Crazy about brie and Parmigiano-Reggiano and gouda? Us, too. But, the age of European fromage hegemony is history. The Old World may have written the great Cheese Canon, but American cheesemakers are dreaming up and creating cheese masterpieces delicious enough to rival any dairy across the Atlantic.
"American cheesemakers are not bound to traditions, limited to recipes strictly defined by the AOC, etc.," says Max McCalman, who became America's first Maître Fromager when he started the renowned cheese program at Picholine Restaurant in New York and is now a cheese educator and author.
The Appellation d'origine contrôlée (AOC), "controlled designation of origin," is the French certification that renders cheeses — and meats and wine — legit. Spain and Italy have similar name-protection protocols. So, for Roquefort to be Roquefort, it must be made with the milk of a specific breed of sheep and be aged in the Combalou caves of Roquefort-sur-Soulzon. This is a wonderful tool to guarantee quality and consistency, but the price is innovation.
Our lack of strict cheese regulations "frees the American cheese producers to develop new recipes and create new and unique cheeses," says Max. "This is where the excitement is occurring in the cheese world today, right here within our shores."