Holidays 2010: Local Culture

story by Tenaya DarlingtonLooking to introduce your guests to some local specialties? Why not dazzle them with stellar cheeses from the region? Local cheesemakers produce a variety of styles—whether you favor creamy and mild or wild and pungent.
All of these cheeses are available at the Fair Food Farmstand in Reading Terminal Market. Other cheese counters, such as Di Bruno Bros., Downtown Cheese and
Milk & Honey Market also carry local cheese.

#1 PA Noble - Green Valley Dairy - You won’t find many cave-aged cheddars in these parts, and that’s part of what makes this raw-milk dream from Lancaster County so special. It’s nutty, sweet and flecked with tiny tyrosine crystals from aging. Pour a local IPA and set out a crusty loaf of Metropolitan bread. Don’t forget to toast the rinds.

#2 Noble Road - Calkins Creamery - This Brie-style cheese has a sweet, vegetal aroma and a beautiful ivory paste. Like the real stuff from France, it’s made from raw cow’s milk. You can taste grassy notes and layers of complexity—flavors you’d be hard-pressed to find in supermarket Brie. It’s delicious for breakfast alongside chive eggs, or served fireside with roasted chestnuts and a drizzle of local honey. In the glass: champagne.

#3 Shepherd's Basket - Valley Shepherd Creamery - New Jersey Locatelli? You got it! This cave-aged sheep’s milk cheese is sweetly robust—think lamb chops and brown butter. Shave it over gnocchi, or serve it straight up with meaty green olives, rosemary flat bread and a curvaceous red.

#4 Banon - Amazing Acres - This leaf-wrapped goat cheese has gained favor with Inquirer food writer Craig LeBan, who chose it as a favorite this fall. It’s mellow and gently boozy—the cloak of grape leaves is soaked in brandy. Tender and creamy, it’s sure to win the hearts of the goat-cheese averse. Serve naked or with baguette rounds and a snifter of pear brandy.

#5 Country Blue - God's Country Creamery - Finally, a blue that’s mellow enough to serve to your granny, but interesting enough to impress the cheese geeks in the family. This wonderfully creamy blue is pungent and woodsy with pronounced black walnut notes. Serve it with port or barley wine, alongside biscotti and dried figs. For a quick appetizer, spread it on baguette rounds and top with toasted walnuts and a sprig of fresh rosemary.