Here in NE Georgia, as mentioned, the pickings are slim for Specialty Cheese Shops… but far from impossible. Ingles has a respectable pre-cut specialty cheese selection but to get the really good “stuff” you need to travel to Greenville, SC or attempt to master the traffic of Atlanta without killing yourself or others.
For shopping, The Man and I choose Greenville. It’s freeway easy, except for the over-abundance of semis on the freeway, and a beautiful drive of a little over an hour. Along the way, you get to discuss whether Lake Hartwell’s level is up or down (down now and has been for several months as the Corps of Engineers continues to drain the lake into the Savannah River), check out the kudzu and roadkill (more and more Armadillos showing up in NE Georgia) and discuss what is blooming – now it’s the Mimosa trees, which the Man calls Frangipani trees… but he’s not from The South… But I digress…
On a recent trip to Greenville and Costco, I found a few cheeses… I always do and bring them home for us to enjoy. As a longtime fan and unofficial Ambassador of Cabot Cheese Cooperative, one of them was a block of their 3 year cheddar. As a lover of many, actually most, specialty cheeses, I always come home to Cheddar. It’s like a utility player; you can do anything with a good cheddar: mac n cheese, cheese boards, sauces for veggies, the possibilities are endless.
After first using the 3 year cheddar on a National Cheese Day platter, I visited the Cabot website to get details on this tasty, bold cheddar. Alas, it was not featured. I contacted my good cheese friend, Wendy Scherer at Cabot. She conferred with ACS CCP® Craig Gile, another good cheese friend at Cabot, and sent me a few notes on the cheese: Cabot considers this cheese one of its “seriously sharp” cheddars with a complex flavor profile. Some of the notes include: nutty like peanuts (yes, I got that one), sweet (again, I agree), Sulfide which is considered the “northeast bite”, fruity (I tasted pineapple), slightly bitter and salty (both of which I got). I would also add that even with the bite, it has a mellow linger on the palate and tickles the back of the throat as you swallow.
Since you can’t buy a small wedge at Costco, in addition to the Cheese Board, I have made Mac n Cheese which I served with baked fried chicken, pizza and a second more simple board with baby bell peppers from my garden and 34° Natural Crisps. My mother-in-law introduced me to cheddar and bell peppers; it was her go-to appetizer whenever we visited.
In further discussions with Wendy, I learned this is a Costco “exclusive”; currently, you can only find it at Costco. This sent me off on another road regarding the Cheese Program at Costco. As early as 2011, I began noticing that Costco was “stepping-up” their cheese program and beginning to earnestly search and sell “specialty cheeses”. I reviewed the Kirkland Clothbound Cheddar in 2011 after finding it at their Vancouver, Washington store. In 2011, the source was a “secret” but as time would tell it was the fabulous Cabot Clothbound aged at Jasper Hill Farm.
I placed a call to the Kirkland, Washington home office and spoke with ACS CCP® Marc Statdfield, (one of 7 Costco ACS CCPs®), who works with producers to find specialty cheeses for the entire company and also for regional specialties. For example, Jasper Hill Farm produces a “Party Harbison” for Costco; a 15 ounce version of the Award-Winning 8 ounce beauty. The Vermont Clothbound has been replaced by a Kirkland Vermont Cave-Aged Block also made by Cabot Cheese Co-op and aged at Jasper Hill Farm. The Sartori Tequila BellaVitano that I bought on the same visit is also exclusive to Costco for now… similar to the Rum Runner BellaVitano Sartori made a few years back for Whole Foods. Satori does a limited contract for exclusivity with retailers and later goes nationwide with the cheese.
Back to the 3 year Cabot Cheddar. I used up the first block in several different uses as stated above and bought a second block on my last visit to
Costco… that’s how much we like this cheddar.
I would also like to send a shout out to Cabot for their generosity with donations to charities and other worthwhile endeavors. Our Facebook Cheese Study Group promoted a crowd fund-raising event this year to send both CCP candidates and existing CCPs to the Denver ACS Conference. With the generous help of Cabot, we were able to sponsor 4 scholarships. Cabot also sent cheeses to be used at our local Lavonia First Baptist Church’s Celebrate Recovery where I make monthly cheese patters for the group.
Congratulations to our 2017 ACS CCP Exam and Conference Winners: Kelley Jewell, Tyler Frankenberg, ACS CCP® Hazel-Rue Woodies and ACS CCP® Matt Bellingham. Thanks to the generous donations from cheese lovers everywhere, we are thrilled to send these four worthy recipients to Denver this July!!! You can read all the details here.
Save the Date if you’re in NE Georgia and Upstate South Carolina: August 16th: Mead, Wine and Cheese Tasting at Southern Origin and Blue Haven Bee Company in Canon, Georgia. I will be pairing cheeses with their new line of meads and local North Georgia Wines. Tickets will be on sale soon…stay tuned for details.