Cowgirl Creamery, based in Marin County, California is the vision of owners Sue Conley and Peggy Smith.
Friends since college days on the east coast, they moved to California together in the 1970's, and, since both women were passionately interested in the food business, Peggy went to work at Chez Panisse in Berkeley with Alice Waters, while Sue became co-owner of the famous Bette's Ocean View Diner.
Twenty something yars later in 1993, Sue sold her part of the business in order to form Tomales Bay Foods, a business designed to provide a marketing outlet for local agricultural food products in Marin County. Discovering that her new company was fulfiling a tremendous need and niche, Sue asked Peggy to join her in launching a greatly expanded business, including a permanent farm-market type store selling locally made food products and a cheesemaking operation. The cheesemaking business and retail stores became known as Cowgirl Creamery.
The business flourished, and it quickly became clear that the cheese retail, wholesale and cheese making operations were the most successful. Today, Cowgirl Creamery has additional retail stores in San Francisco and Washington DC together with a much larger cheesemaking operation and warehouse based in Petaluma, CA.
Cowgirl Creamery, under the guidance of head cheesemaker Maureen Cunnie, produces a range of fresh and mold ripened cheeses using organic cow's milk from small local dairies.
Red Hawk is made according to a triple cream recipe and it originated with one of Cowgirl's other cheeses Mt. Tam - a mold ripened triple cream.
Red Hawk was originally produced by accident. It was discovered that, during the summer months, a natural strain of bacterium linens moves down the coast of West Marin and in 2000, a couple of batches of Mt. Tam became subjected to this bacteria. In an effort to get rid of the bacterium linens, the cheeses were washed with a brine solution.
However, this process unwittingly promoted as opposed to eradicated, the growth of bacterium linens, causing it to thrive. Therefore, instead of trying to resist nature, Cowgirl embraced it and quickly there were several batches of cheese developing very nicely and tasting delicious.
Red Hawk is a complex and well balanced cheese. Its aromas contain notes of chalk and hay; its taste is full-flavored, savory and almost beefy, with a long creamy finish. Its texture can be very yielding, yet it retains enough heft that it doesn't become too runny.
Likewise, the salt is held in check by a tang just sufficient to alert but not overwhelm the taste buds.
Red Hawk is now one of Cowgirl Creamery's most popular cheeses.