We just got back from this year’s American Cheese Society Conference (or Cheese Prom, as we like to call it) which was hosted in Des Moines, Iowa. Every year hundreds of cheesemongers, makers, distributors and “enthusiasts” get together to celebrate American cheeses, geek-out, mingle, and taste the increasingly vaste array of American Artisan cheeses. The conference culminates with the awards ceremony, where thousands of cheeses are judged and scored for aesthetics and taste, and then stacked up against each other in super technical categories like “Cheddars Wrapped in Cloth and Linen – Aged over 12 Months, All Milks” and “Washed Rind Cheeses Aged More than 60 Days – Up to 42% Moisture – Goat’s.” It is our version of the Oscars, but smellier.
We have so many phenomenal new American Artisanal cheeses trickling into to the Ciao House, that it makes my heart go pitter patter when I walk into the cheese cave. It is important to note that many of these cheeses are shipped to us in in small batches to ensure freshness, and are made seasonally, so we’ll do our best to keep them in stock especially if you let us know that you are featuring them on your menu. But as with all hand-made products there will be some factors beyond our control (milking seasons, the weather, uncooperative microbes…) These are the cheeses we love, and we’ll rotate through them as they become available to us. Shoot me an email if you would like to be signed up to receive our weekly cheese inventory list so that you can see what’s ripening in the cave.
Sequatchie Cove Creamery is our newest cheese producer, in fact, their cheeses arrived at Great Ciao on the same day that they were winning big at the ACS conference. Padgett and Nathan Arnold began working on the farm in 2003, tending to the vegetables before getting involved in animal husbandry, and eventually making cheeses to share with friends. In 2010 they opened Sequatchie Cove Creamery at the farm, and began making traditional French inspired raw milk cheeses from the Savoie region, with a bit of southern flair.
I first tried the Shakerag Blue in 2012 when it was just being developed, and instantly fell head over heels for their cheeses. Shakerag blue could be the lovechild of Rogue River Blue and the piquant Spanish blue cheese Valdeon. Like the Rogue river blue, Shakerag is wrapped in leaves (fig) which have been macerated in booze (Chattahoochie Whiskey) before being aged for six months. The resulting cheese is spicy and rich, with an intense fruity/boozy finish. The Dancing Fern is oozy and unctuous, and one of the few Reblochon inspired raw-milk cheeses being made in the U.S. – they literally have to wait until it is 60 days old before it can be sold, and so we get it here with a few weeks of gooey nearly contraband perfection. The final cheese we have from Sequatchie in this round is their Coppinger, a Morbier style washed rind cheese, also made with raw milk, and bisected with a line of vegetable ash through it’s center. Coppinger is buttery in aroma, and velvety in texture, gorgeous on a cheese board, as well as being a fantastic melter.
It is hard to say if we are crushing harder on the cheese, it’s producers, or their absolutely gorgeous farm. Whatever the verdict, we are thrilled to add these beautifully crafted cheeses to our American Artisanal Cheese selection. Watch the short documentary below, or read more about Sequatchie’s cheeses. They are here and ready to enjoy (supplies are limited) let us know if you need a taste!
Named for the native ferns that sway and nod at the breezy mouth of a cave in Coppinger Cove where the farm is located, Dancing Fern is inspired by the famous raw milk Reblochon cheese of France. Its soft and supple texture and barnyardy aroma, along with notes of cultured butter, shiitake mushroom, and walnuts make it a stand out on the cheese plate.
Pairs nicely with Beaujolais, Trappist ales, marmalades and preserves (in particular grapefruit), and fresh in-season peaches. Works wonderfully in a classic Tartiflette recipe.
2016 American Cheese Society – 3rd Place – Farmstead Soft Category
2015 American Cheese Society – 2nd Place – Farmstead Soft Category
2013 American Cheese Society – 3rd Place – Farmstead Soft Category
2012 American Cheese Society – 1st Place – Farmstead Soft Category
Shakerag Blue’s colorful name is derived from both the beautiful Shakerag Hollow known for its wildflowers and rich moonshining past, as well as an old Prohibition era method of either alerting moonshiners to approaching revenue agents, or as a way to procure some white lightening of one’s own. An ode to all things Southern, Shakerag is a crumbly yet dense blue-veined cheese cloaked in local fig leaves which have been soaked in Chattanooga Whiskey, the first legal whiskey being distilled in the city since Prohibition. Its salty-sweet and fruity interior is reminiscent of root beer, and lends itself to more complex notes of savory bacon, dark chocolate, and tropical flavors towards the rind.
Pairs nicely with Chattanooga Whiskey, barley wine, root beer, dried fruits, and raisin toast. Crumbles well for salads and steaks, and deserves a prime spot on the cheese board.
2016 American Cheese Society – 3rd Place American Originals Blue Category
2015 Good Food Awards Winner
2015 US Championship Cheese Contest – Best of Class – Blue Cheese Category
Coppinger Cove sits at the base of the Cumberland Plateau and is the secluded hollow where the farm and creamery call home. A Southern take on the classic French Morbier, Coppinger is a semi-soft washed rind cheese with a striking layer of decorative vegetable ash in its center. The velvety elastic paste is savory with notes of fresh grass and smoked meats, making it ideal for the cheese plate or melted into any dish.
Pairs nicely with fruity lighter bodied reds such as Beaujolais Nouveau, malty ales and stouts, pickled vegetables, bacon jam, and charcuterie. Try it melted on a burger or as the ultimate grilled cheese.
2016 Good Food Awards Finalist