Local Cheese, If You Please
by Vanessa Veltri
So many award-winning cheeses are made locally, right here in the dairy farms of the Hudson Valley.
Formaggio, fromage, cheese—in any language, the meaning is the same…deliciousness! With so many variations and selections of cheeses from around the world, it’s no wonder cheese has been a favorite treat for centuries in every corner of the globe. While imported cheeses connect us with the richness of other cultures, what you may not know is that many award-winning cheeses are made locally, in the dairy farms of the Hudson Valley and other regions of New York. Many local cheese shops offer not only delicious imported cheeses, but some carry the smooth, creamy flavors of the milk produced by cows, sheep, and goats grazing right here in our own backyards as well.
With so many cheese shops in our area, you too can pick up a nice hunk of local Chevre or Camembert to taste the flavors of the community. Check out some of the featured cheese shops listed here, and be sure to stop in to try their selections before heading out on your next autumn picnic. Or go straight to the source itself and get a first-hand lesson at a local dairy farm.
LOCAL CHEESE SHOPS
THE CHEESE PLATE
New Paltz, NY, 845-255-2444
Water Street Market is a unique shopping experience in New Paltz, home to many specialty boutiques and shops, including The Cheese Plate. Proprietor Kat Alexander offers a selection of imported and domestic artisan cheeses, but specializes in local and organic cheeses, supporting local farms. Stop in and try a scrumptious Camembert from Old Chatham Sheepherding Company in Old Chatham, NY. The Cheese Plate offers the award-winning Nancy’s Hudson Valley Camembert—a combination of sheep and cow milk with a soft-ripened creamy texture and named for the owner at Old Chatham, Nancy Clark.
From Hawthorne Valley Farm in Ghent, NY, Kat carries a selection of Bianca cheeses—soft, white, mold-ripened cow cheese. Bianca is made from pasteurized, whole milk, in the style of a farmer’s cheese using microbial (vegetarian) rennet. The texture of Bianca is dense and rich. Flavors are creamy, buttery, and sweet, with distinct tangy notes.
Twin Maple Farms produces a cheese called Hudson Red. This artisanal semi-soft cheese is made from raw cow’s milk and has an intense flavor. It has a reddish outer layer and a velvety paste that’s a little sweeter than most cheeses with washed rinds. Try an off-dry or fruity white wine as a lovely pairing with Hudson Red.
Brovetto Dairy in the Catskill Mountains produces a Lapsang Souchong black tea flavored Harpersfield cheese. This full-flavored cheese is aged naturally underground and hand crafted using milk directly from their cow dairy. Harpersfield cheese comes in a variety of flavors, including dill, jalapeno, lavender, and rosemary.
Also available at The Cheese Plate is a special little treat called Eclipse. The small operation R&G Cheesemakers in Cohoes, NY produces this delightful petite cheese—a soft-ripened, goat’s milk cheese with a vegetable ash coating under a bloomy rind. It has a dense, smooth flavor with a hint of fresh cream sweetness and its compact size makes it just the right accompaniment with a delicate bottle of wine for a special date night.
These are just some of the finely selected cheeses available at Kat’s shop. The Cheese Plate’s mission is to help support community farms by offering local, sustainable, organic raw milk products with no hormones.
THE CHEESE BARREL
Margaretville, NY, 845-586-4666
The Cheese Barrel brings all good things together in this delightful cheese shop. Not only do they carry an extensive array of imported cheeses, they also carry some divine local cheeses, nostalgic candies like jelly beans and giant lollipops, gourmet coffees, and ice cream. Everyone can find something to love in this bountiful boutique.
While most of their cheeses are imported from many of the finest cheese capitals of the world, they also offer some cheese from Cooperstown Cheese Company, specifically one called Toma Celena. This nutty and rich Italian table cheese is complex in flavor, hinting of toasted grains and apples. Toma Celena was actually named after the first person who came, sampled, and loved this cheese at Cooperstown Cheese Company.
For a sneak peek inside The Cheese Barrel, visit cheesebarrel.com. Take a platter home with you for your next event, or savor your special treat in their cafe.
THE BIG CHEESE
Rosendale, NY, 845-658-7175
The Big Cheese, located on Main Street in picturesque Rosendale, is an eclectic shop that offers far more than a selection of delectable domestic and imported cheeses. They also carry a wide variety of specialty items including fine beverages, kitchenware, vintage clothing from around the world, books, gourmet foods, and many Middle Eastern delicacies. Owners Yuval and Lisa Sterer have made it their business to bring something new and exciting to the little town of Rosendale. They are quite the cheese mongers, carrying an assortment of cheeses from all over the world and many from local farms as well. Find out which local cheeses are available to you at The Big Cheese.
Nettle Meadow Farm, located in Warrensburg, NY, produces a cheese called Kunik. Sold at The Big Cheese, Kunik is a unique triple crème cheese made only at Nettle Meadow. It’s a white mold-ripened wheel made from goat’s milk and Jersey cow cream. This blend of milks makes Kunik much richer and more flavorful than a brie, yet more subtle and smooth than a typical goat cheese.
They offer a selection of local Chevre as well, particularly one flavored with an infusion of garlic and olive oil and another infused with honey and lavender.
The Big Cheese also carries some of the cheeses from Cooperstown Cheese Company in Milford, NY and other local producers. To learn more about The Big Cheese, watch their video story on visitvortex.com. Stop in for the cheese, stay for the unique shopping experience!
Kingston, NY, 845-853-8207
Visit Cheese Louise in Kingston for a selection of imported and domestic cheeses, and many other specialty items as well, including sausages, gourmet sandwiches, homemade soups, and desserts. Take a plate with you to one of the many local autumn festivals, or enjoy your snack there. Cheese Louise also pairs up with The Wine Hutch to host tastings on Fridays. Visit cheeselouise-ny.com or visit them on Facebook for more information on tasting dates and times. Don’t forget to snatch up some of their locally made fromage. They carry an extensive assortment of them.
Try another savory cheese from Nettle Meadow Farms called Three Sisters at Cheese Louise. Nettle Meadow’s newest cheese is made from a combination of sheep, goat, and cow milks. Three Sisters has a complex flavor, firm texture, and bloomy rind. They also carry an assortment of flavored Chevres from Nettle Meadow, including a spicy horseradish variety and the Kunik cheese mentioned previously.
Sample handmade fresh and smoked mozzarella from Laraia’s Cheese Company in New Windsor, NY. Also carrying a wide variety of artisanal cheeses, Laraia’s has been family operated since 1979, and uses only the finest quality milk curds to handcraft their delectable mozzarella products. Their philosophy stays true to strong-rooted tradition, making each product carefully by hand.
Woodstock, NY, 845-679-6676
This little gourmet cheese shop in the heart of Woodstock Village has many great cheeses both international and local. They are extremely knowledgeable about their products so don’t hesitate to ask questions. Try some of their gourmet paninis to take out or sit at their counter while you watch Woodstock go by. If you’re in the area, don’t miss this spot. Get a panini and maybe a wedge of cheese. You will not be disappointed.
Pine Plains, NY, 518-318-5325 coachfarm.com
Using the traditional methods of the French farmstead cheese maker, Coach Farm handcrafts authentic, artisanal goat cheeses that could once only be found in the remote villages of France. They are able to truly perfect their brands of cheeses, working only with goat’s milk, and producing fresh goat cheeses, aged goat cheeses, yogurt products, and milk.
Their farm is located in the small Hudson Valley village of Pine Plains. They presently nurture over 900 French Alpine dairy goats, born and raised on the farm. Since they were first introduced almost 20 years ago, Coach Farm cheeses have won many competitions and awards and have gained wide recognition and a large, loyal following.
Founded by Miles and Lillian Cahn in 1985, Coach cheeses continue to be a favorite of renowned chefs across the country. Before blessing us with their delicate goat cheeses, Miles and Lillian owned Coach Leather before moving upstate to enjoy a more “peaceful” life. Miles has often been quoted that they are “being held hostage by 1,000 goats at the farm.”
Their scrumptious products are available at your local cheese shops, including Cheese Louise and C’est Cheese at varying times. Give them a call before stopping in and pick up a helping of Coach Farm cheeses the next time you’d like to impress your friends. Or visit their website and shop their online store.
COOPERSTOWN CHEESE COMPANY
Milford, NY, 978-257-4635 cooperstowncheesecompany.com
Carried by a few of the featured cheese shops listed here, Cooperstown Cheese Company prides themselves in producing quality products with care and attention. Producing since 2007, owners Sharon Tomaselli and Bob Sweitzer have a strong passion for the meticulous development of their cheeses, and strive to provide their customers with the products they love most.
Their most popular cheese is the northern Italian alpine style cheese of their own creation, Toma Celena. They also carry a rich bloomy rind cheese called Toma con Brio, and a raw milk cheese from 100% grass-fed Jersey cows called Jersey Girl. Try out their other curd products and ricottas.
All of their Toma brand cheeses are hand crafted using only hormone-free milk from Lester Tyler’s Sunny Acres Farm. The cows are Brown Swiss, which produce milk rich in butterfat and used by the traditional cheese makers in Italy who developed the cheeses centuries ago. Lester’s Brown Swiss cows are nationally acclaimed and recognized.
Cooperstown Cheese Company has a retail store on site where they sell as many other New York state artisan cheeses as possible, as part of their philosophy to promote other cheese makers. They also offer a unique cheese-making workshop where you too can participate in small batch cheese making adapted to home cheese making so that you can try your own hand at it next time. Call for more information, book your reservation, and share in this age-old craft.
OLD CHATHAM SHEEPHERDING CO.
Old Chatham, NY, 518-794-7733 blacksheepcheese.com
Peacefully set on 600 acres in the sprawling upper hills of the Hudson River Valley, Old Chatham Sheepherding Company launched with a dream and 150 sheep. Today, with a flock of over 1,000 sheep, the dream has become reality. Established in 1993, the company is recognized as the producer of some of the best handcrafted sheep’s milk cheeses and yogurt in America. Produced in New York’s bountiful Hudson Valley, Old Chatham Sheepherding Company’s award-winning sheep’s milk cheese and yogurt are celebrated for their uniqueness and distinctive flavors. All year round, their experienced cheese makers skillfully turn small batches of fresh sheep’s milk into a variety of handcrafted artisan cheeses and yogurts. The sheep’s milk is pasteurized then cultured, which transforms the milk into curds and whey. The curds are handled in various ways depending on the type of cheese being produced. Some are cured for several days, others for a few weeks.
Their varieties of lush and buttery Camembert are well known across the states and are available on their online store for your dining pleasure. Their Hudson Valley Camembert received the accolade “Best Cheese in America,” and several of their other cheese products have also been recognized. Their cheeses consistently please gourmands and foodies all over the country.
The farming at Old Chatham Sheepherding Company continues to be carried out the old-fashioned way, without the use of hormones, but in the most state-of-the-art facility. They have a true pride in their farm and welcome your visit any day. Contact them for an appointment and directions.
NETTLE MEADOW FARM
Thurman, NY, 518-623-3372 nettlemeadow.com
Nettle Meadow Farm is a goat and sheep dairy and cheese company in Thurman, NY, located in the Adirondacks and situated on 50 acres of sprawling land. Owned and operated by Lorraine Lambiase and Sheila Flanagan, their mission is to create the most delicious products by showering their animals with a whole lot of TLC. Both Lorraine and Sheila have a great love of animals and artisan cheese. The farm was originally founded in 1990 and is home to over 300 goats, several dozen sheep, and a variety of farm sanctuary animals. Stop in and visit the sanctuary and spread a little of your own love.
Nettle Meadow embodies a true commitment to the principals of natural ingredients, happy and healthy animals, and carefully handcrafted artisan cheeses. They make several varieties of soft goat cheeses including but not limited to Lightly Salted Chevre, Chevre with Mixed Herbs, and Garlic Chevre. They’re also known for their semi-aged cheeses including the Kunik mentioned previously. Their most recent creation, Three Sisters, made from sheep, goat, and cow milk, is aptly named for the Three Sisters Mountains that overshadow their farm.
Take your whole family for a unique experience, and watch a working farm in action. The farm is normally open Thursday through Monday from 11am to 3pm for cheese sales, and is open to the public for tours Wednesday, Saturday, and Sunday from 10am to 4pm and by appointment by calling ahead. Make your appointment today for an unforgettable delight.
SPROUT CREEK FARM
Poughkeepsie, NY, 845-485-9885 sproutcreekfarm.org
Although our featured local cheese shops do not currently carry the cheeses of Sprout Creek, they are truly deserving of mention. Their beginning is an inspirational one, with a true purpose, which ultimately blesses us with their carefully crafted cheeses and meats.
The story of Sprout Creek Farm begins in 1982 at an all-girls school. Three of the teachers there saw a need for the students to somehow become more connected with the true meaning of sustenance and responsibility. Working a farm seemed like the perfect way to instill some strong values and work ethic. The land was chosen, the campus was built among a few dilapidated buildings, and volunteers helped renovate old barns and erect new facilities. The very first farm animals were donated by friends and neighbors.
Then in 1987, a longtime resident of Poughkeepsie donated her farm there to the Society of the Sacred Heart, to be operated by Sprout Creek Farm. Before long, educational offerings of Sprout Creek attracted thousands of students each year to come and try their hand on the farm, allowing them to find a true appreciation for the foods they eat and the work that is involved in achieving a goal.
Encompassing 200 acres in Dutchess County, Sprout Creek Farm is really a trio of entities working together toward a common mission. Their working farm raises free-range cows, sheep, goats, pigs, wild turkeys, guinea fowl, and chickens; their market offers the finest of hand-made organic cheeses, and their educational center offers day, weekend, and summer programs. By working together in the most synergized way possible, they are able to provide an opportunity for visitors to truly appreciate our place in the natural world, living a simpler, more environmentally integrated way of life.
Sprout Creek encourages visitors to take part in their programs year round, and be a part of the cheese-making process first hand as they create their many award-winning artisan cheeses.
Their cheeses are made from the nutritious and creamy (antibiotic and hormone free) milk of their small herds of cows and goats that roam the pastures eating what they’re supposed to eat—grass. Cheeses aged over 60 days are made with raw milk that produces a bigger flavor. Those tender and fresh cheeses aged less than 60 days are made with pasteurized milk.
One of their most popular cheeses is called Ouray. Ouray is a raw cow’s milk cheese with cheddar-like notes and a sweet floral flavor with a firm paste. This cheese was chosen as Wine Spectator magazine’s choice for 100 best cheeses in the world. Another favorite is their Toussaint, a raw cow’s milk cheese with distinctive Alpine flavor and a smooth texture, becoming more complex and peppery with age. Toussaint is another of their award-winning cheese selections.
Visit their website the second you get a chance, and schedule a rendezvous with Sprout Creek Farm. Their many program options will be sure to suit the needs of your requirements for a day or weekend of finding a more peaceful, connected way of life.
a final note
No matter how you get your locally made cheese—straight from the farm or at your favorite specialty cheese shop—one thing is for sure…the magic of cheese endures and continues to captivate our appetites. Pick up a hearty hunk today!
LOCAL CHEESE MAKERS
Feeling adventurous? Up for a crisp autumn field trip? Strap on your working boots and visit a local dairy farm for a lesson in the art of crafting artisanal cheese. Many cheese makers here in our communities allow you to tour their farms and watch the cheese-making process first hand. Follow up with a visit to their markets and indulge! Check out a bit of the history and philosophy on just a few of the many local cheese producers here in the Hudson Valley and other regions of New York. You can also visit hvfoodnetwork.com/page/local-cheese or nyfarmcheese.org for a more extensive list of other New York cheese makers that may be even closer than you think.