Parlaying a bottle or two of Michigan wine into a summer party takes little more than a plate of assorted cheeses. And still keeping the theme fresh and local is increasingly easier with Michigan’s growing crop of artisanal cheese makers. They’re crafting Swiss-style raclette, Manchego, Gouda, endless varieties of chevre and more through a new Michigan Cheese Makers Cooperative.
Some even encourage interaction with the cows or goats ultimately to thank for the creamy deliciousness. The stars of Fennville’s idyllic Evergreen Lane Farm and Creamery are some playful herds of La Mancha and Alpine goats. Each goat has a distinct personality, insists owner Cathy Halinski. Youngsters might be found cuddling with their moms since mother and daughter goats bond for life, she says. Others have been spotted tree climbing since she and husband Tom increased the grazing area to include section of the farm’s apple orchard.
Cheeses made from the goats’ milk are offered seasonally during the March-to-November milking season. Those include LaMancha Moo! — a camembert-style, soft-ripened cheese that becomes softer and more complex as it ages. Pyramid Pointe, another soft-ripened cheese, is notable for its sweet, citrus flavor and texture that Halinski says “melts in the mouth like newly fallen snow.” Fresh Chevre, a sharper goat’s cheese, boasts a lemony flavor and creamy, spreadable texture.
The creamery also makes cheese year-round from Jersey cow’s milk through a partnership with Moonique Dairy in Vandalia, Mich. Varieties include the notable Poet’s Tomme, a semi-hard, washed rind cheese with a yeasty aroma reminiscent of a mushroom.
Visit evergreenlanefarm.com for more information on the farm and its products or great
lakesgreatcheese.com for details about this and other Michigan cheese producers.
Favorite top stops for local fare
Cathy and Tom Halinski, owners and cheese makers at Evergreen Lane Farm and Creamery, are strong proponents of supporting local eateries and purveyors.
Food Dance, Kalamazoo: “This great restaurant supports Southwest’s Michigan’s seasonal local food system. Cheeses can be found on the restaurant menu, as well as in the adjacent market.” (fooddancecafe.com).
New Holland Brewery, Holland: “Here, great beer meets great pub fare and local artisan cheese. We particularly like the Portobello Sandwich with local goat cheese — imagine that!” (newhollandbrew.com)
Ninth Bridge Market (formerly Grand River Grocery), Ada: “If you are looking for great cheese and wine in the Grand Rapids area, check out this sweet little grocery! Courtney, the ‘cheesemonger,’ has collected a fabulous Michigan cheese selection, of which we’re now proudly a part.” (grandrivergrocery.com).
Nourish Organic Market, Grand Rapids: “This little grocery in the Heritage Hill neighborhood features loads of organic products, local produce and wonderful artisan cheeses.” (nourishorganicmarket.com).
Pleasant Hill Farm, Fennville: “This farm boasts the best certified organic blueberries in Michigan!” (pleasanthillblueberryfarm.com).
Reserve, Grand Rapids: “At this upscale wine bar and small plate experience, Chef Matthew Millar and his staff prepare amazing dishes using local produce, meats and cheeses. Try the charcuterie and cheese selection with your choice of wine.” (reservegr.com).
Rustica, Kalamazoo: “This charming restaurant has a cozy, open kitchen feel and is located right on the mall. Try Chef Chris Kidd’s artisan cheese plate as an opening to their fine, rustic European cuisine.” (rusticakzoo.com).
Salt of the Earth, Fennville: “ is the gem of Fennville’s main street. Chef Matt Pietsch and staff create seasonal menus using local produce, meats and, of course, local artisan cheese.” (saltoftheearthfennville.com).
Summertime Market, Douglas: “This charming three-season market is located on Blue Star Highway on the Douglas side of the bridge that connects Douglas with Saugatuck. Our cheese is sold there along with many other local cheeses, fruits, vegetables, and meats.” (summertimemarket.com).
The Produce Station, Ann Arbor: “This wonderful wine, cheese and produce shop is right off I-94. They have a fabulous selection of American artisan cheese as well as imports.” (producestation.com).
Michigan Cheese Makers Cooperative
These farms and creameries are passionate about sharing the joy and art of cheese making with cheese lovers, chefs, Michigan wine aficionados and specialty food retailers.
Cowslip Creamery, Grand Rapids
Dancing Goat Creamery, Byron Center
Evergreen Lane Farm and Creamery, Fennville
Four Corners Creamery, Tecumseh
Grassfields Cheese, Coopersville
Greenbush Farms, St. Johns
Greystone Farm and Creamery, Chelsea
Leelanau Cheese Company, Suttons Bay
Mattawan Artisan Creamery, Mattawan
MSU Dairy Store, East Lansing
Zingerman’s Creamery, Ann Arbor