Tuesday, March 1, 2016

Cheese Whizz

You probably saw The Bucket List some years ago, starring Jack Nicholson and Morgan Freemen. I took my mother who was eighty-three at the time and we both thought it was the best idea we’d heard in ages—making a list of everything we want to do before we die and then doing them.
 My list is long and includes what my husband calls an eclectic mix of the merely improbable to downright insane ideas. Like being invited to be the guest writer on the Late Show. “Maybe,” David says, “a reason to publish your novels.” Like living in Venice for a year. “I’d rather live in Florence.” Like starting an olive orchard and curing my own olives. “Do you have thirty years?” And like bungee jumping. “My wife is crazy.” 

Okay, maybe I won’t land on late night TV, or cultivate olives, but I could go bungee jumping! And certainly I can grow orchids, participate in one of the “you solve it” mystery weekends at a bed and breakfast, and raise chickens for eggs. “That will be animal ‘wifery,’ cuz I ain’t doin it,” my husband points out.

I’m about to cross off one of my “do before I die” wishes: learn how to make cheese. Later this month I’m registered in their Beginning Cheese Class at The Beverage People in Santa Rosa, www.thebeveragepeople.com. I’m going to learn how to cut curds, drain whey, and operate a cheese press. According to instructor Nancy Vineyard, we’re going to make a soft ripening cheese, a hard cheese, a quick cheese and a fresh cheese. But the best part is, we’re going to eat cheese, and eat more cheese paired with wine. How udderly Sonoma County—oops, bad pun—disqualified from the Late Show!

From ModernFarmer.com

These days cheese is a really big deal in Petaluma. I’m getting the feeling that if you want to fit in around here, you’ll know something about artisanal cheeses, their makers, and their pairings. What I wonder is, do I need to add, “learn to milk a goat” to my list? I’ve suggested keeping goats for weed control, but David is emphatic when he shouts “No!” But in the spirit of being Petaluman hip, I’ve done a little research into our cheese. Did you know that Cow Girl Creamery headquartere din the in Petaluma for awhile, or that the Spring Hill Jersey Cheese Farm, www.springhillcheese.com, now owns the historic 1913 Petaluma Creamery on Western? Try their retail shop for artisanal cheeses including (my favorite) Quark, ricotta, white cheddar, and Jack. I love their fresh curds for mozzarella. The Creamery also serves old-fashioned milkshakes and fresh breads from Lombardi’s Bakery. www.cowgirlcreamery.com
I've been told the ice cream is to die for.

 My mouth is hankering after cheese! It’s the writing—makes me hungry. If I weren’t on deadline, I’d grab my BFF, call for an appointment, and run out to watch the goats being milked at Achadinha Cheese Co., an artisanal goat cheese dairy and creamery about three miles out of town. If you haven’t tried their Capricious, the farm’s signature aged goat cheese, you haven’t tried cheese. Buy it directly through the farm or try Petaluma Market, and serve it with a full-bodied Merlot. I found Capricious recipes at the website, www.achadinha.com.

That spring morning was mild and warm, the green hills showed patches of gold over White’s Hill, and a dozen of my fellow eleven-year-old Scouts packed into cars for a trip to The Cheese Factory. We pursued a merit badge (one of the two I earned) about food products raised or produced in the area and were to make displays and reports about our experiences later.
I don’t remember the reports, and I do remember how the lights in the factory gleamed off the silver equipment and how the workers wore rubber aprons and white paper hats. The room smelled funny—not like sour milk, but earthy like mushrooms. I can’t remember anything about how the cheese was made, but we had a picnic by the pond and the mallard ducks loved our bologna sandwiches. I fell in love with the buttery, nuttery tang of the Camembert we sampled. Mom may have been sorry she organized that trip—no more American Cheese—it was camembert and bologna with a wilted leaf of Iceberg lettuce on Wonder bread for me! 

Maybe I’ll learn how to make it at my class, at least triple cream Brie. And even if I don’t actually know how to make award winning cheeses, when I arrive at the fifth annual Artisan Cheese Festival hosted by the Sheraton Hotel Sonoma County on March 18th through 20th, I’m going to cross another thing off my bucket list and talk with dairy farmers, cheese makers, chefs, and “foodies” like a real cheese whiz.