Mmmm, Local Goat Cheese!

Many years back, my husband and I took a trip to France. We landed in Paris, rented a car, and drove in a sort of circle around the country, indulging in regional cheeses and wines in the various towns in which we stayed. We fell in love with goat cheese after one particularly life-changing tasting session in a chilly, nondescript cellar in the Loire valley. I had no notions of local eating at the time, but I remember thinking, man, why can’t we have stuff like this back home? Turns out, we do. Okay, so our roots don’t stretch back quite so far, but we’ve definitely got local cheese- and wine-makers, and I say we find them and celebrate them.

One local cheesemaker you’ve likely heard of is Cherry Glen. They raise four breeds of show-quality goats, milk them, and make seven different types of cheese right there on the farm. They sell their cheese all over town – we’ve purchased it from farmers’ markets, Whole Foods, and Fox Hollow. This past weekend, they opened up their very own little shop right on the farm. We drove up with some cheese-loving friends to check it out, see some goats, and do a little cheese tasting.

They aren’t officially giving tours right now – working farm, heavy machinery, it’s just not an ideal environment for random non-farmers to go poking about – but one woman had a free moment and took us back to see some of the goats.

Adorable. I’m a sucker for farm animals that come up to greet you and let you rub their fuzzy little heads. Seriously, could I hack it as a farmer? Just hang out with the goats all day? (I know, I know, there is way more to it than that.)

So, the four of us tasted. We discussed. We purchased three cheeses. And we tasted and discussed and tasted some more. And now, without further ado, here are our highly unscientific cheese rankings. Drum roll, please …

In third place - the Monocacy Gold, a cheese that my husband and I particularly enjoyed. It has a texture that reminds me of cheesecake, and it’s definitely more mild than your traditional goat cheese. Sort of like a starter goat cheese, if you just can’t handle the strong stuff. :-) To me, a small slice of this is like a little dessert.

Monocacy Gold

Second place goes to the Monocacy Silver, which was a huge hit with all four of us. This is a strong, delicious, in-your-face goat cheese. A chef friend recently did a tour of Cherry Glen’s cheesemaking operation with a group of fellow chefs, and this wound up being her favorite. It’s yummy!

Monocacy Silver

Finally, I’m going to have to give the overall Best Cheese award to the Monocacy Ash. Similar to the Silver, but with (perfectly edible) ash, which imparts a more complex, earthy flavor. This one blew us away. We kept going back and forth between the Silver and the Ash, but then my chef friend told me that this was a favorite with her group, so we’ll call that the tiebreaker.

Monocacy Ash

And we’ll give an honorable mention to the Crottin, which also won raves from the chefs but didn’t make it into either of our shopping bags. I still can’t quite figure out which is my favorite, but I sure am enjoying the process. (I feel an obligation to check out that Crottin once again. For the blog, you know?) But seriously, they’re all great and worth checking out. (Update: the Crottin is my new favorite. And it’s the first goat cheese to win the approval of both of my kids.)

Mmmmm. Searching out local food is fun. What do you think? Have you tried any of Cherry Glen’s cheeses? Any other favorite local cheeses or wines? I’m having visions of a circular tour around our region, stopping to sample cheese and wine and who knows what else as we go. Where should we head next?

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