Take A Weekend Trip to Cato Corner Cheese Farm
Buy some cheese, grab some wine and enjoy a day out and about in nearby Connecticut.
As a kid, "The Stinky Cheese Man and Other Fairly Stupid Tales" was one of my favorite books. With drab, collage-like illustrations and irreverent twists on classic tales like the Gingerbread man and Little Red Riding Hood, it was a welcome change from the candy-coated renditions. Plus, I found the stinky cheese man super intriguing. Could cheese really smell so putrid so as to make people gag and beg it to run away from them? Partially to fill my inner curiosity and partially because I love cheese, I packed up and headed a short drive over to Colchester, Connecticut to find out.
Down a country lane in Colchester, a mix of quaint New England town and suburbia with patches of rural farmland, Cato Corner Cheese Farm slowly churns out some of the best cheese you can get your hands on. We're talking cheese that's served at 11 Madison Park in New York on a tasting menu that will run you $300. Yeah, it's that good.
The drive from my home in West Greenwich was about an hour, but felt like less, and when we pulled up to the farm it was the opposite of stuffy. Chickens trot across the dirt driveway while doe-eyed cows curiously poke their heads out from the barn.
The Cato Farm shop sits to the left, welcoming visitors inside for a cheese tasting experience that will leave your mouth tingling in remembrance.
A friendly woman stands behind a table set up with massive hunks of cheese underneath domed plastic, like jewels at a jewelry shop. She wields a massive cleaver, both for deterring any potential cheese thieves and for slicing crumbling hunks for curious folks like us to try.
The queso is divided into three categories: mild, stronger and holy-mama-cow stinky cheese. We try them all. Slice after glorious slice is handed to us, crumbling, crystals crunching in your mouth like cheese-flavored pop rocks. The mild cheeses are awesome, the stronger cheeses are wicked, and the stinkiest cheeses explode your taste buds in a creamy rush of grass and a flavor that can only be described as "farm."
After an especially sharp blue cheese that the lady describes as "an introductory blue cheese" (dunno about that), my mouth tingles and all I can say is, "wow." We leave the shop with three of our faves (though they were all good): Dairyere (punny!), a sweet, pungent cheese; Molto Vivace, one of the stinky ones with a flavor reminiscent of parmesan; and finally, the cheese I was looking for, Reserve Dairyere, a sweet stinky cheese with a flavor that tastes kind of like an onion bagel mixed with farm.
Three calves (Luna, Lavender and Lilac) look curiously at us as we leave with our cheese to head over to nearby Pachaug State Forest.
Hurriedly unwrapping the goods, we find they pair quite nicely with Newcastle Brown Ale and some crusty bread picked up at Stop and Shop.
But, truth be told, you could just eat the cheese between swigs of beer and life would be just fine.
If you want taste of some damn good cheese, here's our Connecticut road trip itinerary in a nutshell (with some suggestions and additions):
1. Taste the cheese at Cato Corner Farm and buy slices of your faves. We spent about $35 for a massive hunk of Dairyere, a decent chunk of Molto Vivace and a decent wedge of Reserve Dairyere.
2. We didn't do this, but Priam Vineyards is just around the corner, so head over after you get the cheese and pick up a bottle of locally made wine to stock your picnic basket.
3. Head to nearby Stop and Shop for some crusty bread (and plastic knives). If you don't want to support a massive grocery chain (kudos to you), get your bread at Lazizah Bakery in nearby Norwich.
4. Put your goodies in a basket (or backpack, as we did) and head over to Pachaug State Forest in Griswold. There's a lovely picnic area near the lake where you can break out the cheese and have your feast while the sun dances on the water. Doesn't get much better than that!