Ever since Alissa Shethar, cheesemaker at North Bay Curds & Whey in Berkeley, announced that she was going to make buffalo milk cheese, I have been in a state of frenzied anticipation. Thank goodness she and I are both on the regulatory affairs committee of the California Artisan Cheese Guild! She was generous to bring in a wheel to share at our last meeting. At long last, I had my chance! And I got to take some home with me to photograph and share with you!
Farm visits are always exciting to me. After a certain point, cheese alone doesn’t satisfy me, and I really begin to hunger for the history behind the plate. My recent visit to Achadinha Cheese Company in Petaluma, California, was richly rewarding. Joined today by my friend Gavin (wedding photographer by day, cheese and farm photographer a couple times a year), we wound our way along Chileno Valley Road, past rolling green hills, up to the wagon wheels gracing the Pacheco Dairy entrance. Along the driveway, we could see grazing goats, but also nearly 30 cows, some chickens, a dog, and a cat. There are also pigs on the property, but I think they kept out of sight that day.
For those of you who missed my foolishness on Cutting the Curd last June, I'm on the air again, this time on public radio, the dream of every little boy growing up in Boston.
I just finished a segment on Insight from Sacramento's Capital Public Radio, talking about cheese with Tim Pedrozo of Pedrozo Dairy from up in Orland and Ed Roehr of Magpie Cafe in Sacramento. I haven't had the courage to listen to the segment yet—live appearances give me the willies something awful—but it was fun, too.
Here's a very encouraging fact; the number of cheese festivals is on the increase. How do I know this? Simple. Because my calendar, which in previous years resembled a cheese "social desert", is now chocka-full of cheese-related events - especially during the summer months.
Cheese Festivals come in many shapes and sizes, ranging from the most traditional, centuries-old institutions, to newly formed events launched for the first time in 2011. Either way, each are more than worthy of your support and you're guaranteed to come away richer (and fuller) for the experience.
Here, in no order of preference, is a personal round-up of those certain to make it onto my calendar. I have divided them geographically into North American and overseas.
I’m still thinking about the Saint Marcellin from last time.
With that being said, I’m beginning to realize how awesomely I scored with this blog series. I mean, how perfect is it, really? Honest, I’m not an undercover cheese connoisseur and the “discover my inner cheesemonger” blog pitch wasn’t born out of a coy strategy to scamper all over town and taste a bunch of brilliant cheeses—even though that’s essentially what I get to do…I guess all I’m trying to say is that I am very, very lucky.
Anyway, with all of that being said, I’m visited my third location back in Davis, at the Mace Davis Nugget Market with Colby Turner, Nugget’s cheese manager.
The other day, a good friend of mine presented me with a copy of Ratatouille and said I remind him of Remy, the epicurean mouse character in the film. If you can recall part one of this series, you’ll understand how much I admire the little guy and his inherent food genius. My first thought was: I must be doing something right. And then: This is a sign from the cheese deities to keep going. So, it was with straightened shoulders and a teeny bit more self-confidence that I went on to my next location:
Taylor’s Market in Sacramento, with resident cheesemonger Felicia Johnson.
Felicia is a victim of lovely circumstance.
The formula is simple: homefries topped with cheddar and broiled. Add guacamole, sour cream, salsa and an optional egg or two for a mighty brunch plate for just $6.
My only wish is that they'd use a nicer cheese; their foodservice shreds don't do their salty, crispy homefries justice. I've never attempted a home version, but a bit of quality cheddar would elevate the dish into the stratosphere.
Still, if you're ever at the Delta of Venus, and don't plan to do much with the rest of your day...
I heard this morning with great sadness that Ig Vella of Vella Cheese (and the original owner of Rogue Creamery) died last night. One of the few elder statesmen in the evolution of both Californian cheese and the American artisanal cheese movement, Ig will be sorely missed for his incredible knowledge and perspective—not to mention his unique personality.
My first encounter with Ig was shortly after I moved to California from London, when I went to visit his cheesemaking facility in Sonoma. Upon arrival I was met by a large-framed, unsmiling man dressed in what I later learned were his trademark red suspenders and slightly-too-small paper hat. I was immediately intrigued – and smitten!
Yesterday, I attended my second event with Culture: The California Artisan Cheese Festival in Petaluma, California, what a fabulous event it was.
My eyes were overwhelmed by the selection of cheeses on display. There were towering cliffs of delicious blue from Point Reyes, brand new Wagon Wheel melting cheese from the Cowgirl Creamery, award-winning cheddars from Fiscalini, plenty of creamy goat cheeses from Laura Chenel and of course so much more.
Amongst the stunning array of fine cheeses, I came across some remarkable new finds. Goat milk fudge, wine infused cookies, olive oil chocolate, peanut butter sandwich cookies, mini lemon meringue pies, exclusive olive oils, bacon bread, an exciting new product called “glop” (made from a selection of oils and cheeses), and I was thrilled about bumping into a familiar item that I fell in love with at Cochon 555 – my beloved toffee bacon lollipop! (I bagged myself three little piggies! Does this make me a big piggie?!)