As regular readers will know I've recently been checking out the cheese scene in New York so I found it fascinating to read this feature on US cheese culture in Harvard Magazine to which my good friend, fellow blogger and food anthropologist Scandilicious alerted me.
It mentions the work of Heather Paxon, an academic at the Radcliffe institute who is writing a book on American cheese culture. One of the most interesting observations she makes is that Americans understand the concept of terroir in a very different way from Europeans. "Where European cheeses are standardized by region, encouraging uniformity, American artisanal cheesemakers’ stock in trade is individuality" observes the article's author Elizabeth Gudrais.
You couldn't find a better example of that than Barely Buzzed, a cheese that I think it's safe to say you'd never find in the old world. It's made by a company called Beehive Cheese in Utah run by a couple of guys who used to be in IT and real estate.
The unique aspect about the cheese, which I tasted in New York, is that it's rubbed with a mixture of ground Turkish coffee and lavender blended by the Colorado Legacy Coffee Company (which is run by the cheesemaker's brother). It has the curious but appealing effect of making the rind taste like chargrilled steak and the interior of the cheese richly nutty and caramelly - a bit like eating a rather tasty cold cheeseburger. I don't normally like flavoured cheeses but I thought it was great - as did one of the city's cheese gurus Tia Keenan who put together the cheese programme at Casellula.
You shouldn't of course assume from this that all American cheese is wacky, simply that that American cheesemakers perceive no boundaries in terms of the style of cheese they can make. Which makes for exciting eating.
What's the most off-the-wall cheese you've ever eaten?