I head to Los Angeles from time to time and I always drive. The Central Valley is FULL of cheesemakers. And I’m not kidding. It’s sprawling, flat farmland, remote and mysterious. As I headed back to the Bay Area on my latest trip, I decided to stop by three cheesemakers I hadn’t visited before.
The first stop was Dairy Goddess. Barbara Martin, a 3rd-generation farmer, along with her husband Tony, just opened an unpretentious farm stand on the road in front of their 100-acre cow dairy. Housed in a trailer, she carries her own fresh fromage blanc plain and flavored as well as fresh curds with herbs.
I’m always asked where you can get fresh curd, and these are cheese popcorn, in that they didn’t last very long once I opened them. They’re soft and squishy and delicious.
Barbara also sells local meat (from their farm), pickles, jam and dairy items.
Barbara makes cheese with her daughter Tara, who also makes cheese down the road at Peluso Cheese.
After I picked up my items, I drove the twenty minutes to Peluso Cheese where Rene, the general manager, sat down with me and told their story. I knew some history, as Peluso Cheese, makers of the famed Teleme, started in Tomales near where I grew up. It was sold by the 2nd generation to a distributor about ten years ago, along with the original recipe. Today you can pick up Teleme along with cheeses in a cooler at the factory, or they will ship. — Or find Franklin’s Teleme, made by Franklin Peluso, grandson of the original cheesemaker, in stores around the state.
Half an hour later, I stopped by the Portuguese cheesemakers Farmstead Fagundes Old World Cheese. Once again, you can pick up large wedges of cheese for around $4.oo – just as reasonable as the cheese at other stops. Their unique St. John, an ACS winner, defies description. It’s unlike any cheese I’ve tasted, and that’s always a good thing.
Anyway, I encourage you to start your cheese adventure around the state. It’s a great way to see parts of the country you might never visit otherwise. Click here for the full Central Valley Driving Tour.