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The American Cheese Society is hosting its annual conference and Festival of Cheese (an event open to the public on Saturday, July 29th) in Denver this week and aptly calls the entire group of events Cheese With Altitude. So what better time to talk about Colorado’s great cheese makers – who have climbed a lot themselves? From dairies in Longmont to basalt dairies to frolicking goats in Keenesburg, these nine things to do show that Centennial State is just as cheesy as the rest.
Goats enjoy life in Paonia. Their milk is processed into artisanal cheese by the Avalanche Cheese Company.
Avalanche Cheese Company
Since 2008, chefs and cheese lovers have been turned upside down by the Cabra Blanca and Chevre that come from this basalt company’s dairy. Made from fresh goat milk straight from the farm and dairy of owner Wendy Mitchell in Paonia, every piece of this goat cheese tastes like the grass, hay and high mountain flora that the animals consume. From the same milk, Avalanche also makes a tender and accessible blue cheese and semi-soft cheddar cheese.
Find It: Cheese + Provisions is an excellent place to buy local goods, including some options from Avalanche. Or take a seat at the truffle table and try this dairy product on a cheese platter.
The cheese counter at Mercantile Dining & Provisions.
Fruition Farms Dairy and Dairy Farm
Chef and restaurant owner Alex Seidel founded this delphinium farm in September 2010 with a herd of forty sheep and a ram. Almost seven years later, his experiment with dairy and artisanal sheep’s milk cheese has proven to be a success. The three types of cheese – cacio pecora, fresh ricotta and feta – can be found not only in Seidel’s two restaurants, Fruition and Mercantile Dining & Provisions, but also in many other restaurants in the metropolitan region.
Find it: At Mercantile Dining & Provisions in Union Station, you can find all three cheeses for sale in the cheese box. Coperta in Uptown also often serves the cheese, especially the cacio pecora.
The matured raw cheese from Haystack Mountain Cheese with a washed rind.
Haystack mountain cheese
Haystack mountain cheese
This is perhaps Colorado’s most popular artisanal cheese – an honor well deserved. After all, owner Jim Schott has been making the stuff since 1988 when he and his wife bought five goats and a six hectare homestead in Niwot. Within a year his handmade goat cheese was being sold at farmers’ markets and to local chefs, and by 1992 the goods had made it to the larger markets and Schott had received its first award. Today the dairy also sources goat milk from the Skyline Correctional Facility in Cañon City, and the dairy is run by cheesemaker Jackie Chang. Named after the mountain next to the first small farm, Haystack Mountain now makes dozens of cheeses, including floral rind, fresh milk, raw milk, and washed rind.
Find it: Frankly, of all the Colorado cheeses, Haystack Mountain is the most widely available. You will see it in almost every store and on most cheese boards. However, a nice application of the dairy product can be found in Rioja, where the goat cheese gives artichoke tortelloni its creamy texture.
The people at James Ranch have a lot of fun.
This small dairy is located in the Animas Valley in the middle of a larger ranch that produces meat, eggs, milk and other farm-fresh produce. Although not the focus, the cheese that comes from this farm is well worth a mention. For starters, it’s made with milk from 100 percent grass-fed cows, which gives the cheese a fresh and clean taste. Owners and cheese gurus Becca and Dan James only make cheese at certain times of the year, but since the cheese is matured in the cave, it can be found year round. Options include a twelve-month-old Leyden with whole cumin seeds, a Colorado Blue with a smoky mushroom essence, and the three-year-old Belford Reserve, which has a profile similar to Gouda.
Find it: Get the Belford at Cured in Boulder. Otherwise, Durango is the best city to find James Ranch cheese.
One of the Jumpin ‘Good Goat Dairy market stalls.
Jumpin ‘Good Goat Dairy
Jumpin ‘Good Goat Dairy
Dawn Jump founded this dairy in Buena Vista in 2002 to combine their love for goats and cheese. She also wanted to create sustainable food for her local community. Today this goat cheese from the farm is popular and shows not only their cheese-making skills, but also the terroir of the region. Jump makes a handful of cheeses, including feta, a wine-soaked cheddar, and fresh Mexican-style quesos. You can even find fresh goat cheese curd that we haven’t seen anywhere else.
Find it: Boathouse Cantina in Salida French Fries Jumpin ‘Good Goat Dairy’s Cheese Curd. You can also order all types of cheese online.
Read on for more great Colorado cheeses …
Cheese from Moon Hill Dairy.
Moon Hill Dairy
The first cheese that owner John Weibel made and sold in Steamboat Springs was a fresh ricotta that he whipped up in a mobile unit while building his dairy. Today Weibel and the cheese maker Laura Chisholm create fresh feta, a Camembert loaf, a double-cream blue cheese with a layer of ash and Joe, a Jack cheese rubbed with coffee. Not only does everything taste great, Moon Hill Dairy also operates regenerative agriculture, so Weibel works hard to keep the land on which the cows graze healthy.
Find it: grab a chunk of cheese from this dairy to take away at St. Kilian’s Cheese Shop on West Highland or the Truffle Cheese Shop on East Sixth Avenue. Cheese from this dairy can also occasionally be found on the menu at Salt the Bistro in Boulder.
An omelette in the range with MouCo truffle cheese.
Maddy McLean, BPR
MouCo Cheese Company
Owner Birgit Halbreiter grew up in a small town in Bavaria, where she trained and worked in the Champignon cheese dairy, one of the world’s largest soft cheese companies. She met her partner Robert Poland after moving to Fort Collins and working for New Belgium Brewery where he was the fermentation manager. The couple decided to leave the brewery and start their own soft cheese business in 2001 and they have been going strong ever since. Now MouCo Cheese makes a handful of varieties, including an orange natural rind called Colorouge; Ashley, a soft ripened cheese coated with vegetable ash; and Fetish, a brine-aged strain that will get you addicted.
Find it: Right now, Chef Paul Nagan of Range at the Renaissance Denver Downtown Hotel is serving an egg white omelette with the truffle-infused MouCo Truffelo. Colterra Food & Wine in Niwot offers the Mouco ColoRouge on its cheese board. You can also buy cheese from this small maker at specialty markets and Whole Foods grocery stores. Ashley is sold at Cured in Boulder.
Swing W cheese & milk
Located on the Western Slope in Olathe, the sixth generation family-run dairy and farm Rocking W Cheese & Milk has been producing quality products for 43 years. The dairy, run by Robert and Charlotte Webb, makes addictive cream cheeses, Asiago, Baby Swiss, mild white cheddar, Farmer’s Style and Chipotle Jack, among others. All products are hand-made in small batches with milk from our own dairy cows.
Find it: Currently, Chef Daniel Asher of River & Woods in Boulder is working with this cheese as well as a few other local varieties like Haystack and Fruition Farms. The chef uses some Colorado cheeses in his restaurant, so don’t be surprised if other suppliers show up on the menu. The Preservery also has Rocking W on the menu; The cheddar quarks make the fingerling poutine amazing.
Some of the goat cheeses from the Ugly Goat Milk Company of Keenesburg.
Ugly goat milk company
Ugly goat milk company
While the goat milk fondant from this dairy is a bit of a cult, it’s the cheese that gets you really addicted. Owner Mike Amen lets his children (the four-legged friends) run wild to eat grass, grain and whatever else they like. The farm is run from Amen’s small farm in the small town of Keenesburg. Each goat is milked by hand and the creamy milk is used to make Cheddar, tangy Chèvre, fresh ricotta and Cabra al Vino, a Spanish-style cheese that rests in red wine for three days.
Find It: One of the best ways to get this cheese is by buying a goat cheese stock, which you can do by contacting the farm.
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Linnea Covington moved back to Denver after living in New York City for thirteen years and couldn’t be happier to be home, explore Mile High, and eat as much as possible, especially when it comes to pizza or ice cream.