Sunday, June 3, 2012

Day 832 : A Down South Recap

I just returned to hustle and bustle from the quiet peaceful milieu of Tryon, North Carolina -- the largest town in the Blue Ridge Mountains. At 1700 people, this was quite the shift from day to day life in NYC and boy was it exactly what I needed -- hiking, running, swimming, plenty of outdoor time, very close friends, good food, good times, and a nice dosage of relaxing! Located about an hour and a half drive from Charlotte and forty five minutes from Asheville, this small town was all Southern outdoorsy charm. Although we did not have the time to visit any of the local creameries on our whirlwind of a weekend, we did have the pleasure of sampling a few local cheeses.

The first of which was crafted by Looking Glass Creamery in Fairview, NC -- a small family operated creamery producing raw goat and cow's milk cheeses utilizing locally sourced milk from neighboring farms. Their cheese line includes a fresh chevre, a feta, one aged goat's milk cheese, Ellington; Pack Square (a semi-aged cow's milk Brie style cheese), and a firm aged cow's milk cheese, Chocolate Lab. This weekend we had the pleasure of trying their Ellington, modeled on the classic firm aged ash ripened goat's milk pyramids of the Loire Valley, following in the footsteps of many other American artisanal goat's milk ash ripened cheeses. But Ellington was truly its own cheese - bright and fresh, grassy and honest, light and tangy, firm and chalky, this cheese just screamed "Please pair me with a glass of Sancerre on a hot summer day!" Infused with the local terroir, this cheese was an excellent example of the quality small production goat's milk cheeses being produced in North Carolina.

The other two cheeses we had the pleasure of trying were both crafted by Chapel Hill Creamery in its namesake town of Chapel Hill. A small farm and cheesemaking facility specializing in cow's milk cheeses, this local farm favors strictly Jersey cows for their milking and cheese production season from March till December. They craft a fresh mozzarella, a farmer's cheese, a camembert style cheese, a feta and two washed rind cheeses -- Hickory Grove and Calvander. Hickory Grove was a tomme style, semi-firm wash rind cheese full of grassy, barnyardy, farmsteady rustic notes and a toasty buttery finish. Great with one of the local beers, perhaps the Highland Brewery's Kashmir IPA. Calvander, an Asiago style cheese was much firmer and nuttier with the classic aged cheese crystallization and full of butterscotchy, caramelly notes. A great snacking cheese that would be perfect with a light glass of red wine, perhaps a nice fruit forward Pinot Noir.

There were plenty of local wineries, breweries, creameries and eateries that we did not have the time to venture into but that gives me a reason to go back to this peaceful and gorgeous corner of the world but for now this weekend was a wonderful introduction.

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