Lots of good things are happening with Minnesota cheese. Veteran cheesemakers are expanding production and distribution, while a few budding operations are beginning to make their mark. You may have noticed the debut of some local curds at your cheese counter so far this year. Alise Sjostrom’s Readhead Creamery recently introduced curds to Kowalski’s (they’ve been in local co-ops for a while now). And in the last few weeks, Rueben Nilsson’s The Lone Grazer Creamery brought inaugural batches of cheese curds and string cheese to market.
Nilsson is a seven-year veteran of the Caves of Faribault. He spent the last year developing this new creamery venture with Kieran and Seamus Folliard and the rest of the 2 Gingers Whiskey team. The Lone Grazer (first announced as Skyway Creamery last year) operates near the Grain Belt Brewery on Marshall Avenue in Northeast, a part of the same local production enterprise as Mike Phillips’ Red Table Meat Company. The building is currently seeking a third artisanal food tenant, and should have a communal tasting room open in the fall.
Nilsson sources grass-fed cow’s milk from two small Minnesota farms. His curds are exactly the squeaky, salty little gobs of perfection you’d hope for, and his string cheese — a low-moisture mozzarella that wicks away into into needle-thin strands — is outstanding as well. You can find The Lone Grazer’s products for sale at Surdyk’s, France 44, Lake Wine & Spirits, and a host of local co-ops. Expect to start seeing them at neighborhood restaurants, such as The Anchor Fish & Chips, which recently used Nilsson’s curds in a curry poutine.
The Lone Grazer will focus on bringing fresh cheese — including a hand-dipped ricotta — to market, while experimenting with soft-rind French-style cheeses this summer. Nilsson hopes to debut a semi-aged product before the end of the year. Until then, stay tuned for upcoming creamery tours, where visitors can take a sneak peek at the meat and cheese stronghold taking shape in Northeast.