With the popularity of shows like Anthony Bourdain’s Parts Unknown and documentaries like Jiro Dreams of Sushi, interest in the local cuisine of the distant reaches of the world is growing. As the focus of tourism spreads from resort towns to authentic locales, more and more people structure voyages around rare food. Of the possible foods to pursue, none are as quite as conducive as cheese. Cheesemaking is highly regional, and the cheesemaking process is equally varied. Traveling on the behest of cheese makes perfect sense, and the rewards are more than evident. If you are feeling the pangs of both wanderlust and midmorning hunger, here are some of the best possible cheese pilgrimages in the world.
5. Roquefort Cheese Caves
Known as the king of blues, Roquefort is universally prized in the cheese pantheon. Legend goes that the cheese was first discovered by a young man who forgot about the ewe’s milk cheese he had been eating while hanging out in a cave when he saw a fair lass in the distance. Several months after chasing her down, the young man returned and found a blue cheese mold had developed nicely on his discarded fromage. Today, these very same caves are operated by the Société des Caves de Roquefort, who open their cheesy subterranean vaults to tourists. The caves are “organised into vast cellars ventilated by fleurine, small passageways that enable the air to circulate underground. They house thousands of blocks of Roquefort, over which the master refiners lovingly keep watch.”
4. Parma, Italy
The various dairies of the Parmigiano Reggiano–producing region of Italy welcome enthusiasts to meet master cheesmakers and learn about the ancient traditions of the world-famous cheese. Take a guided tour or simply peruse the rolling pastures of the lush Italian countryside. It’s nearly impossible to go wrong with a trip to Parma.
3. The Emmentaler Cheese Route
Another cheese with Protected Designation of Origin status, Emmentaler is as Swiss as they come. Get the VIP view of this Alpine classic and then some on the Emmentaler Cheese Route. This one- or two-day cycling tour combines beautiful natural scenery with some incredible opportunities to nerd out about cheese.
2. Green County Wisconsin
Enough about PDO cheeses in far-away lands. America has a proud history of cheesemaking, most prominently in Wisconsin. Green County is the best of what the great state has to offer, replete with Swiss-style cheeses and plenty of lush green countryside with cows-a-grazing. Fill up on beer and cheese, go canoeing, and bask in this intersection of Americana and artisan cheese.
1. Camembert, France
It’s hard to beat the classic, indefatigable, ultimate French soft cheese—Camembert. So if you want to do some serious cheese tourism, the town of Camembert—birthplace of the eponymous bloomy-rind—has got to be near the top of your list. Get your fill at La Maison du Camembert, shaped to look like a giant wheel of cheese from the outside (naturally). Wash down the rich fromage with local AOC cider. Just make sure to stop by La Héronnière Farm, the last dairy producing authentic Camembert cheese in the world! This is the preeminent destination for any true cheese-geek.
Out of frequent-flyer miles? Check out cheese shops in your area for a compromise solution!