Minnesota Prairie Roots

Writing and photography by Audrey Kletscher Helbling

Beyond Velveeta: Discovering award-winning Minnesota cheeses March 26, 2010

Filed under: Uncategorized — Audrey Kletscher Helbling @ 7:21 AM

The Faribault Dairy Company ages its award-winning Amablu Gorgonzola in St. Peter sandstone caves.

FOR A KID who grew up eating only Velveeta and American cheese, I’ve become quite the cheese connoisseur. And apparently I have good taste, because my favorite cheese company recently earned top honors in international cheese competition.

Amablu Gorgonzola, produced by Faribault Dairy Company, Inc., won “Best of Class” at the 2010 World Championship Cheese Contest in Madison, Wisconsin.

That’s quite an honor, considering this is the largest international cheese and butter competition in the world.

Jeff Jirik beat out 16 other cheesemakers with a score of 99.3 to win the top award in his class.

Hook’s Cheese Company, Inc. of Mineral Point, Wisconsin, placed second, with a score of 98.75 for its Dolce Gorgonzola.

An employee at the Minnesota company’s retail store, The Cheese Cave, was bragging up the prize-winning cheese this past weekend as she handed out samples to customers, including me. She had every right to be proud. This Gorgonzola, which in 2008 placed fourth in the world contest, is superb.

Here’s how Faribault Dairy describes the award-winning cheese on its Web site, http://faribaultdairy.com:

The blue veined Gorgonzola cheese is “sweeter” (less acid) and drier than our blue cheese. Cave aged a minimum of 90 days, the cheese is somewhat sharper in flavor but still “cleans up” well. The sweeter flavor profile pairs up well with dried fruit and nuts or cut as a table dessert cheese.

I often add Amablu Gorgonzola to a salad that also includes fresh pears and dried cranberries and sometimes chicken and cashews. I top it with a light raspberry vinaigrette dressing.

I agree with that assessment. This is one smooth cheese, which I enjoy on crackers, in a salad or simply sliced and popped into my mouth.

If you haven’t checked out The Cheese Cave in historic downtown Faribault, do. There’s no need to cross the border for the best Gorgonzola cheese in the world when you can find it, along with other great cheeses, right here in Minnesota.

Faribault Dairy, which has won numerous cheese awards, produces these additional savory cheeses: St. Pete’s Select Blue Cheese and Amablu blue cheese. The company also markets Fini (a Wisconsin cheddar) and St. Mary’s Grass Fed Gouda (a Wisconsin Gouda), both aged in Faribault’s sandstone caves. Another cheese, Grafton Duet Blue and Cheddar, pairs a Vermont cheddar with St. Pete’s Select Blue Cheese.

It’s clear, isn’t it, that I’m way beyond Velveeta?

The Cheese Cave is a gourmet destination along Central Avenue in historic downtown Faribault.

© Copyright 2010 Audrey Kletscher Helbling


6 Responses to “Beyond Velveeta: Discovering award-winning Minnesota cheeses”

  1. Annette Says:

    Glad Caleb is back. It’s fun for kids to go on these trips, but I observe there is often way too much packed into the days they are gone and they can’t keep it all straight when they return. Except they often want to go back for more, so tells you they liked it. Wanted to comment on your cheese blog. I never knew about the cheeses produced in Faribault until you told me a year or two ago. We have since become big fans of these Faribault originated cheeses and often serve them to any out of state visitors who come our way and often just for a special occasion on a stay at home night. It’s usually a special trip to the store for them, because they often don’t last for more than one or two meals, they are so good.

    • Audrey Kletscher Helbling Says:

      I’m glad Caleb is safely back home too and catching up on his sleep. He slept 15 hours last night. And you’re right, they do cram a lot in to these tours. Today, while he was showing me photos, he was becoming a bit confused trying to recall what was what.

      As for Faribault Dairy Company’s cheeses, I’m glad you enjoy them and serve these award-winning cheeses to out-of-state guests. A chunk of Amablu doesn’t last long in our house either. Sometime when you’re in Faribault, you’ll need to check out The Cheese Cave. You’ll be impressed. It’s right across the street from The Paradise Center for the Arts, a refurbished old grand theatre.

  2. Kristin Says:

    I’m going to have to check out the Cheese Cave the next time I’m in Faribault. You’re making me hungry!

    • Audrey Kletscher Helbling Says:

      Kristin, knowing your great taste in foods from having read your Candy Sandwich blog, I guarantee that you’ll love Faribault Dairy’s The Cheese Cave. You can even enjoy a class of wine or a beer there, along with a bite to eat.

  3. virgil Says:

    We have not been to the Cheese Store, but after your article we will have to stop in and get some of that prize winner! Enjoying all your articles I am slowly catching up on.

    • Audrey Kletscher Helbling Says:

      Virgil, I promise, you will be delighted with the Faribault Dairy Company cheeses that you find at The Cheese Cave. Great stuff and aged right here in our community’s sandstone caves.

      I’m glad you’re enjoying my posts. I am grateful to readers like you who take the time to read Minnesota Prairie Roots and then comment. Thank you!

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