Last week Noah and I left our store for a 5 day vacation. Considering the fact that we typically work at least 6 days a week and rarely leave the store for more than a day or two, you'd think we'd go somewhere exotic for our big vacation. And we did: Athens, Ohio. I mean it's not Hawaii or Paris, but it's home to my sister and her family, and truth be told this little town way exceeded my expectations. It was sunny and 80 degrees the whole time we were there (meanwhile it was cold and rainy here in the bay area), and the landscape is lush and green with rolling hills. It's down right pastoral!
My brother in-law, Craig, owns a company called Frog Ranch which happens to make the best salsa and pickles I've ever had - and I'm not just saying that - I actually liked his food before he became my relative. And because we're all foodies, the first activity we did in Athens was to attend the Athens Farmer's Market where I was delighted to meet a couple very talented Cheesemakers. The first booth I hit was Laurel Valley Creamery who makes a variety of cheeses, but my favorite is a table cheese they call Cora. Rich and buttery, this cheese was perfect on a spelt cracker with a little PawPaw preserve.
And if you don't know what the heck PawPaw is, you should stop by the Integration Acres booth and try some! Apparently PawPaw is a type of fruit grown in the Athens area, and all I can say is that it's delicious and pairs beautifully with cheese. But as much as liked the PawPaw preserve, I absolutely adored the Smokey Goat cheese developed by Chris at Integration Acres. It's a little disk of fresh chevre infused with hickory smoke and black pepper. I bought a piece to share, but in the end I ate most of it. In fact at one point, my little niece was looking at the cheese and I started to panic thinking she might eat the rest of it. I thought "she's only 3, I could probably take her in a fight if I have to." I've got issues, I know.
So here's the deal: some of the best cheese you will ever taste is probably hiding some place you might never think to visit, so keep your mind (and your eyes) open!