Say Cheese!

Have a Gouda time on National Cheese Day. 

Clockwise from top: Meadow Creek Mountaineer, Caromont Farm Esmontonian, Meadow Creek Appalachian, Twenty Paces Hardware, Caromont Farm Mount Alto Feta, Caromont Farm Farmstead Chèvre, and Meadow Creek Grayson.

Photo by Adam Ewing

June 4 is National Cheese Day, when turophiles (the scientific term for cheese connoisseurs) unite to celebrate one of mankind’s all-time favorite foods. Cheese often gets a bad rap, in large part because it’s loaded with saturated fat. In reality, this dairy confection is rich in calcium and protein, and makes for a positive dietary choice that helps to fend off diabetes and improve your cholesterol—as long as you nibble, not gorge. There are plenty of creative ways to enjoy Virginia-made cheeses, if you know where to get them and how to pair them with your favorite beverage.

Virginia Makers
Meadow Creek Dairy, Galax 

Original raw milk cheeses following traditional European techniques. Seen here: Mountaineer, an alpine-style hard cheese, Grayson, a washed rind semi-soft cheese, and Appalachian, a tomme-style semi-soft cheese. 

Twenty Paces Farm, Charlottesville

Specializes in cheese made from goat’s and sheep’s milks. Seen here as a wheel and a wedge: Hardware, a pecorino-influenced raw sheep and goat cheese aged for more than nine months.

Caromont Farm, Esmont

Award-winning goat’s milk and cow’s milk cheeses since 2007. Seen here: Esmontonian, a raw goat’s milk cheese aged for at least 60 days, Mount Alto Feta, a goat’s milk feta-style cheese, and Farmstead Chèvre, a soft goat’s milk cheese.

…and Mongers
Arrowine & Cheese, Arlington

Arrowine’s Perry Soulos won the 2014 Cheesemonger Invitational.

Cheesetique, Del Ray

Neighborhood cheese and wine shop with additional locations in Shirlington and Ballston.

The Cheese Shop, Williamsburg

Carries a wide selection of hand-crafted cheeses from artisanal cheese makers from the United States and Europe.

Truckle Cheesemongers, Richmond

Pop-up shop with cheeses that cannot be found elsewhere in the city.

Relax! (Fondue It) 

Pairing cheese with beer, wine, and other foods provides an endless supply of possibilities and entertainment, says Margaret Bradshaw, owner of Richmond’s popular pop-up cheese shop Truckle Cheesemongers. “A perfect pairing should accentuate the complexities of the cheese as well as the food or beverage with which it has been paired,” Bradshaw says. 

Alp Blossom, an Austrian cow’s milk cheese that is covered in edible herbs and flowers, pairs well with Black Heath Meadery’s The Muse, because the subtle sweetness of the cheese goes so naturally with the fermented honey mead.

Other pairings to try include Italian Mountain Gorgonzola DOP with a hoppy IPA, like Triple IPA from The Veil in Richmond, and aged Schlossberger with a good old kosher dill pickle. For an easy way to impress at your dinner party, Bradshaw recommends pairing a cheese and a beverage from the same region, like a funky, vegetal Camembert with Calvados, both from Normandy.

“Pairing is all about balance,” says Bradshaw. “Cheese and its pairing should play together nicely, whether they complement or challenge one another.” 

By The Numbers

57,518 The weight, in pounds, of the biggest and heaviest cheese ever produced. It was 32 feet long.

34 American per capita cheese consumption, in pounds, in 2014. It is expected to be 37 pounds by 2025.

10 Pounds of milk needed to make 1 pound of cheese. 

60 Master cheese makers in the United States—and every one of them lives in Wisconsin.

2,000+ Varieties of cheese that exist.

30 minutes before bed, eating cheese will help you sleep better (according to a 2005 study).

#1 Popular cheese recipe in America? Mac and cheese. 

This article originally appeared in our June 2019 issue.

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