Going beyond cheddar
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Anna Gerringer Amoriello’s three sons grew up on family-owned Calico Farmstead in Gibsonville.
There are few sights as mouth-watering as the cheese section of your local market.
Cheese lovers are a notoriously obsessive bunch. With a nose for the pungent and palates that can pick out notes of acidic citrus from sour cream, an aficionado of fromage can be picky.
Other people may be nervous about trying something with a bit of blue mold on the edges, and may need some guidance from a cheesemonger like Mark Flora at Deep Roots Market in Greensboro.
“I find that most of our customers are focused on cheddar cheese and I try to expand their horizons a little bit with soft cheeses,” said Flora. “I just try to get them to try different things.”
Calico Farmstead Cheese and Goat Lady Dairy are some of the local vendors that Flora enjoys with products available at Deep Roots.
Calico Farmstead Cheese is a family owned operation based in Gibsonville that started out by making queso fresco for local Hispanic populations searching for a taste of home. Eventually the farm expanded into other products, and currently milks about 220 cows.
Anna Gerringer Amoriello is the daughter of the farm’s founders who quit her job as a schoolteacher to help manage the cows 21 years ago.
“My three boys grew up on the farm,” said Amoriello. “We do everything as a family.”
The farm’s soft cheeses are especially wonderful. You can really taste the freshness in the ricotta, and the fromage blanc fruit spreads perfectly pair the sweet bite of the fruit with the nutty and slightly bitter natural taste of the fresh cheese. The pumpkin spice version is a seasonal favorite.
“Calico makes a fantastic mozzarella,” said Flora. “It melts amazing – I use it on pizza.”
Flora suspects that the flavor comes from how the cows are raised. The cows are rotated to a new, clean pasture each day, and the grass is free of chemical sprays and fertilizers.
“They get a chance to stretch their legs,” said Amoriello. “The bonus is that they get to nimble on green grass.”
Calico makes a special skillet cheese that can withstand the heat of a frying pan, made dense by having all of the water pressed out of it.
“It’s chewy like string cheese and the jalapeÃ±o version is just fantastic,” said Flora.
Based in a 200-year-old log farmhouse in rural Ran- dolph County, The Goat Lady was started by Ginnie Tate as a hobby farm in 1984 before the artisan trend came along. The Goat Lady is now one of the oldest and biggest regional artisan dairies in the Southeast.
Steve Tate joined his sister’s farm in 1995 along with his wife. Together they have partnered with other local farms to produce a huge variety of cheese from goats and cattle.
“All of the animals have free access to the pasture and can roam around at will,” said Tate. “The very best cheeses are from animals that are not stressed and are given a smorgasbord of feed.”
The fresh goat milk cheeses are lovely and delicious, but the more adventurous Smokey Mountain Round is an uncommon treat. The winner of a first place blue ribbon from the American Cheese Society is earthy and slightly nutty, but mostly it tastes of warm oak and pine. The owners recommend stuffing it into ravioli; I recommend stuffing it into your face.
Flora also recommends their Snow Camp Brie, and praises their cows milk gouda as one of the best he’s ever tasted.
“I try to carry as much of their stuff as I can,” said Flora. For Tate, this type of response is the ultimate reward. “One of the most satisfying things for me has been to take all the complexities of raising animals and turning that into a product that I can in turn give to a chef or a local market,” said Tate. “I get so much satisfaction out of that simple exchange.” !
If you love local cheese you can stop by Deep Roots Market every day of the week until 9pm. You can also find vendors the The City Market every third Thursday from 5:30pm to 9 pm in the South End neighborhood of Greensboro, or at the Greensboro Farmers Curb Market on Saturdays from 7am to 12pm.