A few years ago, I spent a week traveling the byways of New England in search of the best cheesemakers. As the rest of the world hurries on, remote farms are quietly turning milk into everything from charming little goat pyramids to big bold wheels of aged cows’ milk cheese. Down many dirt roads there was marvelous cheese to taste from the animals grazing in the nearby fields.
It was one of the best road trips I have ever taken, especially since some of the cheese I sampled never makes it out of the neighborhood in which it is produced.
Now, thanks to a new book, you can have your own cheese trail adventure virtually anywhere in the United States. According to The Atlas of American Artisan Cheese (Chelsea Green, $35) by Jeffrey P. Roberts, 43 states have artisanal cheesemakers, including Hawaii and Alaska, where you can buy goat cheese at Cranberry Ridge Farm in Wasilla, 45 miles northeast of Anchorage.
Mr. Roberts, himself a walking encyclopedia of American cheeses, may have set out to provide restaurateurs, shops and cheese lovers with an indispensable reference, but in the process he created an exciting new kind of travel guide. His book is a perfect companion volume to books about winery visits, especially for California, Oregon and Washington. For those interested in cheese without wine, New England is the place. Of the 84 cheesemakers in New England, 60 welcome visitors, some by appointment only, and most sell their cheeses on the farm.
In the northwest corner of Vermont, at Green Mountain Blue Cheese, you can buy Gore-Dawn-Zola, a superb, creamy, rich and sweet Gorgonzola-style cheese created by Dawn Boucher. She and her husband, Daniel, whose family has been farming for 12 generations, own the farm, located in Highgate Center.
Mr. Roberts, a founder of the Vermont Institute for Artisan Cheese at the University of Vermont, has ferreted out stories of about 350 of the 400 cheesemakers he has found in America so far.
Each profile is filled with all the useful information a cheese fiend would want to have. There are lots of photos: the cheeses look delicious and the farmers kindly while the lambs, cows and goats never look posed but always look winsome. Even if you can’t take a tour, the atlas provides a useful introductory course on artisanal cheeses and tells how to order many of the cheeses online.
"Jeff Roberts' devotion to American artisan cheesemakers has helped put all of us on the map."Sue Conley and Peggy Smith, Cowgirl Creamery
“U.S. artisan cheesemakers have been quietly working on a food revolution, revitalizing American cuisine, our rural landscape, and farm viability. Through the Atlas, Roberts takes us on a breathtaking culinary tour, profiling cheesemaking and the products of enterprising artisans. Bravo to Jeff for providing a chronicle of these amazing efforts!”Catherine Donnelly, University of Vermont Professor and co-Director of the Vermont Institute for Artisan Cheese
“Jeff Roberts has been a driving force in the movement to develop world class artisan cheeses here in the United States. In his new book, he shows us farm by farm and cheese by cheese why we have cause to celebrate. Roberts proves this movement has finally come of age.”Rob Kaufelt, Proprietor of Murray’s Cheese and author of The Murray’s Cheese Handbook
"The American cheese revolution is in full swing. Cheesemakers are sprouting up faster than you can say 'cheese,' and American cheeses are crowding out imports on cheese shelves across America. This makes the timing just right for Jeff Roberts’s comprehensive Atlas of American Artisan Cheese. Chockfull of charming cheesemaker stories and explanations of the cheeses they make, the Atlas of American Artisan Cheese provides us with an indispensable road map to American cheeses and helps us navigate the ever-growing collection of artisan cheeses made from California to Maine."--Laura Werlin, author of The New American Cheese
“Innovative but rooted in tradition, American artisan cheese production is making great strides forward. Its quality and diversity are masterfully recorded in The Atlas of American Artisan Cheese.”Jacques Pépin, chef, cookbook author, and host of numerous PBS-TV cooking series
"The Atlas of American Artisan Cheese proves that there is a rich, thriving, world of flavor, quality, and tradition abroad in the land. This enormous undertaking by cheese aficionado Jeffrey Roberts makes us feel proud of what can come from American soil, passion, and culture—both kinds of culture. What wonderful stories! Bravo to Jeffrey and all the American artisanal cheesemakers!"Deborah Madison, author of Local Flavors, Cooking and Eating From America’s Farmers Markets
“The revival of artisan cheesemaking in the United States has been nothing short of breathtaking. Finally, Jeff Roberts’ meticulous work allows that vast landscape to be viewed in all of its beauty and diversity.”Paul Kindstedt, author of American Farmstead Cheese and co-director of the Vermont Institute for Artisan Cheese