There are plenty of good local cheeses among the wedges and wheels at Cowgirl Creamery. Photograph by Scott Suchman
Blue Ridge Dairy Company
Based in Loudoun County, owner Paul Stephan and his family turn Jersey-cow milk—high in butterfat—from a Maryland farm into silky balls of fresh mozzarella as well as ricotta, mascarpone, and yogurt.
Our choice: Fresh mozzarella.
Owner Gail Hobbs Page—who grew up on a North Carolina peanut farm—had 26 years of restaurant-kitchen experience before becoming a cheesemaker. From her farm in southern Virginia, she produces seven goat’s-milk cheeses named for nearby landmarks.
Our choice: Old Green Mountain Round, slightly smaller than a baseball and dusted with local herbes de Provence.
Chapel’s Country Creamery
Run by the Foster family, this Eastern Shore farmstead dairy—the cows are on the property where the cheese is made—is a pioneer in using raw, or unpasteurized, milk.
Our choice: Cave-aged Chapelle, a cheddar-like cheese with a creamy texture.
Owner Diane Kirsch uses only milk from her upper Montgomery County farm for her lineup of five soft-ripened goat cheeses as well as fresh ricotta.
Our choice: Monocacy Ash, a tangy and rich goat cheese with an edible, bloomy rind.
A number of years ago, Pat Elliott, a family doctor, bought some sheep to keep her border collie company; before long she’d taught herself to make cheese. She now has six sheep’s-milk varieties.
Our choice: Slightly salty, wonderfully nutty Piedmont.
In Maryland’s northwest corner, a group of friends have been producing goat cheese since 2002 using local milk. Their eight-cheese stock ranges from a delightfully tangy fresh chèvre to a creamy blue.
Our choice: Mellow, smooth, washed-rind Cabra LaMancha.
While this Pennsylvania farm turns out 18 types of aged cheeses, it’s the products the family makes fresh weekly—ricotta, yogurt, and chocolate pudding—that we like best.
Our choice: Whole-milk ricotta.
Meadow Creek Dairy
In keeping with European tradition, the three cheeses from this southwestern Virginia cheesemaker are available only during certain months, depending on the milking and aging schedule.
Our choice: Grayson, modeled after Italian Taleggio.
Pipe Dreams Farm
A college year abroad in France prompted owner Brad Parker eventually to buy a pack of goats, which he tends on a farm in Greencastle, Pennsylvania. There, they graze on alfalfa, grasses, and ivy, and their milk produces some of the best goat’s-milk cheeses we’ve had.
Our choice: Bright, citrusy ashed log.
This article appears in the May 2011 issue of The Washingtonian.