The Reggae Band was a couple hours late showing up, but otherwise, spirits were high as Back Forty Artisan Cheese opened up for the season on Saturday at its Mississippi Station location. The home-base for the popular sheep cheese shop is open Saturdays from 10am to 4pm from now until “sometime around the end of September,” said owner/cheesemaker Jeff Fenwick.
For the past three years, they’ve held a summer kick-off event featuring other unique area food experiences including Stalwart Brewery, Deep Fried Battered Curds, Chocolates by Ludwig Ratzinger and a barbecue from Seed to Sausage.
“This is my vacation,” said Mike McKenzie of Seed to Sausage. “It’s the least I could do for such wonderful people.”
For those unfamiliar with the Back Forty story, Jeff and Jenna Fenwick bought a small farm near Mississippi Station back in 2000 and proceeded to turn it into a small cheese factory using sheep milk. Since then, they’ve been opening the shop on Saturdays during the summer, and they’ve been supplying restaurants and stores all over with their unique brands.
This year, that will be significant if you want to try Fenwick’s latest endeavor, water buffalo milk cheese, because it’ll only be available at the shop and the Almonte Farmers Market.
To go along with his regular brands, Madawaska, Highland Blue, Bonnechere, Flower Station and Ompah, Fenwick has added a Queso Almonte, Calabogie Blue and Shanklish for this year. (The Calabogie Blue is especially good.)
“Water buffalo cheeses are particularly popular in Italy,” he said. “It’s what they use in mozzarella.”
“The Queso is more like a Spanish mozzarella, and it’s a nice melting cheese.”
But it won’t be available anywhere other than the store or Almonte Farmers Market.
“I’ve always liked to try something different,” he said. “I like the water buffalo cheeses, but they are labor-intensive and you don’t get that much for a lot of work.”
However, he does expect they’ll have plenty left for the fall studio tour, where they plan to have charcouterie and grilled cheese.