing cheese and the number producing really good cheese," says Anne Saxelby, who opened her eponymous New York City provisions shop in 2006.
That’s partly because American makers have started embracing terroir—a concept borrowed from vintners that suggests that geography and climate influence how something tastes—to create flavor-packed takes on European classics. It’s a difference you can taste in salty wedges seasoned by early-morning fog off the Pacific and pungent blocks ripened in a humid Virginia summer. “It starts with where the cheese is from,” says Jason Sobocinski, owner of New Haven’s Caseus.
Here’s how the New World’s cheeses stack up:
Twig Farm, Vermont
Created by Michael Lee on a modest farm with 50 goats, this semi-firm Tomme is the American goat-cheese version of the Tomme de Savoie, a rustic variety aged for two months in eastern France. Lee ages his for 80 days with a natural rind that marries well with its creamy texture and herbal undertones.