Hooked on Cheese: An All-American July 4th

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Tarentaise Reserve is a firm, washed-rind cow’s milk cheese that has been aged for one year.

The Fourth of July is one of my favorite holidays mostly because, ultimately, it’s one big party. There are no presents exchanged, no turkeys to baste, no harried relatives to juggle – it’s just a perfect opportunity to get together with friends and celebrate the land we live in with sparklers and summer treats. This year, I invited some dear friends over to watch the famous Macy’s Fourth of July Fireworks from my rooftop deck. Naturally, we celebrated the occasion with cheese (surprise, surprise) and I went all-American in honor of the day. We tasted three American cheeses, some American charcuterie, American crackers and even a few (well, more than a few) bottles of American wine.

We started off with the Tarentaise Reserve semi-hard cheese made by Spring Brook Farm in Reading, Vermont. It is a firm, washed-rind cow’s milk cheese that has been aged for one year. It has a beautiful red rind from the brine washing, with a golden interior that is laced with protein crystals. This creamy, nutty cheese boasted a surprisingly high moisture content – a testament to the quality aging at Spring Brook.

Next we had Up in Smoke from Rivers Edge Chevre, a goat dairy located on the Oregon coast. This organic fresh goat cheese is smoked over alder and maple woods, then wrapped in a maple leaf and misted with bourbon. I am not a big fan of most smoked cheeses, but this one had just the right amount of smokiness that didn’t overpower the cheese. And needless to say, the bourbon misting adds a bold, all-American flavor.

The last cheese we served, Brebis Blanche, reminds me of the Statue of Liberty; a cheese borrowed from the French but now distinctly American, it is made in Shushan, New York by 3-Corner Field Farm. This is a four-ounce round of delicate sheep’s milk cheese. It had a fresh sheepy flavor that was well balanced by a hint of salt. It was nuanced, creamy and rich, and we drizzled it with a touch of Branches Range Wildflower Honey from KATZ in Napa Valley, California for a particularly delectable treat.

We rounded out our Fourth of July snack offerings with some Casalingo Salami from Creminelli, made in Salt Lake City, Utah and some Effie’s Homemade Ryecakes, made in Garfield, New Jersey. We paired these nibbles with the Bombing Range Red table wine from McKinley Springs Vineyards in Washington, whose current vineyards were actual bombing test ranges during WWII (how much more patriotic can you get?). And for dessert, my pal Butch Raphael, the Popsicle King of Arizona, showed up with ten different varieties of his renowned AZ Pops popsicles. The ice pop itself originated in Oakland, California, and served as the perfect end to our all-American July 4th celebration as we watched the fireworks burst high over the Manhattan skyline.

Additional reporting by Madeleine James. 

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