January 2, 2015 – Sugar House Creamery-Upper Jay, NY – Asgaard Farm & Dairy-AuSable Forks, NY
If you’ve read my previous post, “Let Them Eat Trees”, you’ll recall that while I’m big on the Lake Placid area, I pull no punches as to the brutality of its weather. With such an inhospitable climate you’ll be surprised to know that the neighboring AuSable valley is seeing the signs of a budding farm movement. Ok, I’m being a bit overly optimistic-maybe the cold cut down the voltage of my neurons- but there are two that my girlfriend and I had the pleasure to visit.
Sugar House Creamery focuses on artisanal cheese and other dairy products. Pull up to the small honor system farm store-kind of restores your faith in mankind for a minute, doesn’t it-where you’ll find a couple of refrigerators. Having read many positive reviews, I was excited to try the cheese even without having the opportunity to sample it first. I choose two. Dutch Knuckle described on the label as “a semi-hard raw milk mountain cheese”. Nutty and creamy with a slightly earthy rind. Great for eating straight and equally as enjoyable melted on your favorite bread. Pound Cake, “a bloomy-rind cheese”. This was decadent, complex, rich and wonderful. A bit runny at room temperature with a faintly spongy texture inside. The palate mixed a touch of brie with some vague overtones of blue. A well balanced bitterness and mushroom came through in the rind. I was also lucky enough to get the last half-gallon of pure unadulterated full-fat raw milk. Rich, clean, grassy and fresh. Return the bottle on your next visit and get credit against the purchase. This place takes sustainability seriously.
After having a local acquaintance suggest a visit to Asgaard Farm & Dairy, the expectations were high. While they officially closed at 2:00 PM that day, they told us to come over since someone would be there….over the river and through the woods-you know how it goes. After traveling on some back country roads and up a very long driveway we arrived at a building that seemed to be a combination tasting room and office. We were greeted by proprietor David Brunner and about thirty minutes later his wife Rhonda Butler. As usual I was in food paradise. This time without the evil eye from the GF about how much time I was taking which was in no small part due to the sample of their excellent homemade Sea Salt Goat Milk Caramel. We quickly proceeded to buy two of the last three boxes-sorry all, you snooze ya’ loose. Yes, goat is the only animal they use for cheese production. After sampling we settled on a few. Barkeater Buche, “A soft-ripened cheese made with pasteurized goat milk, the Barkeater Buche is our Adirondack response to the Loire Valley’s Sainte-Maure de Touraine.” Tart like any good goat cheese, it was at the same time bright, fresh and creamy with a bit of forest floor/mushroom on the vegetable ash coated rind. As this cheese sat in the fridge it developed new depths of rich butter-like flavor and texture. I also recommend adding it to scrambled eggs during the last couple of minutes of cooking for a real boost to the mundane. Gladsheim which is a goat’s milk Gouda aged over sixty days. Very much like an old world Dutch Gouda but with the characteristic sharpness of goat’s milk. A satisfyingly deep firm bite as well. Fresh Chevre flavored with Adirondack Maple Syrup. To be fully transparent this has never been my type of cheese. No, I don’t dislike it but have always found it to be somewhat uninteresting and bland with a texture that reminds me of whipped cream cheese from a bad diner. Just the thought of it brings back joyfully horrible memories of alcohol fueled late night Jersey dinner gluttony- well it tasted good in those heady moments of teenage and early twenties vintage but the almighty Thomas Crapper would exact a most draconian revenge-sorry, thought I’d share the “love”. Why then, you might ask, did I decide to try it especially since they had none available to taste first? The maple syrup of course since everything is better with maple syrup! Not to mention that fresh chevre always takes on new dimensions when slightly melted over a wide array of foods. This was no exception.
From my kitchen: roasted Asgaard Farm Gloucestershire Old Spots pork chop with Hungry Uncle’s own Blueberry Bacon Jam, steamed green beans with Asgaard Fresh Chevre flavored with maple syrup
In addition to the chops Asgaard offers heirloom eggs, ham, a wide array of sausage-the breakfast variety with sage is excellent- as well as goat meat. If you’ve never tried goat meat you should. It is after all the world’s most consumed animal protein.
Why do I seek out places like Sugar House and Asgaard? It’s not just because what they raise and produce tastes better. It’s also an appreciation for people willing to brave harsh climates, long hours and economic uncertainty to embrace traditional methods of farming and food production. It’s better for the earth, for us as human beings and worthy of our support.