Cheese is one of my absolute favorite treats. Soft, hard, stinky, blue, nutty, mild, I love them all. Well, I certainly haven’t tried them all but I rarely find a cheese I don’t enjoy. I especially love visiting local creameries that make artisan cheeses, and as a new Oregon resident I have plenty of opportunity to do this. The Pacific Northwest is teeming with talented cheese makers including those at Rogue Creamery, which I recently had the pleasure of visiting.
Located in Central Point, Rogue Creamery has been making cheese in southern Oregon since the 1930′s. They distribute their cheese nation-wide, specialize in an assortment of award-winning blue cheeses, and present their products in Whole Foods, specialty food stores, and at farmer’s markets in the Northwest. This well-established shop has two rooms. One is the showroom, packed with Rogue’s handmade cheeses and an interesting selection of aged cheeses from around the world. The other room feels like a quaint general store where you can purchase local wines, beers, breads, and fine Italian meats to accompany your cheese selections, while looking through a wall of windows at the crafting of curds and whey in progress. The cheesemongers were quite friendly and knowledgeable in answering our questions about their products and processes. They also offered us tastes of their house curds, cheddars and blues before buying.
After browsing the store with my family and talking to the cheesemongers we selected several cheeses and some accompaniments and headed to a community park down the street (within strolling distance) to enjoy our lunch. Noteworthy was Rogue’s Smokey Blue, which is cold smoked using local hazelnut shells, and displays a fine balance of nutty smoke and blue pungency, and would pair well with a big-bodied wine, like a zinfandel or an earthy malbec. We also really enjoyed their Chocolate Stout Cheddar, made with Rogue Ale’s Chocolate Stout beer, which was sold in the shop and was a nice, obvious paring with the cheese. From their selection of world-wide cheeses I was impressed by a four-year aged gouda called Noord Hollander, from Holland. It’s crunchy, caramelly characteristics were delightful with fresh bread and local blackberry honey.
If you visit Rogue Creamery, you might want to also spend some time in their wine-tasting room and Lillie Belle Farms artisan chocolate shop next door, which offers elegant handmade confections crafted from local, organic ingredients, in unique flavors like ghost chili pepper chocolate, lavender sea salt caramel, and the Smokey Blue Cheese Truffle (made with Rogue’s Smokey Blue).
The Oregon Cheese Guild is a great resource for more information on Oregon cheese and a list of the state’s artisan cheese makers.