San Francisco Days: Point Reyes Farmstead Cheese
Have you ever been to a place that really made you feel connected to your surroundings and the earth below you? Now, I'm not a religious person but there are those places that just really make you think about spirituality and why the heck are we even on this big, 'ol planet. One of those places for me is Point Reyes, California. Specifically on the farm that makes Point Reyes Farmstead Cheese. It's rolling, green hills and fantastic views just moves something in me. It could be the beautiful surroundings or it could be the delicious cheese, we may never know. Bob Giacomini is a third generation farmer that bought a slice of heaven in the Tomales Bay in 1959 to start a dairy farm. He raised his four daughters on the farm and none had any intention of carrying on the family tradition of farming, each with their own careers. In the mid 90's the herd had gotten too large for the land and for the small workforce that Bob employed, so he asked the daughters come home and help adjust the herd size and strategize on how to add value to their high quality milk. Bob felt like he never had a finished product and just watched the trucks roll away with all of his hard work. They took this opportunity and created California's first blue cheese in 2000.
Now, 16 years after their first cheese was introduced, they have a line up of 3 cheeses with a slow and strategic fourth in production. The farm has garnished awards for it's sustainability and commitment to the land itself. It has been certified organic, they rotationally graze the cows on the lush farmland, and they have added a methane digester to alleviate the inevitable waste. Their cheeses are still stockpiling awards with the Original Blue winning a Good Food Award this year.
There are other factors besides the lush, green grass that make Pt. Reyes Cheese special. The ocean air gently salts the earth lending a freshness that is incomparable. The same recipe could be used to make cheese elsewhere and it wouldn't taste the same. Terroir is the word used to describe this phenomenon and while usually reserved to conversations about wine, it is reflected in the cheese industry also. (sometimes even moreso, in my opinion)
Pt Reyes currently makes two different kinds of blue cheese. The Original Blue, that is rindless and is a bit more of a punchy blue, and the Bay Blue which is allowed to create it's own rind making it process a bit faster and leading to a softer and creamier flavor. They also make the Toma which is a mellow table cheese thats creaminess really lends itself to melting (and snacking!). I also had the opportunity to try their up and coming cheese, a gouda, that was perfectly creamy and caramely. Their head cheesemaker, Kuba Hemmerling, has an extensive background making goudas so this really is a no brainer for them though they don't have the ability to fully release that until their new facility is done. The production is so small right now that if you live in California and you happen to see it ANYWHERE, you had better snatch it up because it's not likely to get a full release for another couple years.
Well, we've talked about the history and the cheese. I've continued to yammer on about it's beauty so I should probably leave you with a few shots I took while out there. Pictures can only do it so much justice though. You should go out there if you ever get the chance. They have a cooking education school, called The Fork, on the property and they do farm tours. Do your yourself a favor and go breathe in that fresh Bay air.