Meet Six of New England’s Most Innovative Cheesemakers
Six innovative wedge wizards putting New England on the map.
Brian Civitello and Jason Sobocinski, Mystic Cheese Co.
Civitello learned to make cheese in Italy before launching Mystic in 2014 out of two shipping containers at Graywall Farms, using its cow’s milk for soft cheeses with bookish names (the robiola-style Melinda Mae, for one, nods to a Shel Silverstein poem). In February, Civitello and co-owner Sobocinski marked Mystic’s next chapter with a brand-new, 4,000-square-foot facility in Groton featuring a tasting room and enough space to produce 1,200 pounds of cheese daily using milk from River Plain Dairy.
Jessie Dowling, Fuzzy Udder Creamery
A food-policy advocate, Dowling left the Beltway to pursue cheesemaking apprenticeships in 2007, eventually launching her own operation. Now president of the Maine Cheese Guild, Dowling is guiding the state’s cheesemaking community through an unprecedented growth spurt—all while milking 50 sheep and goats in Whitefield to produce Fuzzy Udder’s soft-ripened beauties (try the mixed-milk Whirlwind, boasting a layer of edible ash), which she expects to ship outside Maine for the first time this year.
Nathaniel Higley and Gillian Marino, Lillooet Sheep & Cheesery
Higley and Marino spent three years regenerating historical farmland in Boxford to launch the state’s only farmstead sheep dairy. Today, their ewes—plus ruminants from Erin Bligh’s Dancing Goats Dairy, formerly of Newbury—graze rotationally on 20 acres of woodland and pasture. Bligh still makes her celebrated marinated chèvre and aged varieties, but now works with Lillooet on new recipes for sheep’s-milk and mixed-milk cheeses. Results of the tasty team effort hit the farmstand in June.
Anna Hayward Cantelmo, Bell & Goose Cheese Co.
Cantelmo wants to raise the game for Granite State cheesemaking, and with this South Hampton operation, she’s on her way. Smitten by the artisanal curds she once sold at Savenor’s in Boston, Cantelmo studied cheesemaking and worked at Massachusetts’ Appleton Farms before establishing Bell & Goose in 2016. Currently, she’s perfecting the rinds on her aged cow’s-milk rounds—including the Alpine-style Flora Hayward—as well as “flirting with feta” and considering adding a sheep’s-milk tomme to her repertoire.
Laura Haverland and Andrew Morley, Sweet & Salty Farm
This married couple escaped Manhattan five years ago to open a Little Compton creamery so-named to honor sweet milk and salty sea air. Together they transform milk from 20 grass-fed cows into yogurt and eight cheese varieties imbued with local sensibility: The crumbly flagship Peach Fizz, for example, is bathed in sparkling wine from Westport Rivers Vineyard & Winery; Little Mermaid has a rind sprinkled with Maine kelp; and future wheels will incorporate local herbs and edible flowers from area farms.
Peter Dixon, Rachel Fritz Schaal, and Alex Schaal, Parish Hill Creamery
Drawing on three-plus decades of experience, Dixon launched Parish Hill in 2013 with his wife, Rachel, and sister-in-law, Alex, to craft cheeses by traditional methods. Fresh cow’s milk from neighboring Elm Lea Farm stars in the Westminster West creamery’s seasonal creations, which are made with hand-harvested sea salt and homemade starter cultures (microbes that facilitate the ripening process). This painstaking effort is paying off: Multiple Parish Hill varieties have netted recent American Cheese Society awards.