Last weekend, Madame took a wee road trip to Binghamton to visit an old cheese companion who recently moved to the state. Being dairy dreamers, we found ourselves in the local Wegmans, groping the cold cases and befriending the monger, a delightful woman named Kim.
“Kim,” I said, “What’s the best local cheese?”
Kim narrowed her eyes and fingered her smock. Under her breath, she mentioned something about a processed strawberry-flavored cheese, and when she saw our frozen grins, she walked us over to a dairy case and slipped me a square cheese wrapped in white paper: Hudson Valley Camembert.
I nearly fainted. Camembert from New York? Imagine finding truffles growing in Detroit. I shrugged, dropped it into my basket, and trotted off in search of a crusty baguette.
Friends, I had under-estimated the cheese makers of New York. I’d read about the state’s Farmstead & Artisan Cheese Guild, which includes fifty-some producers, but when I think of vacationing in cheese states, I spin the bottle toward Wisconsin, California, and Vermont. Now I’m ashamed.
The Hudson Valley Camembert was lunatic good: grassy, buttery, peppery, and the rind had a beautiful bloom. The mouthfeel was exquisite, so satiny. It was like eating oysters.
HV Camembert (think: Louis Vuitton Camembert) is made by Old Chatham Sheepherding Company, home to 1,000 East Friesian crossbred woolies. The Clarks, who run the farm, make their soft-ripened ‘bert using fresh milk from their own sheep, mixing it with their neighbor’s BGH-free cow’s milk.
In 2001, this Camembert won “Best Cheese in America” at the U.S. Cheese Championship. Where was I?
To make up for lost time, I will definitely be ordering some Old Chatham Ewe’s Blue and some Camembert Buttons – the gift baskets sold online are adorable. I’m also curious about the company’s ginger-flavored sheep’s milk yogurt.
Looks like I may have to make a pilgrimage to Old Shaker Museum Road in Chatham, NY to meet the Clarks, and pay my respects.