We all love cheese, especially Kadia and me: cheddar, Parmesan, Emmental, Munster, Harvarti, Mozzarella, Ricotta, cream cheese, Swiss, you just name it and we like it. On the trip, we typically had some cheese for lunch and a little more at dinner as we made quesadillas sometimes. And it was only natural that we would go to cheese factory tours if we saw them. We struck out at Wisconsin, the cheese capitol of the nation, as we were only at the northern and southern end of the state where most of the cheese is made in the central part. But we took three cheese factory tours on the trip, Cabot Cheese of Vermont, a small cheese maker on Vancouver Island and Tillamook of Oregon.
When we were at Vermont, Susan saw on a brochure about the Cabot Cheese Tour. We just cannot pass up this opportunity. We left the Moose River Campground early in the morning and arrived at Cabot Visitor Center a little after 9am. The parking lot was vacant so we thought maybe it was a bad idea: maybe this was a terrible tour. Although I love cheese but I hardly ever paid attention to the brand name but I recognized the Cabot logo when I saw it. I have eaten Cabot cheese before. We went inside the Visitor Center which was like a little shop with many milk related products. Soon there were many more people came in and we joined the cheese factory tour.
The tour guide showed us 15 minutes video the complete cheese making process, from selecting the best cow, testing the milk, curdling, molding, and aging. We also learned the many kinds of cheese and how they were made; even the shape of cheese can make a difference as disk shape cheese are more uniformally textured and flavored than the block kind. She also showed us many different products they made ranged from yogurt, butter, dip, seasoning and, of course, cheese. It was very educational. Then she took us into the factory to show what we just saw on video in action. Everyone had a plastic hair cover and some had a plastic beard cover. We saw all the machinery and processing of the cheese. It was 2 dollars but it was the best tour we joined on the trip, worthy of every penny.
After the tour, it came the best part, the tasting room. Although tasting room was open to everyone, not just people on the tour, we felt it was our rights to eat them as we took the tour. There were 20+ types of cheese to try and we, including Kadia tried them all. We loved many flavored cheddar cheese: horseradish, bacon, garlic, habanero, pepper jack, chipotle, tomato, and many others. I liked spicy and heavily flavored food so horseradish, pepper jack, habanero and garlic were all my favorites. I also kept sampling mild, sharp and very sharp kinds to determine which ones I liked the most. I think it was sharp but I liked them all. We ended up buying Vintage Choice cheddar cheese, a garlic flavored cheddar cheese, a couple of yogurts, butter that they only sold locally and some chips and dip. We were in cheese heaven, much like Wallace on a cheese planet.
The cheese tour we joined on Vancouver Island was at a local farm. It was a small operation. It wasn’t much of a tour other than just a simple show and tell. The place was run by a young woman (see the picture on the right). I was surprised that small cheese maker could still survive in the age dominated by giant businesses and the young woman when most of young flock to big cities these days. We learned that the goat cheese is healthier than cow cheese. We were disappointed there were only two cheeses we could try but understood. We brought some goat cheese and curd there.
The Tillamook cheese is made by another big cheese maker. The factory tour reflected that: it felt like a multi-million dollar business factory tour center with a complete gift shop. The tour was free, I believe, and self-guided. It was on a second floor with many glass windows looking down at the factory. There were many video booths showing different stages of cheese processing. The information was well-presented and, although we had already learned about the cheese making process a few times, helpful as we could watch multiple times if we missed it the first time. They also made ice cream there. The cheese sampling was disappointing as well as they only had 3 or 4 choices but their shop had hundreds of cheese to sell. Again we bought some cheese for our snacks. It was hard to not buy more but we were constrained by lack of a real refrigerator.
The Cabot Cheese tour was the best; and we liked the tour guide–a personal touch. Of course, their selections of cheese for sampling were beyond words. Go there.