Lefty Donkey ponders cheese selections (photo thanks to NGP Software)

Lefty Donkey wonders why goats get all the cheese glory. (Photo thanks to NGPSoftware.com.)

Now that we’ve taken you on a “Blue State” cheese tour from East to West, we consulted the experts for a few parting recommendations to round out your cheeseboard on Inauguration day.

Jamie Forrest, author of the Curd Nerds blog and the terrific “Serious Cheese” column on Serious Eats, weighs in with patriotic Red, White & Blue picks. (Yeah, we know “Red, White & Greeen” is the new mantra, but unless it’s a leaf-wrapped cheese, you probably want to stay away from green cheeses!)

First off, I’ll stick with American cheeses only, of course. Secondly, I’ll pick one cheese for each color of the flag. Here it goes.

Red: There’s no such thing as a red cheese, of course. The closest things are the deeply orange washed-rind cheeses, and there’s even one with the word red in its name. Cowgirl Creamery‘s Red Hawk is an excellent washed rind cheese from California. It’s made with triple the cream of an ordinary cheese, it’s organic, and it’s supremely delicious. What more do you need?

White: Got to go with a bloomy-rind cheese here. New York’s 3 Corner Field Farm makes a wonderful sheep’s milk cheese called Shushan Snow. The first part of the name comes from the town the farm is in, and the second comes from the color of the rind–snow white. Mushroomy, earthy, and sheepy all at once, basically a sheep’s milk Camembert.

Blue: My favorite American blue is Jasper Hill Farm‘s Bayley Hazen Blue. Jasper Hill has a herd of happy, grass-fed Ayrshire cows, a breed whose milk is high in protein and fat. Bayley Hazen is drier than most similar British-style blue cheeses, but what really makes this cheese special is the grassiness underlying the blue mold flavor.

{Readers know we love Cowgirl & Jasper Hill, and Shushan Snow is now on our “must find” list. Thanks, Jamie!}

Jill Erber, proprietor of Cheesetique (Alexandria, Va.), suggests a few Presidential picks:

Barick Obama“, an assertive cow’s milk cheese hand-crafted in Vermont. In honor of our new President.

Lincoln Log“, a surface-ripened goat cheese hand-made in Michigan. In honor of President Abraham Lincoln.

Cider Soaked Plymouth“, a cheddar-like cow’s milk cheese made on President Calvin Coolidge’s family farm in Vermont.

If you’re hunkering down south of the Potomac on Inaugural day, Cheesetique is open normal hours (11am – 9pm) to fulfill your cheese cravings, with each of these in stock.

Finally, in the spirit of bipartisan unity, a shout out to our “Red State” friends. I’ve not sampled any cheeses from Senator McCain’s home state, Arizona, but you might enjoy Kenny’s Kentucky Cheddar or the offerings from Georgia’s Sweeetgrass Dairy.

Whatever your party preference, have a great, cheesy holiday weekend and keep warm!

With the swearing-in of President-elect Barack Obama just a week away, even foodies are getting in on Inauguration fever. From District-food gaffes to deciding not to decide on a new White House chef, every televised bite by the President-elect is fodder for the culinary media. The LA Times finds political irony in the Lincoln-themed Inaugural luncheon menu. There’s a blog devoted entirely to what Obama says about food, Obamafoodorama, and even a cheese named for the President-elect, the “Barick Obama” from Vermont’s Lazy Lady Farm. Naturally we thought we’d join the fray, and suggest some of America’s best “blue state” cheeses and brews for your Inaugural party.

It has also come to our attention that Prairie Fruits Farm* goat cheese from the President-elect’s home state of Illinois will be served at the Inaugural feast – atop arugula perhaps? (Thanks to The Media Table for the tip.) While we enthusiatically support the promotion of America’s artisanal cheesemakers, we wanted to take a moment to note that Mr. Obama need not phone home whenever a craving for fine curds strikes.

The Obamas can support family farms and eat locally by sampling our fine Mid-Atlantic cheeses. For goat cheese, Maryland’s Firefly Farms produces luscious, flavorful logs of hand-crafted fresh chevre and exquisite and unique Black and Blue and Cabra laMancha. Firefly’s innovative set-up sources milk from a cooperative of local Amish goat farmers to start with the purest milk available. The Cabra laMancha (pictured) is a washed-rind, Manchego-inspired cheese that won gold at last fall’s World Cheese Awards. It has a firmer texture than your traditional cows-milk washed-rind cheeses, with a grassy fresh taste and mild tang. Wash it down with Barboursville Vineyard‘s reserve chardonnay or viognier, from Virginia. (Barboursville’s Brut would make a fine, local alternative to the California sparkling wines being served at the Inaugural luncheon.)

Elsewhere in the region, Virginia’s Everona Dairy produces some of the finest aged sheeps-milk cheese around; try the Cracked Pepper for extra zip. Meadow Creek Dairy‘s Grayson, a nutty washed-rind Jersey cows-milk cheese, took top prize in last year’s American Cheese Awards. Firefly, Everona and Meadow Creek cheeses are all available at local cheese shops, and the first lady and daughters could stroll up Connecticut Ave. to meet Everona’s Dr. Pat herself at the Dupont Circle FreshFarm Market.  Of course, if they wanted to take the White House Organic Garden idea a little further, they could bring back a herd of sheep and make their own cheese … though I suspect they have more pressing items on their to do lists. 

Check back each day this week for more Inaugural cheese picks, and let us know what you’ll be noshing on to celebrate!

*Do read the story of Prairie Fruits Farm on their website; they are Illinois’ first farmstead cheesemakers and are creating a diverse, self-sustaining farm that also produces fruits, berries and grains. Unfortunately we couldn’t track down their cheeses here in DC or in Minneapolis, so if any readers come across it, do let us know what you think!