View the winners of the 2013 Editors Choice Food Awards — Dairy & Cheese Category.
Maplebrook makes many fine cheeses, and its standard ricotta is excellent. But this premium product, made by pulling off the first curds that rise to the top during cheesemaking, is the creamiest, lightest ricotta we’ve had this side of Italy. There’s no grainy unpleasantness—just fluffy piles of remarkably smooth goodness.
Suggested Retail Price: $5–$6 per pound
Where to Find It: Select cheese shops around New England and certain branches of Whole Foods and Hannaford supermarkets. For more information, visit: maplebrookvt.com
Von Trapp Famstead
Yes, they’re related to the famous Von Trapp family of musicians, but brothers Sebastian and
Dan have made their own name as cheesemakers, particularly with this lovely washed-rind cow’s-milk cheese. Sweet and buttery, with a texture like firm pudding, “Oma” gets a sassy kick from regular brine baths, which add the aroma of salted, roasted nuts. Like several noteworthy
Vermont cheeses, these are aged in Jasper Hill’s 22,000-square-foot cheese cave in Greensboro and packaged and distributed under that label.
Suggested Retail Price: $22 per pound
Where to Find It: Select cheese and specialty stores around New England; many Whole Foods stores; and online at: cellarsatjasperhill.com
Blue Ledge Farm
Greg Bernhardt and Hannah Sessions produce excellent goat’s-milk cheeses at Blue Ledge Farm (we love “Lake’s Edge” and “Crottina”), but when the milking season winds down, they buy cow’s milk from a neighboring dairy and make this
excellent creamy-yet-crumbly blue. It has all the floral and zingy flavors you expect, but keeps them in balance with wonderful nutty/buttery undertones.
Suggested Retail Price: $18 per pound
Where to Find It: Many gourmet, co-op, and cheese shops throughout New England, including Brattleboro Co-op, Brattleboro, VT; Farmstead, Providence, RI; Concord Cheese Shop, Concord, MA; and online at: blueledgefarm.com
Jasper Hill Farm
Brothers Andy and Mateo Kehler have been in this business for only 10 years, but they’ve had an outsized impact on New England cheesemaking. We love all their products, but “Harbison,” a bloomy-rind cow’s-milk cheese, stands out for its creaminess and grassy/nutty flavors, plus the sweet aromas it picks up from being wrapped in thin strips of spruce harvested from the Kehlers’ farm.
Suggested Retail Price: $21 per 12-ounce wheel
Where to Find It: Many cheese and gourmet shops around New England; most Whole Foods stores; and online at: cellarsatjasperhill.com
FRESH GOAT CHEESE
If there were a College of Vermont Cheese, Vermont Creamery, with its 25 years of expert cheesemaking behind it, would be its dean. It all began with a simple batch of fresh chèvre that Allison Hooper made for a dinner party hosted by her friend Bob Reese. Since then, the partners have produced wonderful butters, mascarpone, and aged cheeses such as “Cremont” and “Bonne Bouche,” with their bloomy rinds and creamy centers. But their chèvre, which comes in several flavors, is still great and still deserves recognition.
Suggested Retail Price: $4.99 per 4 ounces
Where to Find It: Most supermarkets around New England, including Whole Foods, Hanna-ford, Shaw’s, and Stop & Shop. For more information, visit: vermontcreamery.com
ELLIE'S CLOUDY DOWN
Ruggles Hill Creamery
All of Tricia Smith’s cheeses, made with milk from her herd of Oberhasli and Saanen goats, are remarkable for their pure flavor, supple rinds, and ultra-creamy texture. “Ellie’s Cloudy Down,” named for one member of the herd, is a beautiful, award-winning pyramid coated in gray surface mold, which ripens the cheese slowly; try it with a drizzle of honey.
Suggested Retail Price: $9.50 per pyramid
Where to Find It: Assorted specialty markets around Massachusetts, including Central Bottle & Provisions in Cambridge and Rubiner’s in Great Barrington; and online at: formaggiokitchen.com.
For more information, visit: ruggleshill.com
Grafton Village Cheese
There are many fine Cheddars being made in New England, but Grafton is special for its balance of buttery, tangy, and earthy-mushroom notes. The paste is creamy, but crumbles just as a good cave-aged Cheddar should (its cheesecloth wrappings let it breathe without drying out), and it has the lovely golden hue of the afternoon sun on a wheat field. Want the best grilled cheese of your life? Make it with this.
Suggested Retail Price: $19.99 per pound
Where to Find It: Company stores in Brattleboro and Grafton, VT; select specialty, cheese,and Whole Foods stores around New England; and online at: graftonvillagecheese.com
All photos/art by Michael Piazza