I think if I had to choose a last meal it would come down to sushi or a cheese plate. I suspect the cheese plate would win out in the end because really, it's just pure pleasure served on a plate. But I'm lucky that I don't have to wait for a last meal; I have a fantastic cheese shop within walking distance of my home.
At St. James Cheese Company, every employee is knowledgeable and passionate to the point you feel you're always speaking to the proprietor. I don't even bother making decisions anymore. I tell them I'd like a cheese plate (with three, five, or seven choices) and leave it in their capable hands. I've never been disappointed.
Last week, I had the luxury of a very long lunch of cheese, charcuterie, and wine and I wanted to share the selections they brought for us. Four of the seven were domestic cheeses (which I love!) and I suspect most of them can be found at reputable cheese stores (and if not, ask about them).
Manchego (Spain) - A classic sheep's cheese from Spain (ours was a 6 month-old). Not a surprise for me, but always good. Instead of quince paste, they served it with fresh fig preserves and that was a new experience.
Weybridge (Vermont) - A cow's milk farmstead cheese produced by Scholten Family Farm in Weybridge, Vermont. It has a softened rind with nutty, earthy flavors and a tart finish. Semi-creamy with a denser center that contains citrus notes. I also detected a delicate mushroom aroma to the cheese. Very, very good!
City of Ships (Maine) - This tangy, semi-hard, raw cow's milk cheese was absolutely delightful and I may never have it again unless I'm in Maine. Produced by Hahn's End Farm, this handmade small-batch cheese is only sold regionally, so I was lucky that one of the employees was visiting and brought some home in his bag.
La Jeaune Autize (France) - An aged, washed rind goat's cheese made in a style similar to Morbier. It's a tangy, earthy cheese with a line of vegetable ash running through its center. It was creamier than I expected it to be from appearance and not too sharp.
Green Hill (Georgia) - This soft-ripened cow's milk cheese may have been my favorite of the afternoon. Produced by Sweet Grass Dairy in southern Georgia, it was lush and rich with a buttery creaminess and a sharp tang that gave way to a slight bitterness in the rind. I could have eaten this all day.
Blue d'Auvergne (France) - A creamy, moist cow's milk blue that was strong and pungent like most blues, but perhaps slightly milder than some I've encountered before. Very nice if you're a blue cheese lover.
O'Bannon (Indiana) - This fresh goat's milk cheese from Capriole Farmstead in Greenville, Indiana was a surprise for me, in the very best way. It was dense, almost fudgy, with an unmistakeable fresh, citrusy taste. I'm a big fan of goat cheese anyway, but this was something different. Perhaps it's the fact that they soak chestnut leaves in Woodford Reserve Bourbon before wrapping the cheese. Whatever it is, I'm buying it again!