Last spring, we stopped in to eat lunch at Best of Mississippi: Seafood Edition Finalist, The Neon Pig in Tupelo, Miss. One of the owners, Mitch McCamey, had talked a big game about his on-site butchery and locally sourced meat and produce, and we needed to stop in and see for ourselves.
Yes, the Smashburger really is all that and some more. Worthy of another entire story. But for now, let’s stay on point.
During the tastebud sensation of a visit, Chef Mitch pointed out some of the cheese in the glass display case, saying, “If you haven’t visited Sweet Grass Dairy in southwest Georgia, you’ve gotta go check them out.” He relayed a bit of their cheesemaker’s story and led me to believe that until I tried their cheese, I had never tasted cheese at all. So, we planned a family excursion to visit Sweet Grass Dairy on the first day of summer 2014.
(For those of you with children, you’ll understand that I’m not referring to the summer solstice but instead to the first day of the summer break when kids don’t have to go back to school again until fall.)
A Dairy Field Trip
We started our visit with a tasting at the Sweet Grass Dairy Cheese Shop, located in downtown Thomasville, Georgia. Frankly, one of the most vibrant small town downtowns I’ve had the pleasure of visiting in quite some time. Lil’ Moo, Green Hill, Thomasville Tomme and Asher Blue circled the plate accompanied by artisan crackers as well as roasted local pecans and jam. Y’all, the place and the experience were just about as welcoming and friendly as one could ever imagine. And the cheeses are each extraordinary. Dreamy.
But when I watched my 10 year old’s eyes roll back in wonder and glee as she put a bite of BLUE CHEESE in her mouth, I knew we were on to something special. Let’s be frank: blue cheese isn’t for everyone. Even for those who move past the moldy appearance of the stuff, the pungent smell and funky flavor are just too much for many Southern palates typically far removed from the cheese making world.
Which brings me to the topic of my current winter daydreams: If you’ve got a blue cheese food fear or a blue cheese dislike, I’m here to tell you, you just haven’t had the right one yet. The medicine to turn your blue cheese nightmares into gleeful winter blues-beating day dreams is the Asher Blue made by Sweet Grass Dairy in Thomasville, Georgia.
Meet Sweet Grass Dairy
Sweet Grass Dairy is a second generation family-run operation led by Jeremy and Jessica Little, daughter and son-in-law of Sweet Grass founders, Al and Desiree Wehner. Sweet Grass Dairy’s award-winning artisan cheese starts with great milk from local family farms raising grass-fed cows who are never required to live in barns.
Asher Blue is one of the five core cheeses produced year-round by Sweet Grass Dairy, along with a handful of seasonal specialties. Named for the owner’s second son, Asher Blue is one of the few naturally-rinded blue cheeses being made in the U.S. today.
I’ve dreamed of Asher Blue since the day we met. It’s flavor mesmerizes me, and it pairs brilliantly with a myriad of foods and drinks, always keeping my tastebuds entertained. When in the area, I never fail to stop in, often making a 60 mile detour, to pick up a chunk of Asher Blue to bring back home with me.
Enjoying Asher Blue Three Ways
On a recent stop by Acre in downtown Auburn, Alabama, I was pleased as punch to find Asher Blue on their “Solid Oak” Sampler, touted as “all the charcuterie, all the cheeses, all the fixins’ family style.” Suffice it to say, I nearly embarrassed myself enjoying this “family style” board of goodness, and I rudely licked up every bit of the Asher Blue which I found to be best administered to my mouth piled onto a benne cracker with prosciutto and raspberry jam. Next time, I’ll add on an extra dose of my favorite cheese à la carte, because you can there.
At home, my go-to salad recipe is more of a salad formula that includes spinach or arugula, Asher blue, roasted peanuts or pecans, a seasonal fruit and my homemade basic vinaigrette.
My go-to homemade burger also showcases the Asher blue on a toasted ciabatta bun, thick 80/20 medium rare patty cooked hot and fast on our Gourmet Guru Grill. I top the beef with caramelized Vidalia onions, Asher blue cheese and Sugar Taylor Sauce. And I lay a crunchy green leaf lettuce like Romaine and an heirloom tomato slice on the opposite bun face. Serve this juicy burger with hand cut steak fries sprinkled again with some Asher Blue and June Bugg Rub and a side salad of fresh fruit, you’ll wow your family with a restaurant quality meal. It’s definitely a favorite Friday go-to meal at our house!
Editor’s Note: We’d like to extend a special thank you to the team at Sweet Grass Dairy who treated our family like their own and showed us a grand tasting and tour of their facilities. You guys are first class all the way! Thank you!
>> Order Asher Blue straight from Sweet Grass Dairy for delivery to your home. Excuse me while I go place my order now. Will you join me?
>> Ever in the Auburn, Alabama area? Acre is worth the drive to enjoy their locally sourced menu. It gets a high recommendation from us.
>> Ever in the Tupelo, Mississippi area? The Neon Pig and it’s sister restaurant, Kermit’s Outlaw Kitchen, are leading the way in local food sourcing in Mississippi. Check them out!
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