Monday, September 22, 2014

The Washington County Cheese Tour

I enjoyed the Cheese Tour so much last year that I couldn't wait to do it again in 2014. The best part was the cheese, but petting baby Cossayuna Nubian goats is a close second. That's my sister making them bleat. 

We left Albany on what promised to be the last really hot, disgustingly muggy buggy day of summer and headed north out of Albany, starting at Sweet Spring Farm in Argyle, NY. I got there late last year, and they only had one cheese left for me, so they were first on my list this year, and we were one of the first to arrive. We parked in grass that was thigh high, got out the ball caps and mosquito repellent, and headed up the hill to the farm. Chevre and feta heaven! I love their plain chevre, but I also enjoyed the one coated in Herbes de Provence, and another with just black pepper. But the best cheese for me was the Pheonix, a meltingly smooth blue made with goats milk cheese that I gobbled up just yesterday with my friend M&M, and I should have taken a picture because looking at my pictures from the tour two weeks ago I see there are NO pictures of the cheese at Sweet Spring Farm, which is my old phone doing tricks on me again, cause I KNOW I took pictures.  Bleat!!!

But let me say the goats were totally cute and friendly, and like a family pet adored all the attention they were getting from the visitors. That tells me that the owners, Jeff Bowers and Milton Ilario, love their goats and treat them well. And I think that's probably what makes the cheese taste so wonderful. Their dogs were also funny, frolicking with the kids. It was a lovely farm visit that reminded me again about the earth and the animals and how much there is in life, and in food, to be appreciated.

Happy with a few purchases, including some goats milk soap from the farm and some maple syrup from one of the guest vendors, we jumped back into the car and away from a swarm of gnats and wound our way to nearby Longview Farm, which I didn't visit last year (I'm not sure they were on the list). Anyway, Homestead Artisans at Longview Farm, which started up in 2004 just two years after Sweet Springs, also specialize in goats milk cheeses, but they do some cows milk varieties that we also found out were wonderful.

I especially enjoyed the Saratoga Sunflower, a sturdy, grassy tasting cow's milk cheddar cheese. Other products included fresh chevre, aged goats milk parmesan (wow!), feta, and Goatgurt, which BigSis bought for her afternoon snack. There were other tents set up with educational offerings, and we got in on part of a history of cheese seminar and tasting, which was very interesting; I wished I hadn't missed the start. We made a few more purchases, talked to a couple of their French Alpine goats, and buzzed off to the last of three farms that we would visit this season.

Last stop: Argyle Cheese Farmer, which I spoke about at some length last year, mostly because their yogurt was so amazing. This year they had a Chocolate Mousse Yogurt that was pure heaven. We enjoyed the nice variety of offerings in their tent, but skipped the tour. My favorite was the Caerphilly, so I bought a chunk to take home, along with a quart of their whole milk plain yogurt, which was delicious as is, but also when tossed around with some salt and white vinegar and onions and cucumbers. The most AMAZING (and remember, I AM a superhero!) was their Amazing Grace, the oldest of three Grace gouda cheeses made from raw cows milk - this one was aged for 18 months!. It was full of little zingy crystals and had an excellent, sharp bite. There wasn't a single product that didn't make our eyes roll around and make us say goofy things like "YUMMY".

It was wonderful to get out of the city and into the country and to drive the back roads and eat cheese and yogurt and talk with my sister, whom I love and miss and wish I saw more often, and commune with the animals and meet our neighbors working so hard to bring us truly outstanding artisan dairy products. Thanks to all the sponsors, and look for some of these local gems at places like The Cheese Traveler, Whole Foods, The CoOp, and area farmers markets. Eat well, be well, and maybe you, too, will grow up to be a superpower. 

Zena, Goddess of Fire

P.S.: I am sorry about the sacrifice of many insect lives on my windshield that made this cheese tour possible.

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