- Before working with Cheese Journeys, what kind of cheese journeys did you have on your own?
As a cheese blogger and food writer, most of my adventures are dairy oriented! Whenever I travel, I always try to visit a maker or, at the very least, seek out a great cheese counter and pick up some spreadable souvenirs. Right before I joined the Cheese Journeys team as a traveling co-host in 2014, I led a cheese tour for readers of my blog (Madame Fromage, www.madamefromageblog.com) to Puglia, Italy. I love sharing my passion with others, and there’s nothing better than going straight to the source to meet local makers and taste cheese at their kitchen tables.
- How would you describe the value of a vacation around cheese, apart from being delicious? From my experience, the hospitality of cheese makers around the world is astoundingly positive and makes the world feel that much more connected even for a day.
Each tour is like traveling across a cheese board, with stops along the way to meet and learn from food artisans who produce wine, beer, cider, coffee, cured meats, and even chocolate. Mostly we visit small, multigenerational companies that carry on centuries-old family traditions we can’t even fathom in the U.S. As a journeyer, you’ll discover so many new pairings, for sure, but the experience is really about meeting people who produce food with incredible care and integrity. On a scouting mission for our upcoming Dutch cheese tour to Holland, for example, I was blown away by how every Gouda producer took us for a walk through their pastures to meet the cows. The makers were so proud of their herds and so excited to talk to us about the plants in their fields, the key to great milk.
- What is the most fascinating cheese you have tried on a Cheese Journey?
I always love when makers let us try new cheeses that they’re working on – recipes that they’re developing for the market but haven’t released yet. That happened a lot on our England tour because everyone we visited seemed to have a “secret cheese” in progress. When we visited Stacey Hedges, who makes Tunworth – a gooey Camembert-like cheese – she greeted us with homemade sponge (cake!) and a wheel of a new bark-wrapped cheese that she and her assistant Charlotte had just begun experimenting with at Hampshire Cheeses. That cheese is now on the market as Winslade. We were some of the first people outside of her company to taste it!
- Why do you think Cheese Grotto fits into the Cheese Journey experience?
Well, it’s great for storing one’s Cheese Journey souvenirs so that they ripen to perfection before serving! (I always bring a few wheels home in my suitcase.) Truly, though, the Grotto is a wonderful way to re-experience a Cheese Journey. On our tours, we visit cheese caves and learn about affinage, the art of maturing cheese. So, the Cheese Grotto is a way to practice a little home alchemy by ripening young cheeses. Having the Cheese Grotto on my counter at home full of cheeses that I discovered through on Cheese Journeys keeps the adventure alive for me – literally!