I was reluctant to read the book Reinventing the Wheel: Milk Microbes and the Fight for Real Cheese even though cheese is my favorite food. I love cheese. I mean I really love cheese. Unfortunately, I have a bad habit of making assumptions. I mean I make A LOT of assumptions. Man, I’ve got a lot to work on.
Anyhow, since the authors are from Neal’s Yard Dairy in London, I ASSUMED that the tone of the book would be very anti-American cheese and super reverential towards the Old World. Look, I love French and Italian stuff too, you guys, but I make wine here in the US and I like to think that there are folks here, smart folks, creative folks, who are conversant in the Old World but of this time and place, you know?
I feel like I get flak from somms for my chenin not being “chenin-y” enough or that the Columbia Valley isn’t “Loire-y” enough and it’s frustrating. I never said I was trying to make Loire chenin (as delicious as chenins from the Loire can be). I’m trying to make a dry, minerally, fresh white wine FROM HERE to pair with our Puget Sound seafood and shellfish, the fact that it is 100% chenin blanc is sort of secondary. Point being, I bristle at old world vs. new world showdowns and I ASSUMED that this book would make me feel bad about where I come from. I already have enough reasons to feel bad about where I come from.
So, while on vacation in Lake Tahoe last summer, I finally got around to reading “Reinventing the Wheel” and I was thoroughly charmed. I’m talkin 100% completely charmed. The husband and wife authors, the Percivals, are refreshingly open minded! Not everything in America sucks! Not everything in Europe is better! *AND* the book is quite technical! I learned a lot! As a food science grad from Davis, I appreciated the depth of the multicultural microbial population discussions. Microbialfoods.org is so cool!
I’m now actively seeking out the domestic cheese producers mentioned in the book. One of them I have brought to tasting group a couple times - the washed rind, wrapped in spruce bark, cow’s milk cheese called Harbison from Jasper Hill Farm in Vermont pictured at the top of this post. Delicious. I’ve seen it at Costco, you guys, so have a taste.
Last December I conned my friends into splitting a round of Rush Creek reserve, a seasonal cow’s milk cheese from Wisconsin. Very good but very expensive. Then I bought almost certainly too much cheese from Andante Dairy in Marin County from that cool grocery store in Point Reyes Station and then later this spring from the adorable MilkFarm LA in Eagle Rock. I think that Andante’s Pastoral might be been the best herbed goat cheese I’ve ever tasted? Beautifully balanced.
Upshot: there is hope for us domestic producers of delicious things! A toast to both being thoughtfully inspired and to ditching our assumptions! Cheers!!
Cheesy list of links to my favorite cheese shops