Liwa is a farmer’s cheese that the Tomales Farmstead Creamery team describes as “three day fresh”—and how fresh it is: fluffy and snow-white, melting in the mouth with a yogurty tang.
Like all of the Marin County-based creamery’s cheeses its name, which translates to “water,” is based on the language of the coastal region’s original inhabitants: the Miwok tribe. “From everything we’ve come to learn about this tribe we know they took excellent care of the land,” says co-owner Tamara Hicks. “Since we have so many school age tours, we wanted to educate people about those who lived on this land and had such great respect for it—and teach some of the few words that are still known.”
Hicks and her husband David Jablons purchased Toluma Farms’ 160 acres of rolling green hills in 2003, and began sheep dairying four years later. In 2012, with some help from local grants and organizations, the duo built Tomales Farmstead Creamery and began making cheese. Today the repertoire includes goat, sheep, and mixed-milk cheeses, made with farmstead milk from Toluma’s 100-plus East Friesian sheep and 200-plus goats. Creamy Jersey cow’s milk is also sometimes used, sourced from a neighbor’s farm two miles down the road.
Liwa is the youngest, softest of Tomales’ offerings, made with 100% goat’s milk.
Looks are deceiving; this fresh chèvre is pretty and simple on the eyes, but surprisingly complex in flavor. On the palate and on the nose, we’re reminded of sour cream and Greek yogurt. Bright notes of citrus are smoothed by musky-goaty flavors in the background.
Fluffy enough to be both spreadable and dunkable, Liwa is versatile. In summer, dollop spoonfuls atop summer early girl tomatoes with basil and olive oil. In winter, slather it onto a baked potato. In the culture office we’ve even tried sprinkling it with Japanese seaweed-and-spice blend furikake, which is surprisingly delicious; instead of fading, the cheese’s initial creamy tang gets a meaty boost from the seaweed and a lingering toastiness from the sesame seeds, tapering into a long, buttery finish.