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Food and Drink

SIDEBAR: Fresh and local cheese to try this month

BRATTLEBORO—If you love fresh cheese, now is the time to start looking for it. Because we are lucky to live in a region dotted with farms and skilled cheesemakers, there are quite a few gorgeous locally produced fresh cheeses for you to enjoy.

And you can continue enjoying these fresh cheeses until about September or October, depending on how far north the farm is.

One of my favorite regional lines of cheeses is made by Hannah and Greg Sessions at Blue Ledge Farm in Leicester. From the milk of their goats, and their neighbor’s goats and Ayrshire cows, they make a variety of gorgeous, award-winning cheeses.

Right now you must try their maple chèvre. It’s the essence of spring in Vermont: fresh goat cheese mixed with just the right amount of Vermont maple syrup. Dessert!

The Sessions have other more savory selections, both fresh and semi-aged, and in the latter category, I’d point you to Lake’s Edge, a soft-ripened goat cheese bisected with a vein of edible ash.

Way up in the Northeast Kingdom lives Laini Fondiller, who calls herself the Lazy Lady. Apparently irony isn’t dead in this sector of the state, because this lady is anything but. Her farm is operated using organic practices, including intensive rotational grazing, and it is powered by solar and wind generators.

In addition to caring for the animals and the land for about 14 hours every day, Laini seems to come up with a new cheese at Lazy Lady Farm every week, and the names of her cheeses inspire a chuckle as well as healthy curiosity.

What on earth would a cheese called Tomme Delay taste like? Well, it’s available starting in May, so you can soon find out. (Hint: It’s a 60-day-aged, mold-ripened goat tomme with a natural rind, and it’ll taste sweet, herbal, and a little woodsy. No comment on its similarity to the former politician.) While you’re waiting for its release, try anything of hers you can find, such as Capriola, Valencay or La Petite Tomme.

Closer to Windham County, Consider Bardwell Farm in West Pawlet offers a fresh cheese, Mettowee; it’s a smooth, 4.5-oz button of bright white, citrusy goat, named for the nearby river.

Mettowee has achieved critical acclaim from some of the pickiest cheesemongers in New York City. In addition to eating the entire cheese, right from your hand as if it were an apple (yes, you will want to do this), you can also cut it into cubes to toss right on the roasted asparagus you’ve just pulled out of the oven.

If sheep is more your thing, cheeses from Willow Hill Farm in Milton will make you happy our Mesolithic ancestors domesticated Ovis aries. On Willow Smart’s organic farm, there’s an underground aging cave used to properly mature her cheeses.

While her cows’ milk cheeses are available year-round, her sheep cheeses are released starting in May. Keep an eye out for Alderbrook, which is like Camembert but made of 100 percent sheep’s milk; Summertomme, an herb-encrusted wheel with buttery, floral notes; and Vermont Brebis, a soft-ripened cheese with a remarkable complexity and a handful of cheese awards under its belt.

There are many other fresh cheeses coming out right about now. And because Vermont has enjoyed a renaissance in cheesemaking — we’re supposedly the state with the most artisan cheesemakers per capita — new ones are popping up so frequently, I can hardly keep up with them, and cheese is my life, dammit!

The best way to enjoy what’s good and seasonal is to go to your town’s farmers’ market, the local farm stand, and your friendly neighborhood cheese shop. Tell them you’re ready to get fresh.

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Originally published in The Commons issue #150 (Wednesday, May 2, 2012).

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