Cheese the Day: Discovering craft and comfort through local cheese

CheeseStory by Stacey Ingram Kaleh Photos by Ralph Yznaga

Here in Central Texas, we undeniably love our queso. And when it comes to our celebrated melted cheese dips, we have countless best-of lists to reference. However, many might not know that Central Texas is also home to an array of delicious and inventive artisan cheeses skillfully crafted by expert cheesemakers.

As we delight in cooler weather and the warm generosity of the holidays, we spotlight a variety of local cheese shops and passionate cheesemakers not to be overlooked. With a dynamic range of textures and flavors, these connoisseurs provide us with ample options for pairing with our favorite savory entr.es and sweet desserts as well as stand-out favorites that can be savored on their own or alongside local charcuterie.

Whether you are gathering with a small group of family and friends or staying home, curling up with a good movie and a glass of Texas wine, you will be hard pressed to find a more enjoyable quarantine-friendly pastime than curating the perfect local cheese board this holiday season.

Let your curiosity guide you to new discoveries. Cheers!

Antonelli’s Cheese Shop

4220 DUVAL ST. ORDER ONLINE FOR CURBSIDE PICKUP

It’s no secret that John and Kendal Antonelli know their cheese. Following their passion for bringing people together around great cheese, they opened Antonelli’s Cheese Shop a decade ago in historic Hyde Park. At the heart of the shop is a “taste-before-you-buy experience,” a model the Antonellis embraced after touring artisan cheese shops across Europe. They have since grown to operate Antonelli’s Cheese House, which offers public cheese tasting classes and private events, and a warehouse that serves as the hub of their wholesale program which sources products for more than 150 Central Texas restaurants and partners.

No time to taste? Antonelli’s “Support Local Bag,” featuring three local cheeses, one chocolate bar, one preserve pairing, one box of crackers and one stick of dried salami is the perfect grab-and-go or curbside pickup option. Be sure to ask for “Drunken Monk” from Eagle Mountain Farmhouse, a rich and sharp whiskey-washed raw cow milk cheese with a nutty flavor.

And, if you’re searching for the perfect holiday gift for a cheese-lover in your life, look no further than Antonelli’s Cheese Club, with three-month, six-month and 12-month membership options.

Central Market

VISIT AT 4001 N. LAMAR AND 4477 S. LAMAR OR ORDER ONLINE FOR CURBSIDE PICKUP

Head to your nearest Central Market to immerse yourself in one of the largest selections of artisan cheeses in town. For 26 years, Central Market has prided itself on providing an unparalleled selection of high-quality and hard-to-find ingredients and stellar service by resident chefs and experts, making it a foodie destination.

While it may seem like an everyday go-to for our community now, Central Market was a pioneer in its approach and has come to serve as a model for other grocery stores. On any given day, they serve as a trusted source for a fresh and diverse selection of cheese ranging from global to local.

Looking to craft a unique homemade pizza? Pick up Mozzarella Company’s fluffy mozzarella and creamy rich ricotta. Want to spice up your next hamburger? Don’t miss Haute Goat Creamery’s Texas Heat, a savory goat cheese with a kick. Topping off pasta or salad? Try Central Market Rinds Parmigiano-Reggiano DOP or crumble some house-made parmesan cheese crisps.

CKC Farms

FIND CKC FARMS CHEESE AT ANTONELLI’S CHEESE SHOP, THE SFC FARMERS’ MARKET IN REPUBLIC SQUARE PARK OR THE FREDERICKSBURG FARMERS’ MARKET

“Happy goats, happy cheese.” This is the motto at family-owned CKC Farms in Blanco. Since 2006, when Chrissy (Omo) Grundy’s high school Future Farmers of America (FFA) project showing goats led to a passion for cheese-making, the Omo family has been crafting farmstead goat cheese from their well-loved herd of Alpine, La Mancha and Saanen dairy goats. With family at the heart of the business, the CKC name represents the Omo kids’ — Chrissy, Kenny and Conner — initials.

Beyond creamy and bold fresh chèvre, which comes in flavors from peach chipotle to jalapeño and artichoke to lemon rosemary, CKC Farms also produces a seasoned feta —feta soaked in olive oil with sun dried tomatoes and herbs —and an aged baby blue cheese, baby caprino and goat gouda. Get started with the fresh chèvre in their herb flavor. You can serve it with crackers and top with roasted tomatoes for a quick and delectable appetizer or add a creamy dimension to any ham or turkey sandwich.

IMG 1583Le Bergerie

VISIT AT 312 EAST AUSTIN STREET IN FREDERICKSBURG

Nestled just one block off of Main Street in downtown Fredericksburg, La Bergerie is an artisanal wine bar and market specializing in fine wines, cheeses and charcuterie. All products are curated by John

and Evelyn Washburne. As soon as you walk into the beautiful German-style cottage, a sophisticated ambiance is created by the Old World approach and clean, contemporary style.

Sit down and stay awhile, or pick up some freshly cut and sliced cheese. Their offerings include local selections from River Whey Creamery and Veldhuizen Creamery to the family-owned and

handcrafted “Barely Buzzed,” an espresso and lavender-rubbed semi-soft Utah cheddar from Beehive Cheese.

For a special snack, try the signature Veldhuizen Paragon cheese. It has a semi-hard texture with a mild tangy flavor. Pair it with your preferred charcuterie, cured by Chef James Monzon at La Bergerie with heritage Texas meats, and a dry red wine from the Texas Hill Country.

Dos Lunas Artisan Cheese

FIND THEIR FENUGREEK CHEDDAR EXCLUSIVELY AT WHEATSVILLE CO-OP

Inspired by his father’s queso fresco recipe, cultivated on a dairy farm in the foothills of the Venezuelan Andes, Joaquin Avellan founded Dos Lunas Cheese over a decade ago. In just a short amount of time, his

specially aged, non-GMO raw cow’s milk cheeses have become a go-to favorite for some of Austin’s top chefs.

Dos Lunas Cheese crafts a variety of cheeses using milk from grassfed, free-roaming cows on farmland in Schulenburg. Their model is centered on the core values of happiness, health and pleasure, and focuses on high quality ingredients and a commitment to kindness and integrity.

Be adventurous with flavors such as Chipotle Scotch Cheddar or Cumin Seed Cheddar. Go for the staple Dos Lunas Clasico — a subtle, creamy cheese that melts well for quesadillas and omelets. But don’t miss the Flor de Luna, which is cave-aged for more than six months for a buttery flavor and tart finish. It’s the perfect pairing for your favorite cabernet sauvignon. The best way to try the mouth-watering cheeses is to order online or visit a local restaurant such as Jack Allen’s Kitchen.

Hillside Farmacy

VISIT AT 1209 E. 11TH ST. ORDER PICK-UP AND DELIVERY

Located in a beautiful historic building on East 11th Street that was once home to Doc Young and his family’s Hillside Drugstore, Hillside Farmacy has become known as a champion of local foods and community. In addition to serving all-day breakfast and lunch, Hillside Farmacy is a great hub for stocking up on locally sourced grocery items, including local cheeses.

Spending a lazy Sunday on the patio? Order the Farmacy Plate for a fresh selection of local cheeses from creamy chèvre to complex blue cheese to sharp, aged cheddar. They’ll be served up with house-made pâté. de champagne, local wildflower honey and seasonal pickles. Getting groceries to-go? Add Mill-King Cheddar to your bag. A crowd-pleaser for all ages and palettes, it’s a creamy, mild, small batch cheddar with no additives or preservatives sourced from Mill-King Creamery in McGregor near Waco.

River Whey Creamery

VISIT AT 17361 BELL NORTH DR., STE. 115, SCHERTZ

Great Texas dirt leads to great Texas grass, milk and, ultimately, cheese. This is the philosophy at River Whey Creamery in Schertz, which calls their model “Earth to Soul,” rather than “Farm to Table,” reflecting their belief in sustainability and transparency.

Some may say founder Susan Rigg’s passion for cheese is unmatched. When passion comes together with her extensive culinary training, you can taste the results. River Whey Creamery is known for five distinct fine aged cheeses as well as seasonal, fresh soft cheeses. All are rich and flavor-packed, and make beautiful additions to any cheese board. This season, try the Caldera Espa.a, which is made with local south Texas raw Jersey cow’s milk, smoked over pecans, and aged for three months. It is simultaneously bold and smooth with a smoky flavor and creamy texture that pairs perfectly with cured meat, barbecue and beer.

Shop online, pick up curbside or find River Whey Creamery cheeses at La Bergerie, Fredericksboards, Antonelli’s and at some Whole Foods locations. Keep an eye out for hands-on cheesemaking classes when it’s safe to return for in-person events.

Rebel Cheese

VISIT AT 2200 ALDRICH ST. OR ORDER TAKE-OUT AND DELIVERY

For a fantastic variety of vegan cheese options, look no further than Rebel Cheese in the Mueller neighborhood. It’s a first of its kind dairy-free cheese shop and deli, adding to the vibrant culture of Austin’s vegan scene.

Committed to making sophisticated, handcrafted vegan cheese with simple ingredients like nuts, herbs and vegan yogurt, Rebel Cheese is serving up delicious options from mozzarella to camembert and havarti that are sure to impress any cheese lover and become a go-to for the vegan, health-conscious and lactose intolerant communities alike.

Join a virtual cheese tasting with co-owners Kristen and Fred Zwar and pick up a hand-selected cheese plate for the occasion. Be sure to try their brie, paired with fig jam and dried fruit.

Spread & Co.

VISIT AT 1601 W. 38TH ST. STE. 1 OR ORDER ONLINE FOR CURBSIDE PICKUP

The enticing promise of the beautiful little Kerbey Lane bistro, Spread & Co., “Cheese all day,” is music to our ears! Owners Rosemary and Austin Ewald’s love of cheese originally stemmed from Rosemary’s first love of pairing homemade jams and pickles with cheeses and the “grazing platter” scene in Australia.

Order one of their in-house cheese charcuterie boards and be sure to add a scoop of house-made pimento for a hint of spice. Try it with tortilla chips and pickled crudit.s. Or, opt for a savory-sweet treat with Texas Mozzarella Company’s whipped ricotta, served with warm house-made toasty garlic confit bread. In addition to offering an amazing selection of local cheeses and house-made baked goods, they also serve breakfast, lunch, coffee and offer “Grab n Go” and catering services.

Have a socially-distanced seat under the striped awning on their gorgeous patio, or you can pick up your order with a contactless curbside option.