Weekend Trips for the Cheese Lover
These festivals, trails and classes are a must for the cheese-obsessed.
Photo By: National Historic Cheesemaking Center
Photo By: Sacramento Bee / Contributor
Photo By: Boston Globe / Contributor
Photo By: John Greim / Contributor
Photo By: DenisTangneyJr
Photo By: Engelbert Farms
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Photo By: Beecher’s Handmade Cheese
Photo By: Uriah Carpenter / Festival of Cheese
Photo By: Di Bruno Bros.
Green County, Wisconsin
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.
California Cheese Trail
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.
Vermont Cheesemakers Festival
Hudson Valley, New York
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.
Berkshire Farm & Table Cheese Trail
Finger Lakes, New York
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.
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.
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).
Festival of Cheese, Des Moines, Iowa
Every 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.
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.