For too long, cheese born in the USA was defined by those rubbery, wax-dipped bricks of schoolbus-orange Cheddar found in the refrigerated section of your local supermarket. But those days are over. "The bar has definitely been raised since I started, in terms of the sheer number of farms producing cheese and the number producing really good cheese," says Anne Saxelby, who opened her eponymous New York City provisions shop in 2006. That's partly because American makers have started embracing terroir—a concept borrowed from vintners that suggests that geography and climate influence how something tastes—to create flavor-packed takes on European classics. It's a difference you can taste in salty wedges seasoned by early-morning fog off the Pacific and pungent blocks ripened in a humid Virginia summer. "It starts with where the cheese is from," says Jason Sobocinski, owner of New Haven's Caseus. Here's how the New World's cheeses stack up.
Oh, Sweet Cheeses!
The wedges, blocks, and wheels that are redefining American cheese.
Cypress Grove Chevre, California
This fresh chèvre isn't actually a potent strain of weed. It's coated with subtle lavender and wild-fennel pollen for a tangy, lemony backdrop.
Intro: Photograph by Victor Prado. Prop styling by Philip Shubin. Food styling by Roscoe Betsill.