In case you missed it, Monday was National Cheese Day. Shocking – you also thought it was everyday, right ? So how to celebrate and make this one “cheese” day special? For me, I travelled to New York’s Long Island – the Hamptons. Not just for cheese, but for a wedding anniversary celebration at the site of our Southampton nuptials. Indeed, for me, the Hamptons have long been associated with the good life.
For many, the Hamptons means a proliferation of unattainable massive beachfront homes, fancy cars, models, movie stars and over the top parties. That’s all here, but there’s also another side with a welcoming “downhome” mentality, some amazing seafood, and yes, a cheese culture. Considering that the Dutch settled the Hamptons, it should not come as surprise.
Something like watching Spring bulbs emerge after a long winter, cheese culture is blooming on Long Island. For instance, the Mecox Bay Dairy is a pioneering cheesemaking operation on the South Fork of Long Island. Similarly, there are a handful of dairy operations on the North Fork as well. At Mecox, the fourth generation farmers of the Ludlow family started Mecox Bay Dairy (Bridgehampton) in 2003, trading the farming of potatoes for milking cows. .
Through my eyes, a walk through the Mecox Dairy operations was an observation of courage in action. Courage to change, courage to innovate. Cheesemaker Art Ludlow laughingly described his entry into cheese making as, “a slippery slope”, but one that he is not turning back from. Good thing. His confidence in cheesemaking led him to develop a cheese lineup that is diverse enough to be its own tasting board. Bloomy, washed, natural, cooked curd, blue and more are in their offerings of cheese.
Like that diverse offering of cheese at Mecox, the Hampton’s retailers offer lots and lots of cheese, and I mean real cheese. Excellent (and well cared for) cheeses were found at IGA, Citarella, Stuart’s Seafood, Farmers Markets, and the wonderful Cavaniola’s Gourmet. In my experience, the ease of finding cheese here was something very different than what I have come to know in Virginia.
What’s driving the change to a cheese culture is hard to say. Though not verified, I learned that New York consumes seven times more coffee than rest of the country. Combine that nugget with people who prefer their coffee black and their dairy in the form of cheese. Then, maybe, you have a root cause.
Irregardless of the reason for the cheese, it’s here and plentiful in the Hamptons. Happy National Cheese Day, or simply, Happy Day with cheese.