Where should you live if you’re a cheese lover? Maybe it’s not as important as great weather, but availability of great cheese is one reason I love where I live. Artisan cheesemaking is happening well beyond the leading dairy states, and it has been exciting to see the activity push into new territory. Weighing a couple of factors, I’ve compiled a (totally subjective) list of the Top Ten Cheese States.
You don’t have to live in a state to find its cheeses, of course, but you’ll have a better chance of scoring the rarer ones. Here are states ten through six with the top five coming next week. Don’t agree with me? Of course you don’t. Please use the Comments field below to chime in.
About the criteria: For the most part, I considered the number of critically acclaimed creameries in the state. But states with influential retailers got extra credit.
Pioneering creameries like Great Hill Dairy and Westfield Farm have been making this state proud for decades. Now newcomers like Grey Barn are enriching the scene. The Massachusetts Cheese Guild has 28 members, most of them small but that’s how you start. Formaggio Kitchen, the Cambridge-based retailer, has nurtured a lot of the newbies and educated many of us about the best imports.
Capriole was the whole story in Indiana for years. Now add Jacobs & Brichford (Ameribella! Everton!); Traders Point Creamery; and Tulip Tree Creamery with its lovely Foxglove and Trillium, and this state is a major contender.
My home state but I’d mention it anyway thanks to the groundbreaking work of Paula Lambert’s Mozzarella Company and the plucky cheesemakers at Pure Luck Farm and Latte Da Dairy. It gets hot here, people. Some of the best cheese merchants in the country call Texas home: Whole Foods, with its influential flagship store in Austin; the terrific Central Market chain; Scardello’s in Dallas, Antonelli’s in Austin and Houston Dairymaids.
America would be poorer without the lovely sheep cheeses from Shepherd’s Way Farm, a business that has faced down a lot of challenges; the yummy Bent River and Good Thunder from Alemar Cheese; and the caramel-scented Jeff’s Select Gouda from Caves of Faribault. A shoutout to Surdyk’s, Kowalski’s Markets and Lunds & Byerlys supermarkets for really getting behind artisan cheese in this state.
Beecher’s Flagship Reserve is one of my go-to Cheddars, and I love everything that Cascadia Creamery is making, especially Sawtooth. Mt. Townsend Creamery has revived cheesemaking on the Olympic Peninsula, and I can’t not mention my favorite cheese in a can: Washington State University’s Cougar Gold.
Coming next week: the Top Five.