Now, we all have our weaknesses. Our guilty pleasures. Maybe your doctor’s warned you about the dangers of sugar. You’re trying all of those replacement sweeteners and such, but you like a little chocolate every now and then.
That’s all well and good. The key is moderation, not taking things to extremes. As for me, I’m sure that I’m very mildly lactose intolerant. Too much cheese does not agree with me, not even a little, but I just can’t resist a rebellious Domino's on occasion.
You know that feeling when you know your gastrointestinal system is going to be doing the Gangnam Style dance inside your body in a couple of hours? Still, you’ve just got to do it anyway? That’s the one. That’s when you need to order the Friends Joey special: two pizzas.
So, yes. I’m firmly in the I like cheese, but it doesn’t like me camp. That’s the thing, though. I appreciate cheese, but I don’t go overboard. I don’t love it like the first time my newborn child grabbed my finger, I just enjoy it when my body allows me. That’s not a cheese obsession by any means.
If you want to see a cheese obsession, then this is the world tour for you. From curious rolling-a-gigantic-cheese-down-a-hill traditions to museums created in honour of the great and glorious cheese, these cities are just a little too enthusiastic about dairy products. I camembert to keep you waiting any longer (friendly warning: there may be more of those), so let’s get straight into the first entry.
20 France: Where They Do Cheese Right (Camembert)
Well, where else were we going to start our world cheese tour? France is a country world-renowned for its delectably cheese-tastic cuisine, after all. It’s tough to pick a particular city that stands out among this proud cheese-loving nation, but the village of Camembert, Normandy, is surely a frontrunner.
Not only was the village named after its most famous cheesy export, but it also features a prominent museum, La Maison du Camembert. A vast museum dedicated to cheese, which is shaped like a cheese? I don’t know how much cheese is too dang much cheese, but we must be getting perilously close here.
19 Canada Gets Cheesy (Montreal)
Moving away from France and their legendary love affair with cheese, it naturally follows that the people of Canada would want to get in on that action too. Specifically in the Montreal, Quebec region, where a large proportion of the population has roots from France.
It’s no surprise, then, that Montreal is home to some real cheese artisans. Fans of all things fromage, Bustle reports, come to Montreal to sample the speciality cheeses. There are all kind of delicacies on the menu for adventurous cheese fans, including goat’s cheese, sheep’s cheese and even buffalo’s cheese. Now that’s something even connoisseurs don’t get to sample every day.
18 Have You Tennessee-n How Much Pizza They Eat?
When you’re tackling a vital, cheesy topic like this, you’ve got to appreciate it from all angles. You can’t just determine the most cheese-obsessed cities based on those who create artsy things like buffalo’s cheese.
Sometimes, you’ve got to look at it more simply. Sometimes, it’s just a matter of who straight-up eats the most cheese pizza in the United States? Now that’s a trivia question for the ages, right there.
The answer? According to some extensive data-combing from Doordash, Nashville, Tennessee orders the most take-out cheese pizza in America. For the curious, Los Angeles took the second spot, while Northern New Jersey came in third.
17 Yep, The Cheese Museum Is Definitely A Thing (Soragna)
I suppose, to the casual observer, a museum solely dedicated to cheese might seem a little excessive. If you broadened your mind a little a really thought about it, though, there’s really no judgment where museums are concerned. There are all kinds of wild and wacky museums all around the world, so this sort of thing is really quite tame.
In the Emilia-Romagna region of Italy, you’ll find another city with a totally healthy appreciation of all things cheesy. The town of Soragna hosts the Museum of Parmigiano Reggiano, a regional cheese delicacy which is still made using the traditional methods almost 800 years after first being created. There are also old-fashioned caseifici (cheese factories) throughout the area.
16 Still Making That Cheddar (Somerset)
Now, here’s the thing that cheese novices like myself just can’t quite appreciate: it’s a deceptively complex and deep art. Like so many seemingly-simple staples (see also: bread), there is a huge range of different types of cheese. Some light, some flaky, some mild, some super, super evacuate-the-entire-state sort of stinky.
Cheese-loving regions across the planet are known for their own distinct variety. Somerset, in England, is the home of one of the most classic, time-honored cheeses of all: cheddar. The annual Frome Agricultural and Cheese Show takes place here every September, and the Cheddar Gorge Cheese Company are still plying their trade here.
15 Making Cheese Very Caerphilly
While we’re here in the British Isles, we’ve got another crucial cheesy stop to make.
As a general rule of thumb, if you’ve named a specific variety of cheese after your town (or vice versa), you’re sure to be pretty dang serious about cheese. You are not the sort of people to fool around, to maybe eat the occasional Dairylea slice or such. You’re a super fan of dairy products.
The people of Caerphilly, Wales, perfectly embody this fact. Their famous Caerphilly cheese (famed for its hard, crumbly texture) is celebrated at the annual Caerphilly Big Cheese event, held in front of Caerphilly Castle. It’s a celebration of the best Welsh food, naturally including a whole dang lot of cheese.
14 Which Cheese Is Made Backwards? (Edam)
That’s right, friends. If you’ll excuse the horribly… cheesy joke, we’re jetting off to mainland Europe next. In the Netherlands lies another town whose name betrays its most famous dairy export.
The town of Edam is found in the North Holland province. It is, as you’ve probably deduced already, the origin of a particular favourite cheese variety of mine: edam.
Edam is characterised by the unusual red wax seal in which it’s traditionally packaged (see: Babybel). In the town, re-enactments of the classic cheese markets have been held since 1989. Cheese aficionados can enjoy that throughout the months of July and August.
13 It’s Pizza, Jim, But Not As We Know It (St. Louis)
As we’ve established, then, each different cheese-famous region tends to specialise in a particular variety. By the same token, this is also true of regions famous for a specific cheesy foodstuff: the pizza.
Now, of course, if you’re in the United States, you’re absolutely spoilt for choice when it comes to pizza. So what sets St. Louis, Missouri apart? I’m glad you asked.
The city offers an intriguing pizza-ish experience, characterised by a super thin cracker-like crust. It’s usually coated with a thick and gooey Provel cheese (processed cheese containing cheddar, swiss, and provolone, Uproxx explains). The other intriguing element is that they tend to be cut in squares.
All of this adds up to an interesting experience for cheese fans who think they’ve experienced everything the pizza world has to offer.
12 The Forgotten Pizza Experts (Tokyo)
Now, Tokyo is known for a lot of things. Its incomparable atmosphere, its fantastic array of electronic stores and such, its beautiful National Parks and museums, and more.
What is Tokyo not typically know for? Pizza, that’s what. Unlike most of the cities in this rundown, Tokyo doesn’t boast a long and proud history in the cheese department. However, as Uproxx reports, Japan has recently gotten into the whole pizza thing in a very big way, to the extent that they even tout Tokyo as “perhaps the most exciting pizza city to be in right now.”
With their unusual experimentations with seafood toppings and Japanese-style sauces, Tokyo is the place to go “for a glimpse into everything that pizza can be when imaginations run wild.” What cheese fan in their right mind could turn that down?
11 There’s No Cheese Like The Netherlands’ Cheese (Alkmaar)
With the Netherlands being one of the cheese capitals of the world, I’m sure it surprises nobody that we’re taking a trip back there for our next entry. Back to North Holland we go, for a visit to Alkmaar.
As was the case with the town of Edam, Alkmaar boasts one of very few traditional Dutch cheese markets still in existence. To be precise, there are only four, so it makes perfect sense that those on a world cheese pilgrimage are going to seek them out. The majestic Holland Cheese Museum is also found here, making an essential stop for those committed to the dairy cause.
10 The Joey Special (NYC)
I know I’ve already referenced the Joey Special once already, but here’s the thing about that: I love that reference, so here it is again.
New York City is known as a real hotspot for pizza lovers, after all. Everybody knows that. What you may not have known is that the so-called King of Mozzarella himself resides there.
That’s right. As Eater reports, Sicilian native Orazio Carciotto owns a deli named Casa Della Mozzarella, in the heart of the Bronx’s Little Italy. The establishment is famous for its mozzarella (obviously), which is freshly made in the traditional fashion every day. More discerning cheese lovers will want to be sure to drop by.
9 The Biggest Cheese Wheels You Ever Saw (Utrecht)
As I say, then, the Netherlands have carved out a prime reputation as one of the world’s greatest cheese makers. A proud legacy of cheese artisanry and cheese markets dating back centuries proves their claim, and they’re taking care to respect that history with the methods they continue to use today.
Unsurprisingly, then, here’s another Netherlands entry in this rundown. Next stop, Utrecht. This attractive town is the home of the Kazeri Stalenhoff, possibly one of the world’s most authentic and impressive cheese emporiums. There are huge wheels of every possible variety of cheese you could imagine, cheese preparation tools for sale, and a formidable Wall of Cheese (yes, that is capitalised) to tempt fans in.
8 Picturesque, Pungent Pienza
So, yes. We’ve certainly sung the cheesy praises of the Netherlands over the course of this list so far. Other legendary cheese-loving nations like France have also featured, but there’s another that just hasn’t been given the recognition it deserves so far: Italy. With that in mind, let’s take a quick hop across Europe to the Tuscany region.
Here you’ll find the historic and beautiful town of Pienza. It’s known for a slightly more obscure variety of cheese, pecorino, characterised by its hard texture (and the fact that it’s made from sheep’s milk). An underrated gem for cheese lovers, this quiet little town is full of charming little cheese shops.
7 Pide: The Greatest Food You Haven’t Tried Yet (Istanbul)
As we’ve also already established, pizza is pretty well the ultimate cheese-based food. This is why we’ve stopped off at many pizza-loving cities over the course of our world tour. The next one, however, is another curve ball. Did you know that Istanbul is famous for its pizza?
Well, that’s because it’s not, really. What we’re talking about here is pide, the super, super popular local street food. As Uproxx reports, this culinary masterpiece consists of a flatbread base, lots of cheese and a range of different toppings of your choice. Meats, fruits, vegetables, anything’s fair game really. If you’re a pizza fan (and heck, you can’t play with me at recess if you aren’t, let me tell you) with a taste for the adventurous, you’ll want to dash to the nearest street vendor as soon as you arrive in Istanbul.
6 Let Your Fromagination™ Run Wild (Dairyland, Wisconsin)
We’ve already visited Somerset in the UK, that world-renowned home of all things cheddar. If you live in the US and Britain’s a little out of your reach, though, don’t worry. America’s Dairyland, Wisconsin, has you covered as well.
Madison is also famous for its cheddar, not to mention every other dang type of cheese too. If you’ve ever visited Fromagination, you’ll know exactly what I’m talking about. This glorious store is a real rite of passage for anybody serious about their cheese. You can sample a range of different types and learn about the fine art of making cheese, before buying a cheese basket to take home as a memento of your visit.
5 The Official World Champion Of Cheeses (Torjulvågen)
Whoa whoa WHOA. Hey, now. Back up a little there, buddy boy. You can’t go bandying around terms like ‘official greatest cheese in the world’ lightly. Do you know what the more dedicated cheese fans are like? They’ll give you all kinds of jabs with stale mozzarella sticks if you even try to pull that sort of thing.
The thing about that, though, is that Torjulvågen really is the home of the Official World Champion of cheeses. The region’s much acclaimed kraftkar cheese, according to Travel and Leisure, was entered in the 2016 World Cheese Awards, where it won the title of World Champion (all categories).
4 A (Cheese) Party In The USA (Vermont)
Gourmets around the world often make snarky, disparaging remarks about England's cooking. In the same vein, there are also those who look down upon US-made cheese, considering it a region that prefers to export the best from across the globe rather than making world-class produce of their own.
Now, there may be a kernel of truth there, but the people of Vermont are not having any of that sort of slanderous talk. Cheese artisans have lived and worked in and around Montpelier and Burlington for centuries, and their work is truly prized by those in the know. If you’re looking for world-class but ultimately underrated cheese, this is the place for you.
3 Gruyère, Anyone? (Gruyères)
Ah, yes. Here we are friends. If there’s any town that just neatly defines a perfect cheese-lover’s paradise, Gruyères is that town.
From the idyllic countryside ambiance, steeped in history, to the traditional handed-down methods and the fact that there’s a darn cheese named after the place, you could not ask for more. There’s just no way.
This beautiful Medieval town is found in Switzerland, in the upper valley of the Saane/Sarine river. A huge tourist draw, it is the home of its namesake cheese, which is defined by its sweet taste which changes subtly as it ages and matures. Another true connoisseur’s favourite.
2 What Did you Say About The USA's Cheese? (San Francisco)
So, yes. For some, cheese in America is a fluorescent orange slice that you top a burger with. You can see how the product might struggle a little with its reputation on the international stage. That’s just closed-minded thinking, though, because as we saw in Vermont, the cheese-makers of the USA can be just as deft at their craft as any other.
San Francisco is another prime example. You simply have to know where to look. True cheese masters can sniff out a quality product anywhere, and San Francisco is laden with creameries offering the very best in local artisan produce.
1 Spain Gets The Last Word (La Mancha)
Europe, as we’ve seen, is an incredible world hotbed of artisan cheeses. The big names in all things cheesetastic, like France, Italy and the Netherlands, naturally come to mind first but don’t stop there. If you’re taking a cheese tour of Europe (and that’s going straight on my bucket list), do not sleep on Spain.
Just south of Madrid, in La Mancha, manchego cheese is the local specialty. It’s made from the milk of sheep of the manchega breed, hence the name, and has a curious buttery texture. It’s also characterised by its colour, which varies from white to yellowish.
Resources: Bustle, Maison Du Camembert, Doordash, Travel Away, Eater, Uproxx, Afar.