American Cheese Month at Pastoral | chicago foodie girl


American Cheese Month at Pastoral

Happy American Cheese Month! Wait, you didn't know that October is American Cheese Month? Well, to be quite honest, neither did I (which is weird considering my predilection for all things cheese)... thankfully, the awesome folks at Pastoral stepped in to show me the way just in time. I was invited to stop by their Lakeview location for a cheese tasting with Head Cheesemonger, Bryan Bland (how cool of a job is that?!). Anyone who knows me knows I LOVE cheese, so of course, this opportunity was right up my alley.
Before we started the tasting, Bryan led me through the history of artisan cheesemaking in the United States, as well as the availability of American produced cheeses at Pastoral; while the store definitely has a special relationship with Midwestern cheesemakers, they actually represent every single state that produces cheese. We also chatted about the seasonality of cheese; while I was already familiar with many of the aging processes, I had never quite thought about how cheeses have seasons, just like fruits and vegetables. As Bryan explained, no two cheeses are alike - dozens of factors, including the temperature, the types of flora each animal is exposed to, and grazing conditions can affect a cheese's flavor profile. Similar to harvest season, late spring to early fall is considered the prime season for cheese production.  

After our discussion, Bryan got down to the business of cutting the cheese (ha!). In honor of American Cheese Month, Pastoral is highlighting four American produced cheeses, three of which are from the Midwest. As much as I enjoyed all of the cheeses, my favorite of the four was a relatively new cheese from Wisconsin, a fruity and tangy cheddar made from a combination of goat and cow's milk. 

American Cheese Month featured selections
Good Thunder from Alemar Cheese Company in Minnesota: a robust and savory cheese washed in American brown ale
Chandoka from LeClare Family Farms in Wisconsin: a mild, creamy, and tart goat and cow's milk cheddar
O'Banon from Capriole Cheese in Indiana: a tart and herby chèvre wrapped in Bourbon-soaked chestnut leaves
Blue Bay from Point Reyes Farmstead Cheese in California: an earthy, sweet blue cheese
Capriole Cheese's O'Banon: this cheese is macerated in bourbon and has a slow, smooth burn at the end.

 Head Cheesemonger, Bryan Bland

Point Reyes Farmstead Cheese's Blue Bay: this is slightly sweeter than most blue cheeses and Bryan recommends it for those who want a milder blue (he also loves to use it to convert people who think they don't like blue cheese!).

After my tasting, I spent some time wandering around the shop (and resisting the urge to buy everything in sight!). Along with cheese, Pastoral offers a variety of wines, chocolate, bread, charcuterie, pantry items, and gifts. They also have some fantastic cheese plates available to-go or to enjoy at Bar Pastoral.

Before I left, I just had to visit the cheese counter one more time. Along with a perfect to-go container of the featured American cheeses, I also picked up a buttery sheep's milk cheese and a lovely cow's milk cheese with a lingering taste of salty bacon.

The celebration of American Cheese Month continues at Pastoral through the end of October (featured cheeses will also be available for purchase online or in-store after the end of the month).

ETA: This shop/restaurant has closed.

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