Weekend Trips for the Cheese Lover
These festivals, trails and classes are a must for the cheese-obsessed.
Green County, WisconsinUnsurprisingly, Wisconsin wins as the top cheese producer in the U.S., churning out more than 600 varieties of cheese. Although it’s famed for cheddar, Wisconsin produces everything from mozzarella to limburger. Green County is one of the most famous cheese regions, where a dozen creameries create about 50 different kinds of cheese, including gigantic wheels of iconic Swiss cheese.
At the heart of Green County lies Monroe, dubbed the “Swiss Cheese Capital of the U.S.A.,” owing to the town’s Swiss heritage. Emmi Roth USA, a subsidiary of the Swiss company, is the largest importer of cheese from Switzerland, and visitors are allowed into the viewing hall to witness cheesemaking action. While in Monroe, don’t miss the National Historic Cheesemaking Center, which details the nation’s dairy history.
Of course, no trip to Wisconsin is complete without a cheese festival. Detour two hours north for the annual Great Wisconsin Cheese Festival, complete with a Big Cheese Parade, a cheese-curd eating competition and cheese carving demos. Try not to leave the state before stopping in Madison at Fromagination, a cheese shop that’s loaded with Wisconsin-made cheeses. 960 1280
California Cheese TrailIt makes sense that a state so intertwined with wine would also happen to be one of the top cheese-producing regions in the states. In fact, it ranks just behind Wisconsin, and yields about 250 different kinds of cheese. Experience as many as possible by downloading an app and hitting the cheese trail, a 100-mile journey that wends through redwoods and farmland in Sonoma and Marin counties.
The cheese collective consists of more than 30 farms, creameries and cheesemakers producing small-batch cheese: brie, blue cheese, cheddar and chevre are among the standouts. Many are open to the public, but some require advance booking if you want to tour the facilities. Try your hand at making cheese by booking a class at Achadinha Cheese Company in Petaluma. 960 1280
Vermont Cheesemakers FestivalVermont weighs in with about 50 cheesemakers per capita, the most of any state, and produces more than 150 kinds. The Vermont Cheese Trail blankets the Green Mountain area, but you can also experience the state’s tastiest artisanal offerings at the annual Vermont Cheesemakers Festival held at Shelburne Farms. Expect more than 40 cheesemakers in attendance, including Vermont Creamery, one of the leaders of the country’s artisanal cheese movement. Highlights include cheesemaking demos in a historic barn, cooking demos from The Cabot Creamery Cookbook and workshops on Vermont blue cheese. Vermont Farm Tours is also located in Shelburne, Vermont, and can arrange mozzarella-making workshops and artisan cheese tours. 960 1280
Hudson Valley, New YorkPastoral Hudson Valley is ripe with cheese options. The Culinary Institute of America (CIA) is considered one of the premier restaurant schools in the country, and its Hyde Park location recently added a cheesemaking course. The two-day boot camp teaches the basics of making cheese from scratch, and covers goat cheese, mozzarella and ricotta. Also at the CIA, the Ristorante Caterina de’ Medici will be holding a six-course dinner that spotlights Italian cheeses, such as gorgonzola and pecorino.
There are also a number of artisanal cheese makers in the Hudson Valley: Sprout Creek Farm is a working farm known for its award-winning cheeses; stop by the farm to visit its goats. Coach Farm, which specializes in goat cheese, supplies its stock to top NYC chefs like Jean-George Vongerichten. At Old Chatham Sheepherding Company, stop by its store to pick up its award-winning camembert—just note that as a self-serve shop, you’re on the honor system. 960 1280
Berkshire Farm & Table Cheese TrailNeighboring the Hudson Valley, the bucolic Berkshires cover a wide swath of New York and Massachusetts. Narrow the field by following the Berkshire Farm & Table Cheese Trail, which numbers eight farms and three restaurants. Cricket Creek Farm is one of the more established dairy farms in the region, and has won awards for its raw milk and extra-aged cheeses. There are no official tours, but guests are welcome to visit the farm animals, and even watch cows being milked. Hawthorne Valley Farm makes organic cheese, both hard and soft, on its biodynamic farm, and guided tours are available by appointment. Refuel at John Adams, A Farmhouse Restaurant, and choose the farm prix fix menu to get a taste of local cheeses. 960 1280
Finger Lakes, New YorkThe Finger Lakes have earned a reputation for its wines, and its cheeses shouldn’t be overlooked either. The Finger Lakes Cheese Trail includes six members, but be sure to plan ahead since two are closed in winter. Otherwise, mozzarella, blue cheese and even fresh curds are among the varieties that can be found along the trail.
The annual Finger Lakes Cheese Festival is a great opportunity to sample cheese from five members of the cheese trail that aren’t open to the public. You can also watch goats being milked, take a self-guided farm tour and participate in seminars. For even more local cheese sampling, sign up for a wine and cheese pairing class at the New York Wine & Culinary Center. 960 1280
OregonAdd cheese to the list of items experiencing a resurgence in the state. Where to start? Luckily, the Oregon Cheese Trail simplifies the matter by sorting the trail into regions. For example, the Willamette Valley alone has five cheesemakers on the trail. (Added benefit: It’s also one of the top wine-producing regions in the U.S.) In Southern Oregon, award-winning Rogue Creamery has been making cheese since the ‘30s, and blues and cheddars are popular sellers.
In March, Rogue Creamery will be hosting the 12th annual Oregon Cheese Festival. Tastings and classes are part of the fun; attendees can also buy tickets to the Cheesemakers Dinner, a golden opportunity to pick the brains of top cheesemakers during a multi-course dinner. 960 1280
WashingtonBeecher’s Handmade Cheese is arguably the state’s most famous, and was the first artisanal cheese shop in Seattle when it opened in Pike’s Place Market in 2003. Although it’s branched out, you can still visit the original location and watch its award-winning cheeses being made while you shop. Elsewhere in Washington, Cherry Valley Dairy has won awards for its rubbed rind cheese, and Willapa Hills Creamery is known for its sheep and cow milk cheeses and spreads.
Monteillet Fromagerie in Walla Walla distinguishes itself by making cheese from the Alpine goats and East Freisan-Lacaune sheep that populate its farm. Seasonal varieties include Wasabi Pickled Ginger chèvre along with its signature goat and sheep milk blends. The farm also offers two-day cheesemaking workshops for industry professionals and cheese enthusiasts alike, and you can even stay onsite in its farmhouse. The highlight is a fridge stocked with farm-fresh items (and yes, cheese). 960 1280
Festival of Cheese, Des Moines, IowaEvery year the American Cheese Society hosts the Festival of Cheese, one of the largest cheese conferences and competitions in the nation. Following the judging portion, the conference opens to the public with more than 1,800 artisanal cheeses to be tasted. This year the conference will be held in Des Moines, which has garnered buzz in recent years for its emerging food scene.
The Cheese Shop will hold events in conjunction with the conference. It’s also worth a visit to the store to peruse more than 100 artisanal cheeses and cheese tasting bar. For a full meal, pop into the Cheese Shop’s café to enjoy cheese-centric menu items, not least of which is the macaroni and cheese made with locally sourced gouda and cheddar. 960 1280
Philadelphia, PennsylvaniaSure, Philadelphia has long been associated with the humble cheesesteak (and the cheese-like whiz that smothers it). But cheese-related food aside, Philly’s cheese roots run deep. In fact, cheese purveyor Di Bruno Bros., a mainstay since 1939, has focused on cheese since the ‘60s. It now operates five stores around the city; swing by its flagship Rittenhouse Square location to salivate over more than 600 international cheeses.
Nearby, Reading Terminal Market is a 39,000-square-foot food hall that’s home to almost 80 vendors, and is one of the best places to sample farm fresh cheese from Amish Country in Lancaster, Pennsylvania. Before leaving, stop by Valley Shepherd Creamery to sample handmade, cave-aged cheeses from its North Jersey farm, and Downtown Cheese for its specialty domestic and international selections. 960 1280
Turkey: RakiKnown as the national drink of Turkey, raki — pronounced “raka” — can be found at most large-scale liquor stores in the US. The trick to making the drink correctly? Use 1 part raki and 2 parts ice-cold water. Because the anise oils in the raki emulsify when mixed with water, the clear liquids combine to form a white beverage known as Lion’s Milk. It’s named that because Turks believe that raki gives you the strength of a lion. 960 1280
Russia: VodkaAccording to legend, a monk named Isidore -- from Chudov Monastery inside the Moscow Kremlin -- made the first Russian vodka. Since then, Russian vodka producers like Smirnoff, Stolichnaya and Russian Standard have become popular among vodka connoisseurs. This spirit is traditionally drunk neat, but it is also commonly used in cocktails like the vodka martini, Bloody Mary, Sex on the Beach, Screwdriver and White Russian. 960 1280
Peru: Pisco SourChile and Peru both claim the Pisco Sour as their national drink, but the cocktail originated in Lima, Peru. American bartender Victor Vaughn Morris invented and then served the first Pisco Sour at the counter of Morris’ Bar in the early 1920s. This concoction is usually made with bourbon or whiskey, lemon or lime juice, and a sweetener. 960 1280
Japan: SakeWith its origin dating back to the 3rd century, sake is the beverage of choice in Japan. Sake is made from fermented rice. Undiluted, it contains 18 to 20% ABV (alcohol by volume). That’s double the amount of alcohol found in most beer. So sip slowly -- and savor its taste. 960 1280
Mexico: TequilaTequila is made from the blue agave plant, located in the city of Tequila, in Jalisco, Mexico. And if you didn’t know already, Mexico has claimed the exclusive international right to the word “tequila,” which allows the country to take legal action against countries who manufacture the distilled blue agave spirits. Mexico’s national drink is the Paloma -- made by mixing tequila with a grapefruit-flavored soda, a lime wedge, and served in a glass rimmed with salt. Tequila is also mixed to make cocktails like the margarita, Tequila Sunrise, Matador and Tequila Slammer. 960 1280
France: ChampagneWine and absinthe are popular spirits in France, but champagne is, too. The sparkling wine is produced from grapes grown in the country’s Champagne region, which includes Aube, Côte des Blancs, Côte de Sézanne, Montagne de Reims and Vallée de la Marne. Since the 17th century, champagne has been associated with luxury and power among royalty throughout Europe. Times have changed and now the tasty beverage is mixed with orange juice to create a mimosa, a tangy breakfast concoction. 960 1280
New Orleans: SazeracIn New Orleans, the Hurricane is a popular cocktail, but did you know about the Sazerac -- sometimes referred to as the oldest American cocktail? Mixologists believe this drink originated in the period before the American Civil War. This stiff drink is a mixture of cognac or rye whiskey, absinthe or Herbsaint, sugar and Peychaud’s Bitters. 960 1280
Puerto Rico: Piña coladaPuerto Rican bartender Ramon Marrero created and sold the piña colada in 1954, while working at the Caribe Hilton International Hotel. He received numerous accolades, which included receiving an award from Coco Lopez -- the maker of the coconut cream used in the drink -- for selling his 3 millionth cocktail. In 1978, the government declared the piña colada the official drink of Puerto Rico. 960 1280
Brazil: CaipirinhaSit back and sip on Brazil’s national drink, the Caipirinha. The sweet, but refreshing cocktail is made with cachaça (sugarcane rum), sugar and lime. Looking for a more fruity taste? Try the caipifruta, made with cachaça, crushed ice and crushed fresh fruit or fruits, including tangerine, lime kiwifruit, passion fruit caju, mango, grapes, lemon, caja and/or pineapple. 960 1280
NYC: ManhattanDr. Iain Marshall was the genius and creator behind the Manhattan cocktail first served at a banquet in honor of US presidential candidate Samuel J. Tilden in 1870. Usually garnished with a maraschino cherry, the Manhattan is closely related to the Brooklyn cocktail, made using dry vermouth and Maraschino liqueur. A Manhattan is made with sweet vermouth, whiskey and bitters, an alcohol flavored with herbal essences. 960 1280
Greece: OuzoA symbol of Greek culture, ouzo is an anise-flavored aperitif usually served with a small plate of appetizers that usually include small fresh fish, fries, olives and feta cheese. This drink is popular in Greece and Cyprus. It evolved from tsipouro, a beverage created by a group of 14th-century monks living in a monastery on Mount Athos. 960 1280
Scotland: ScotchAfter a long day at work, slowly sipping from a glass of Scotch whisky seems to make the worries of the world melt away. Scotch is a malt or grain whisky made in Scotland and aged in oak barrels for at least 3 years. Notable Scotch whisky brands include Bell’s, Dewar’s, Johnnie Walker, J&B, Chivas Regal and Cutty Sark. 960 1280
UK: Pimm's CupJames Kent was the first to serve Pimm’s Cup, in 1823 at a London oyster bar, making it a popular drink in England, particularly southern England. It is the one of 2 staple drinks at the Wimbledon tennis tournament, Henley Royal Regatta and the Glyndebourne Festival Opera. There are 7 Pimm’s products, but only Cup Nos. 1, 3 and 6 are still available. For a refreshing summer cocktail, we recommend the gin-based Pimm’s Cup No. 1 with chopped fruit and mixed with ginger ale or champagne. 960 1280
Spain: SangriaStop and share a pitcher of sangria with friends if you’re strolling through Barcelona’s Plaza Mayor. This tasty wine punch consists of wine (of course), chopped fruit, a splash of brandy and a sweetener, like honey, sugar, syrup or orange juice. Sangria is popular is Spain, Portugal, Mexico and Argentina. 960 1280
Cuba: MojitoHistorians believe the African slaves who worked in Cuba’s sugarcane fields during the 19th century were instrumental in the mojito’s origin. The traditional Cuban cocktail consists of white rum, sugar, lime juice, sparkling water and mint. The mojito is not only popular in Cuba but was also author Ernest Hemingway’s favorite cocktail. 960 1280
Singapore: Singapore SlingIn Singapore, Ngiam Tong Boon, a bartender working at the Long Bar in Raffles Hotel Singapore, created the Singapore Sling sometime prior to 1915. The original recipe used gin, Cherry Heering, Benedictine and pineapple juice. Decades later, the hotel served the premixed drink from an automatic dispenser, but customers can request a shaken version from the bartender. 960 1280
Italy: BelliniTry this delicious cocktail if you’re visiting Italy. The Bellini is one of Italy’s most popular long drinks created by Giuseppe Cipriani, the founder of Harry’s Bar in Venice. The color of the drink reminded the mixologist of the color of a saint’s toga in a painting by the 15th-century artist Giovanni Bellini. So what’s in it? This mixed drink consists of Prosecco sparkling wine and peach puree. 960 1280
Belgium: Black RussianBelgian bartender Gustave Tops created the first Black Russian cocktail in 1949, at the Hotel Metropole in Brussels, in honor of Perle Mesta, who was (at that time) the US ambassador to Luxembourg. This cocktail contains 3 parts vodka and 2 parts coffee liqueur, owing its name to the use of vodka, a traditional Russian spirit. 960 1280
Giant Omelet CelebrationLegend has it that Napoleon enjoyed the omelet he had in Bessieres, France so much that the next morning he ordered every egg in town be broken to prepare a giant omelet for his troops. Bessieres carries on the tradition to this day, with a 15,000-egg omelet, usually at Easter. Several other cities with French heritage host their own omelet festivals each year as well, including Abbeville, Louisiana, which celebrates with a 5,000-egg omelet in October. 960 1280
Olney Pancake RaceLegend has it that residents of Olney, England have been running an annual pancake race on Shrove Tuesday since 1445. A 400-yard run by the town’s
women while carrying pancakes in cast iron pans, the race has developed into an international competition, with a second race run in Liberal, Kansas on the same day. Other activities include children’s races and a pancake lunch. 960 1280