Cheese Trail FAQ

Find answers to commonly asked questions about the California Cheese Trail, plus fun facts and helpful tips on how to store and serve cheese properly.

Visiting Cheesemakers

Learn how to use our interactive Cheese Trail map, schedule tours with local cheesemakers, and more.

Absolutely! Click here to view our interactive map of California cheesemakers. Each listing will give you details on how to visit and whether you need to set up an appointment. It’s always best to call before making a special trip, as their hours may change.

Starting on the Trail Map page, sort by the region you’d like to visit.  The list of cheesemakers will be winnowed down.  Then, select Open and/or Retail locations, to find places that are regularly open.  You can click on each to make sure they’ll be open during your trip. Then click “Pin to Itinerary,” in the blue bar below the name of the cheesemaker. Continue selecting all those you’d like to visit. Press “Show Itinerary” to view your list. You can then open the itinerary in google maps and print or send it to your phone for use (if you’re not already on your phone).

Each cheesemaker will list how they prefer to be contacted. Check their listing. Those open by appointment often need at least a month of planning, and usually can’t accommodate a last-minute visit. But, you never know unless you ask!

Yes! If you’re not sure how to navigate the website or just want a suggested tour of open locations, where you can often (tho, not always) get a sample taste of their cheeses, try one of several driving tours throughout California. Click here and select Driving Tours for the full list.

Yes, check our Events page for classes, tastings and farm tours. That page is where you can find all sorts of cheese adventures.

Serving Suggestions

Learn more about when to plate your cheese, our most common pairings, or where to find more recommendations.

Cheese is best eaten at room temperature. For best flavor, remove from the refrigerator an hour prior to eating.

Not sure how much cheese to buy for your event? Here are a few loose guidelines:

If you’re having a small dinner party and cheese is the appetizer, then allow 2 ounces per person. If you’re having a bigger party with other food besides cheese, allow 1 ounce per person. If there’s no other food besides the cheese, then 4 ounces per person.

Cheese tastes great with so many things.  But here are a few suggestions:

Crusty Bread, Crackers, Sliced or Dried Fruit, Fresh Fruit (grapes, apples, pears, berries), Preserves, Roasted Almonds, Olives, Wine or Beer.  Be creative and enjoy.

Eating the rind is a matter of preference.  If you want to taste the cheese as the cheesemaker intended, try the inside first.  Eating that white, fluffy rind of soft cheeses is just fine. The rind of harder cheeses are not always easy to eat or necessarily pleasant. A suggestion is to save the rinds of hard cheeses and use them to flavor a homemade soup.

Oh, and that red wax rind that sometimes is around Gouda…that’s wax! Don’t eat it. 😉

Definitely. It’s actually a matter of preference. Personally, we love it.

Storing Cheese

Follow these easy tips to keep your cheese as fresh as possible in between servings.

Oh yes, it does. Though it can be left out for several hours without a problem (it ages naturally at between 50 and 60 degrees).  The best thing to do is keep it refrigerated until you would like to eat it.  Then, for the best flavor, take the cheese out of the refrigerator about an hour before eating. Cheese always tastes best at room temperature.

It’s not a good idea as freezing tends to change the texture of cheese. The best thing is to only buy as much cheese as you can eat within those two weeks. Usually, a fresh cheese like a chevre or fromage blanc can be frozen without a change in texture.

Sometimes a mold is supposed to be there, like the white fluffy rind on a Brie. That’s normal and even edible (it’s a matter of preference). Sometimes, you’ll see a bit of blue mold on a firmer wedge of cheese. You can just cut off that mold and eat the rest. However, if you see mold or fuzz on a fresh cheese, like cottage cheese or cream cheese or creme fraiche, toss it. It’s not good anymore. It won’t hurt you, but it will affect the flavor of cheese.

Cheese tastes best, and as the cheesemaker intended, if you eat it within two weeks after purchase. It may last longer, but the flavor will change as well. If it smells ammoniated or tastes bitter, it’s probably time to throw it out. Don’t worry, though, a cheese that has “gone off” can’t hurt you. It just doesn’t taste very good.

Wrap it in wax or butcher paper. then put in the refrigerator’s vegetable crisper, a ziplock bag or a lidded container. Remember to consume within two weeks of purchase!

The rinds can have all sorts of colors, perfectly normal. In general, if you see some white or a blue mold on firm cheeses, just cut off and discard the mold, and eat the rest.

More Cheese Facts

Fun facts and useful terms that you’ll get familiar with on the journey of becoming a cheese connoisseur.

Farmstead” means that the cheese is made on the farm with milk from the farmer’s own herd.

As most of us do when hearing about Little Miss Muffet, we wonder what those curds and whey really are. Here’s the story: Milk naturally thickens and forms curds when left in a warm place or when a coagulant like rennet is added. Cutting the curds allows them to release water (whey). Eventually the whey is poured off, leaving only curds, which are then formed or pressed into rounds or other shapes to create cheese. Miss Muffet probably ate a combo of fresh curds and whey. She may have added something sweet or savory or eaten them just plain.

The cheesemaker adds cultures and coagulants to the milk and then cuts, stirs and cooks the curd at different temperatures and amounts of time in order to create a spectacular array of flavors, textures and aromas.