The emergence of Oregon cheese For years – at least to those of us outside the state — Oregon cheese was synonymous with Tillamook Cheddar. In terms of cheese states, the big three people tend to think of are California, Wisconsin, and Vermont. I would say that this year has made it obvious that people should start thinking of adding Oregon to that list – especially when considering blue cheese and goat cheese. I don’t think any state except California is making the variety and quality of goat cheese made in Oregon.
First off, the Rogue Creamery makes some of the best blue cheese in the country. The Seasonal Rogue River Blue may be my favorite American cheese, but the Crater Lake, Caveman, and Echo Mountain are on the next tier of amazing. Rogue has gotten a lot of attention among cheese folks in recent years, but they are just the tip of the iceberg that the rest of the country hasn’t discovered about the Pacific Northwest cheese community.
River’s Edge Chevre (no connection to the Crispin Glover/Dennis Hopper movie classic) is making incredible ripened goat cheese and one of the few smoked cheeses – “Up In Smoke” (no connection to the Cheech and Chong movie classic) that I heartedly recommend. Tumalo Farms makes amazing caramel-like aged goat cheeses; Pholia Farm is an amazing off-the-grid cheese company using Nigerian Dwarf goat milk.* Juniper Grove creates great goat tommes. It seems like every time I go to Oregon I find new cheese, this year La Mariposa and Briar Rose impressed me.
When I visited the Pacific Northwest on my book tour, I was actually amazed that they were even more locavore-centric than the Bay Area. Some members of the audience even seemed a little put out that not only did I bring California cheeses to sample, but some from Wisconsin! While I have my criticisms of the locavore idea, I do understand that in their region, you can get many of your needs met locally and be happy with the choices.
(BTW, I was going to make this “Pacific Northwest” instead of “Oregon”, but since two of my favorite Washington State producers have shut down recently due to FDA/food borne pathogen issues, (see entry later this week) I figured I’d just play it safe and leave it at Oregon.
*I should take this opportunity to again plug Gianaclis Caldwell’s Farmstead Creamery Advisor if you are thinking of starting your own dairy project!