Connecticut is home to two of the country’s top 50 cheesemakers, according to Food & Wine.
In the magazine’s recent roundup, Arethusa Farm Dairy, based in Bantam, and Colchester’s Cato Corner Farm were listed among the best cheese producers in the United States, joining renowned artisans in states like California, Oregon and Vermont.
“Our only requirement was that they help to accurately paint a picture of what has become an extremely broad and exciting scene, from great supermarket cheeses to the smallest of the small batches,” author David Landsel wrote.
Landsel noted the high fashion background of Arethusa Farm co-founders George Malkemus and Tony Yurgaitis, the former Manolo Blahnik executives who bought the farm in 1999 with the goal of saving open farmland. (George Malkemus died in September after a long battle with cancer.)
“Twenty years or so after their fortuitous decision, cheeses like the mountain-style Tapping Reeve and creamy, British-style Arethusa Blue have become regional favorites,” he wrote.
Two decades after its founding, Arethusa produces coveted “old fashioned” ice cream, milk, butter, fine cheeses, yogurt and holiday eggnog. Its Bantam dairy shop is next door to its full-service restaurant, Arethusa al tavolo, and across the street from its bakery Arethusa a mano.
A scoop shop in New Haven by the Yale campus features ice cream with freshly-made waffle cones and Arethusa’s full line of dairy products, and a West Hartford cafe opened in 2020 with coffee, pastries, breakfast and lunch sandwiches, salads and ice cream. In July, Landsel actually named Arethusa’s ice cream as the best in Connecticut.
Of Cato Corner Farm, Landsel noted the mother-son team of Liz MacAlister and Mark Gillman, who “work wonders with raw milk from their hard-working but happy herd of Jersey cows.”
“At it for over forty years, MacAlister began experimenting with cheese in the 1990s, as a way for the farm to support itself. Thanks to winners like the Hooligan, a superbly ripe, French Muenster-style washed rind, everything seems to have worked out just fine,” he wrote.
MacAlister and Gillman’s cheese lineup also features favorites like Bloomsday, with “a cheddary acidity blended with a touch of sweetness”; Womanchego, a cow’s milk cheese inspired by Spanish Manchego and Black Ledge Blue, which is “moderately creamy and medium strong with a rich, slightly earthy finish.” Despearado is produced like Hooligan, then washed with fermented pear mash and Pear William eau de vie from Ashford’s Westford Hill Distillers.
Cato Corner Farm’s cheeses appear frequently at local cheese shops, specialty stores and farmers’ markets, and are often found on Connecticut restaurant menus. The farm shop at 178 Cato Corner Road is open year-round, offering products like charcuterie, jams and honey from other local artisans, and shipping is available to the lower 48 states.
Source: CT Post