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Destination Cheese: Curd-Centric Road Trips in Five States

To paraphrase Martha and the Vandellas (or Bruce Springsteen): Summer’s here and the time is right … to hit the road in search of curd. Because we wanted to explore some lesser-known cheese destinations, culture asked five writers to take us on a tour of their home states.

Cheesemakers’ hours of operation may vary; be sure to call before you go.

Stop One: Oregon

By Christine Hyatt

From Butterbloom to world-champion blues, Oregon serves up opportunities for tasteful cheese adventures. Whether your jam is quirky-hip urban centers bustling with farmers markets or quaint wine country towns that retain their historic charm, Oregon has a lot to offer the cheese-obsessed traveler.

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Stop Two: Texas

By Laurel Miller

Cheese might not be the first thing to come to mind when you think about Texas, but the Lone Star State actually has a small, steadily growing artisan and farmstead cheese scene. While beef may be king from a historical and economic perspective, Texas boasts the highest concentration of meat goats in the U.S., particularly in the Hill Country. Giant swaths of the state aren’t conducive to raising dairy cattle on a large scale due to poor soil and climate (hot, and hotter), which is why goats are a more practical and financially feasible option for modern cheesemakers. Central Texas’s nineteenth-century Czech and German settlers also had a lasting influence on the agriculture and food of the region, from farming and curing meat to cheesemaking.

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Stop Three: Illinois

By Linni Kral

Upon graduating college in California, I took a friend home to my native Chicago on a road trip that wove through dramatic desert landscapes and weepy southern tree canopies. When we crossed into my home state of Illinois, my co-pilot was dumbfounded—out either window, cornfields and power lines stretched to the ends of the earth in a flat, featureless expanse unlike anything he’d ever seen. I think he half expected a tornado to barrel toward us across the plains.

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Stop Four: North Carolina

By Hannah Lee Leidy

The hilly, tree-lined roads through North Carolina’s mountains-to-sea landscape inspire wanderlust but, more importantly, cheese-lust. Over the past five years, the state has quietly forged a reputation for quality cheese-making by boutique producers.

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Stop Five: Western Massachusetts

By Christine Burns Rudalevige

Wedged between the more well-known cheesemaking regions of upstate New York and southern Vermont, the rural counties of western Massachusetts—Berkshire, Franklin, Hampden, and Hampshire—have a cheesemaking reputation of their own dating back to the Jeffersonian era. In the spring of 1801, John Leland, a Baptist preacher in this northwesterly corner of the Bay State, solicited enough milk from the wives of the farmers in his flock to make a cheese the size of a wagon wheel. This mammoth cheese from Cheshire, the area now divided into the towns of Adams,Cheshire, Lanesboro, New Ashford, and Windsor, was aged and presented to Virginia Republican Thomas Jefferson because the farmers, who had faced persecution and state-mandated support for Congregational pastors under previous administrations, favored the new president’s zeal for separation of church and state.

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Want more cheese-focused travel? Check out Destination Cheese: European Edition

Linni Kral

Linni Kral is a writer, editor, activist, and friend living in Brooklyn, with past lives in Boston, L.A., and Chicago. Her writing has been featured in the Atlantic & Atlas Obscura, among others. She’s happiest in the company of cows, books, and groceries.

Laurel Miller

Laurel is a contributing editor at culture and a food and travel writer based in Austin, Texas. She also serves as editor at Edible Aspen.

Christine Burns Rudalevige

Christine Burns Rudalevige has been a working journalist for 30 years and has considered cheese her favorite food group for even longer. Ten years ago, when she attended culinary school, one of her goals was to write for culture.

Christine Hyatt

Christine Hyatt is a photographer, writer, and professional cheese advocate and educator based in Portland, OR. In addition to her work for numerous regional and national magazines, she is a past president of the American Cheese Society, and has collaborated with the Oregon Cheese Guild on documentary-style videos.

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