During our recent visit to M. Cheesemonger’s hometown in Normandy, we were able to escape from his father’s Grande Fête preparations (more on that later) to visit some of the local cheese makers and farmers that make this region the dairy capital of France. Since I had been charged with organizing the Grande Fête cheese platter, our plan was to find some excellent local cheeses. The sun shone warmly and puffy clouds drifted overhead as we wound our way through the verdant countryside.
This is Part 4 of a multi-article series about a recent visit to Point Reyes Cheese Company in Point Reyes, California.
Karen, one of the Giacomini sisters, had taken out cheese to taste about an hour prior, so it was at room temperature by the time we returned from our tour. In addition to the Original Blue, New Blue, and Toma, she had laid out pecans, apricots, and Rustic Bakery crackers. And she had mason jar glasses! So cute! I love mason jars, but then again, who doesn’t?
This article is part 3 of a series of articles about my recent visit to Point Reyes Farmstead Cheese Company in Point Reyes, California.
As Chief Marketing Officer Jill Basch Giacomini finished describing Pt. Reyes’ cheese production, we heard some sad mooing coming from the barn next door. That, Jill pointed out, was the hospital barn. With about 700 cows on the property, some animals are bound to have some medical issues at any given moment. We couldn’t tell exactly what was wrong with the two in the hospital barn, but I hope they recover soon!
***I updated this post at 5/15/2012, 10:10am PDT, to correct the Giacominis' official job titles.***
To reach the Fork on this beautiful spring day in April, the new educational and event building at Point Reyes Farmstead Cheese Company, my cheese photographer Gavin and I had to first leave San Francisco, drive past miles of fields punctuated by knobby, massive boulders, and climb a single-lane road flanked by roaming cattle. Actually, the drive was only an hour long. I still can’t get over how suddenly the scenery shifts once I leave San Francisco and its somewhat precious bedroom communities.
I had to save the best post (for me) for last, the one that lets me talk about goats. I don't know what it is about cuddly animals, but I can't resist them!
After a whirl around Achadinha Cheese Company’s creamery, Donna led us around to the “teenager” area of the farm. Here, adolescent goats can frolic in their own space before joining the rest of the herd in their enormous barn and pastures. From this vantage point, we had a superb view of Donna’s nearly 300 acres, vast emerald green fields with rolling hills. Larry Peter of Petaluma Creamery is a neighbor, and across the way, we saw McEvoy Ranch (think olive oil). All we heard were goats, birds of prey, and the wind. It was awesome. The farm cat, adopted from Peter, immediately came to inspect us newcomers as we held out our hands for the goats to sniff/nibble.
Here is part 2 of a series of 3 posts about visiting Achadinha Cheese Company in Petaluma, CA.
Just before we left the Achadinha creamery, where owner Donna Pacheco's full-time employee Fernando and another helper were packaging cheese for market, Donna invited my photographer Gavin and myself to taste some. We started with curds made the week before. They were almost bright yellow, wonderfully full-flavored, slightly tangy, and slightly springy. (I don’t think they were squeaky, for those who are asking.) It’s not surprising that a good amount of Achadinha’s sales are in curds. We tasted some fresh curd as well, made that morning, originally destined for Broncha. This mixed-milk curd tasted almost like sweet butter, but with a fluffy marshmallowy consistency (squeak!). I could have easily eaten just curds, but we had to move on to the cheeses.
A recent trip to Sprout Creek Farm in Poughkeepsie, NY leaves me pondering the binary relationship between inside and outside – in this case, between the cheese-room and the barnyard. Colin McGrath, cheese-maker at the farm, appropriately starts the tour of the dairy in the open-air, within sight of the cows (Jerseys, Normandes, and Swiss). As we move closer to the cheese-room, it becomes increasingly apparent that the functional connection between the bucolic domain of the cows and the world of the cheese-maker in his sterilized lab reveals cheesemaking as a symbolic act – the framing and crafting of nature.