We love attending the NASFT Fancy Food Show every summer not just to eat as much cheese as possible – though we certainly try – but also for the opportunity to chat up some of our favorite cheesemakers and learn about their new cheesy creations. The show also gives us the chance to taste cheeses that aren’t usually stocked at our local cheese shops. Unfortunately, we can’t purchase hunks of new favorites directly from the cheesemakers at the show, but we might take more than our fair share of samples. Here’s a lowdown on the familiar faces and new (or new to us) cheeses we saw at this year’s show:
Pineland Farms’ Pink Peppercorn Chevre
Colleen recently wrote up the Pineland Farms feta, but at the show we raved over its new line of fresh chevres. We particularly enjoyed the goat-cheese log enrobed in crushed pink peppercorns, which offered a sharp but not overpowering bite. Cheesemaker Mark Whitney, whom we met, was smart to choose pink peppercorns over black, which would have overwhelmed the palate and light, creamy chevre underneath the spicy coating. Though we love our local goats, we won’t hesitate to pick up a cylinder of this Maine chevre if it appears in Minnesota or Virginia.
Grafton Village’s Cave-Aged Vermont Leyden
It’s been almost three years since we posted about Grafton Village’s Clothbound Cheddar, and while we were able to sample this year’s version at the Grafton Village booth, our focus turned to cheesemaker Dane Huebner’s new Cave-Aged Vermont Leyden (pictured above), which was a silver finalist for a 2012 sofi™ Award. Not sold outside the Northeast – yet – this full-flavored cheese gets its oomph from a sprinkling of cumin seeds throughout its dense paste. It chills out in Grafton’s cave for a minimum of two months, which allows the intensity of the cumin to mellow while the cheese’s rich, buttery flavor further develops. We also were intrigued with the line of sheep’s-milk cheeses that Grafton is pioneering, but alas, none were ready for tasting at this year’s show. Next year, though…
Haystack Mountain’s Snowdrop and Camembert
If you recall, I had to resort to mail-order to try Haystack Mountain’s Haystack Peak a couple of years ago (and paid more for shipping than the cheese itself), and it’s equally as impossible to find the other Colorado-crafted cheeses by me. So we were tickled pink to find Haystack Mountain’s Snowdrop (left) and Camembert (center), along with several of the dairy’s semi-firm cheeses, and nibbled our way through the booth. The bloomies stood out with their snowy white rinds and silky smooth pastes, and if there had been a way to sneak the rest of that Snowdrop wheel into my bag without anyone noticing, that tray would look a lot emptier.
Sweet Grass Dairy’s Thomasville Tomme
We knew we’d get a welcome reception at the Sweet Grass Dairy booth after a few days of friendly Twitter chatter with Georgia cheesemaker Jeremy Little, and we had a great time talking about our SGD faves (Green Hill, Asher Blue, Lumiere). While not a new cheese to the rest of the world, Thomasville Tomme, Little’s French mountain-style cheese, was a first for me. You’d be hard-pressed to find someone who would scoff at its grassy, salty paste (supplied by raw milk) and sweet yellow hue.
Cypress Grove Chevre’s Bermuda Triangle
We first spotted this distinctive cheese at Fromagination during our Wisconsin cheese weekend last fall but didn’t have a chance to try it until this past Sunday. Bermuda Triangle, from California-based Cypress Grove Chevre, essentially follows the Humboldt Fog recipe we all adore, but the triangular shape offers a different rind-to-paste ratio. With more ash and rind in each bite, you get more of a pronounced tang while still experiencing the luscious, goaty paste we crave. And speaking of tang, we spooned up generous samples of Cypress Grove’s fromage blanc as well. Needless to say, it was divine.
And Wisconsin cheese fanatics, don’t fret – we’ve got a review of my home state’s latest creations coming up next week.