Sweet Freedom Creamery is on a CheeseQuest! As we mentioned in the last blog post, we’re driving across the country in our CheeseMobile talking to other cheesemakers about their experiences and touring their facilities in preparation of designing and building our own creamery in Northwest Arkansas. So far, we’ve met farmers, makers, mongers, and cheese lovers across Arkansas, Tennessee, North Carolina, Virginia, West Virginia, Maryland, and Pennsylvania.
Before we continue on to New York and Vermont tomorrow, Amber W., our good friend and Cheese Minion who traveled on the first leg of the trip from Fayetteville, Arkansas, to Scranton, Pennsylvania, gave us her thoughts about the trip over coffee:
Q: What spurred you to come on the Sweet Freedom Creamery CheeseQuest?
A: I love to travel and I love cheese! I am fortunate enough to be flexible in my working location and schedule, so I took the opportunity to visit some new parts of the country, spend lots of time with the brilliant Jessica, and eat my weight in dairy products.
Q: Where was most interesting stop during your portion of the CheeseQuest?
A: All of them have been interesting in different ways – I am not myself a cheesemaker so I’ve learned a lot about how the process works just by listening to conversations and touring facilities. I really enjoyed visiting Meadow Creek Dairy in Virginia and witnessing a taste test of the same cheese aged slightly differently (my palate is not as refined as some but I happily participated), and hearing the discussion of how they decided to build their facility and cheese caves in the specific way they did – it’s all fascinating!
Q: What’s your impression of the cheese community and cheesemakers on the trip?
A: Most every cheesemaker and cheesemonger we met acted a bit like a long lost relative. They were warm and friendly and were generous with advice, hugs, and cheese. Even though it is difficult and stressful work, it’s obvious that cheese people love what they do and want to share it with the world.
Q: What was your favorite part of the CheeseQuest so far?
A: The lovely spring drive through the hills and forests of rural Virginia – it’s some of the most beautiful country I’ve seen anywhere and I really want to go back again in the future for a longer stay, maybe do some camping.
Q: Of the numerous cheeses you’ve sampled on the way, which was your favorite?
A: We tried the amazing Occeli Testun Al Barolo at Di Bruno Bro.’s in Philadelphia. It is creamy and dense and has an amazing rind with a tart and sweet grape covering. I fell in love immediately.Truthfully though, I’ve rarely met a cheese I didn’t like – there are so many great ones out there!
Q: Any advice for the next CheeseMinion coming on the CheeseQuest?
A: A few points:
Make sure you plan to give her 1-2 hours at each cheese research stop, she’ll need plenty of time to commune with her kind.
Be prepared both to eat a lot of cheese and to help Jessica to accept the cheese that all of the cheesemakers really want her to have (she might need some encouragement.) There is always room in the CheeseMobile for more cheese! Put it on top if you have to!
There will almost always be an adorable collie for you to hang out with at the farms. They will probably be named things like Shep or Frank and will really want you to throw a stick for them. This can take up some time while Jessica is inspecting the vats or whatever.
Q: Where are you headed from here?
A: NYC to see Hamilton!!!
Q: Any parting words?
A: I need to eat multiple salads every day for the rest of the year to make up for all the cheese I’ve eaten the last two weeks. No regrets.