To other Cheese Geeks, it’s no surprise that wherever I travel, I ferret out the local cheese shops to visit and look for cheeses I have never tasted. In Kalamazoo, Michigan, there’s no Whole Foods; there’s no Trader Joe’s, but there is The Cheese Lady at Texas Corners and that’s all Kalamazoo needs.
It’s been a cold snowy winter there with more than 90 inches of snow over the past several weeks and according to Punxsutawny Phil, there’s more winter and snow to come. Friday, when I visited TCL, local cheese lovers were braving the elements and standing in line to buy cheese.
The Man, our son and daughter joined me in this cheese quest… The Cheese Lady, at her Kalamazoo location (she also has locations in Muskegon and Grand Rapids, with a fourth location opening soon in Traverse City). We arrived around 11am on Valentine’s Day and business was brisk; with several patrons waiting to be served. Natalie, The Cheese Lady, her father, Terry and two other Cheesemongers were all busy helping customers, who were buying cheese and foods that pair well with cheese.
While waiting our turn, we checked out the jams, crackers nuts and “cheesy” tools, many made by local artisans. There were also tools from one of my favs, Holland’s Boska. They have a more-than-respectable selection of items that pair well with cheese, leaning heavily toward local items, including Kalamazoo’s own “Lush Nuts“. I snagged bags of their Dark Cocoa Chili Almonds and Cinnamon Spice Peanuts.
Many of the 100+ cheeses The Cheese Lady offers are listed on a wide chalkboard behind the counter and work area. I noticed a cheese named “Potato Chip Gouda“, listed under the goat cheese offerings. When it was our turn, Terry, who is one terrific monger, offered us a tasting and shared its “story”. In 1993, Dutch Chef Cas Spijkars created this cheese to win “The Most Unusual Food” Award by combining potato chips and goat cheese with onion, garlic and essence of basil and coriander, which he then aged for sixty days. This cheese tasted like potato chips and onion dip with barely a trace of goat tang. The texture was amazingly creamy and melted on the palate. The Man swooned… If you are looking for this cheese, it’s called Dorothea and named after The Van Dijk’s daughter (I have absolutely no idea who The Van Dijk is and a google search failed to answer that burning question.) This is a fun and tasty 3 Paws cheese… according to The Man, it’s a 4 Paws cheese; but he’s not writing this post…
The next cheese we sampled was Milton Creamery’s Prairie Breeze, a nine-month cheddar made by Mennonites in Iowa, who still milk their cows by hand. Mild in taste and filled with tyrosine crystals to give it a crunchy, creamy texture and a delightful finish. Another 3 Paws cheese. Vegetarian Suitable.
We also sampled Sartori’s Rosemary and EVOO Asiago, which Laura, our daughter, had never tasted. It was a hit; she bought a wedge and declared it a 4 Paws cheese… my love of all things Sartori is well-known and now our daughter is another Sartori believer.
While Laura paid, Terry offered me a taste Le Chevre Noir, a one-year aged Canadian goat cheddar. As you may recall, Spaulding and I were late coming to the goat cheese party and our previous experience with goat cheddar declared the hard cheddar less than “delectable”. But Le Chevre Noir is nutty and flavorful with only a hint of the goatiness that pervaded that long ago first-tasted goat cheddar. This is a goat cheese welcome at The Manse anytime… definitely a 4 Paws cheese. Vegetarian Suitable.
The Man spotted a “The Cheese Lady” insulated bag, which I just had to have… and we added Effie’s Oatcakes to serve along with the Lush Nuts and the cheeses.
In addition to these cheeses, the day before I had bought wedges of Old Croc, an eighteen-month aged sharp cheddar from Australia and a local Colby, Pinconning from Williams Cheese. I picked these two wedges up at the D&W Fresh Market near my son’s home in Portage; a grocer a step-up better than your regular run-of-the-mill grocery but not as foodie as Whole Foods. Their cheese selection was not extensive but I did find these two cheeses which I had not tasted before. I knew the grand-daughters, who are a bit picky, would probably find these “kid-friendly” and I was correct… The Colby-Style Pinconning, named after the Michigan town where it was first created is a bright yellow semi-soft cheese with a mild, milky taste and no afterbite. Old Crock, made with milk from 100% grass-fed cows from “Down Under”. Both cheeses are vegetarian-suitable and made with pasteurized milk.
Valentine’s evening, we offered this cheese platter with lots of other finger-style foods, which the grands call “PuPu Platter” dinner and let everyone fix their own plates. It was a perfect Valentine’s Day for The Man and me.