I needed some good cheese last weekend, so I went to the Cheese Board and arbitrarily limited myself to cheese made in California. At the Cheese Board, you need a plan, since they stock over 300 cheeses.. In the last few years California has overtaken Wisconsin as the largest cheese producer in the United States. Most of that, of course, is undistinguished bulk cheese like part skim mozzerella produced in shiny industrial-scale plants. But all over the state cheesemakers are going back in time, so to speak, to traditional techniques. Here are the three cheeses that I selected, and highly recommend:
- San Joaquin Gold, by Fiscalini Farms - straw colored, mildly crumbly, reminds me of Parmesan Reggiano, but a bit smoother and less salty. Their bandage wrapped cheddar is also superb.
- Serena by Three Sisters - firm, smooth, straw colored, somewhat like a cross between gruyere and parmesan, with a lovely fruity finish.
- Mt Tam by Cowgirl Creamery - a triple-cream washed-rind cheese that provides a variety of flavors in each piece. The inside is soft and rich, the outside piquant.
These cheeses have been well-reviewed in the food press, so more poetic and complete descriptions of the cheeses should be easy to find (at the SF Chronicle's Cheese Course column, for example). They might be available at specialty cheese shops, but are probably not too easy to find outside of California.
Note: histories of the Cheese Board can be found on their website, in an Eat Feed podcast, or in their cookbook.
Update on some recent Fiscalini encounters. I thought that Fiscalini cheese was distributed exclusively to specialty shops, but a visit to the El Cerrito, California Trader Joe's proved me wrong. They have wedges of the Fiscalini bandage wrapped cheddar in the cheese section. If you see it in your TJs, give it a try. Then, just a few days later, the agriculture news site Brownfield posted a 15 minute interview with the owners of Crave Cheese Company in Wisconsin and the owners of Fiscalini cheese in Modesto, California.
tags :: food : cooking : California : cheese