Laura Chenel Started it All

Photo courtesy of Laura Chenel

Laura Chenel and Alice Waters of Chez Panisse created salad history.

Laura Chenel, a real person, began making cheese in the 1970s in Sonoma County. After one goat turned to many, and she had to figure out how to use the milk, she began making cheese. After stumbling a bit, she headed to France, to learn from other cheesemaking families.

Once back in U.S., Laura began selling her now, stellar cheese. Alice Waters, the owner of Chez Panisse, tried it, and fell in love. She began ordering 50 pounds a week, while creating a now-familiar recipe. Alice breaded and baked slices of the Laura’s chèvre (Chevre, by the way, is the French word for cheese, and is used to refer to fresh, spreadable goat cheese), then laid the disks on a bed of mesclun greens. Voila! Goat cheese salad was born.

Photo Courtesy of Laura Chenel

Many other goat cheesemakers followed in her footsteps, making goat cheese a national staple.

In 2006, Laura sold her company to Rians, a French company owned by the Triballat family, who later also purchased Marin French Cheese Company.

Chevre is not only a great topping for salads, you can put it on pizza or pasta. You can also use it as a substitute in recipes calling for sour cream or ricotta. It has a wonderful bite for those who love tang in their foods. This chèvre comes plain or flavored with various herbs.

Photo Courtesy of Laura Chenel

Though Laura Chenel is not open to the public, you can pick up cheese at the Marin French and picnic by the lake, or one of many other retail shops.

This month Whole Foods is promoting Laura Chenel’s Chabis during “Build your own California Cheese Platter” and suggests pairing it with Candied Lemon & Hazelnut Bittersweet Chocolate Bar by Charles Chocolates.

Jenny MacKenzie of Tomales Farmstead Creamery

Original Interview by Hilary Green, ACS CCP at Marin Co. Monger

Jenny MacKenzie in the barn at Tomales Farmstead Creamery. Photo Courtesy Jenny MacKenzie

Four miles inland from the mighty Pacific ocean, a small Marin County dairy is making some of the best cheese in America. Tomales Farmstead Creamery is a 160-acre sheep and goat dairy in Tomales, California. Founded in 2003, owners Tamara Hicks and David Jablons dedicated four years to the restoration of the land, and after careful coordination with sustainable land management organizations, the farm became an Animal Welfare Approved goat and sheep dairy in 2007.

This year, Tomales Farmstead won second in its category at the American Cheese Society conference for Atika– a sheep and goat blended cheese with a beautiful, basket-weave natural rind. At the helm (or vat, as it were) for this winning batch: assistant cheesemaker Jenny MacKenzie. In my quest to better understand the world of West Marin cheese producers, I reached out to Jenny for an interview this month. Jenny is an East coast transplant with a love of cheese and sustainable agriculture. What’s the story of a micro-dairy cheesemaker whose work wins a national award? Continue below for Jenny’s story!


August 26, 2018

Marin Co. Monger: What brought you to the world of sustainable agriculture?

Jenny MacKenzie:  I started making cheese in 2014 on a very small, farmstead goat dairy, Appleton Creamery, in Appleton, ME. Working on such a a small farm and being surrounded by other types of small organic/sustainable/diverse farms at the farmer’s markets where we sold cheese really sparked my interest in sustainable agriculture. After attending the Common Ground Country Fair in Unity, ME that same year I really fell in love with small sustainable farms. Just being immersed in agriculture and learning the harms it can cause but being fortunate to see how it can be done correctly with little to no impact was so fascinating to me. I really don’t see why anyone would want to farm any other way!

To read the rest of the article visit Marin Co Monger

Hilary Green, ACS CCP

The California Cheese Map is Out!

For the first time EVER, a map shows you every open cheesemaker in California. Address, hours and tour instructions included.

Traveling Highway 99 in the Central Valley? You’ve been passing some pretty great cheese.  

Gold Country? There are small, sweet farms waiting to show you around.  

Pick up fresh mozzarella and ricotta direct from a Los Angeles creamery.  

Travel the north coast and get a grilled cheese by the crashing waves.  

Pet a goat on the Central Coast.

The San Francisco Bay Area. Well, you knew it was all there, but maybe you didn’t know the specifics.  Now you do!

Download the map online, order a free copy to be sent to you, or if you’re a tourism office or business, pick up boxes of maps to hand out. 

The farms and cheese and cheesemakers are all waiting for you.

 

Golden Goats

Feta 300 x 400“Want to take a picture of my ass?” Charley of Jollity Farm asked me. Sweet, reserved, Charley. I’m smiling, but I’m not getting it. Turns out Charley is pretty darn funny.  Because then he showed me his donkey, “Otie.”  Get it? Don Quixote. Donkey Otie.  Yeah. I’m slow.

IMG_7610Charley bought 13 acres – his “Shangri-La” – in 2006, in Gold Country. His place is just a few short miles from the original Sutter’s Mill where gold was first discovered, and the American River, where hoards of fun-lovers come to raft and fish. (half an hour from Hwy 50 or 80 as you make your way to Reno or Tahoe).

The property, located on a gloriously wooded mountain, is covered with oak trees and manzanita. Of all the goat farms I’ve seen in California, this one is truly a goat’s Shangri-La. Goats prefer scrub and brush over pasture. They love the oak leaves and branches, the bark on Manzanita (which regenerates), and even the invasive Scotch Broom. The slightly dried green oak leaves on the ground are their “potato chips” and the acorns are their candy. They’ll scramble to find them amongst fallen leaves.IMG_7573

Charley took this treed property, with its own abandoned gold mine, and built the barn, the milking parlor and the creamery. He has about 40 goats, which include his original Alpine. His fiancée MaryLisa – whose exuberance and graciousness bowled me over – recently brought over her award-winning herd of Miniature Nubian, which has increased the butterfat and adds a creamy element to the cheese.

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Charley makes chèvre and feta, and starting mid summer, an aged cheese that becomes wondrously nutty due to the acorns the goats eat.  Because his milking parlor adjoins the creamery, the milk is never jostled. Jostling the milk is one factor in creating that “goaty” taste. Charley’s chèvre isn’t “goaty” at all (Not that “goaty” is bad. It’s just a matter of preference). The cheese is rich and creamy and full of flavor. After I left I couldn’t keep my hands out of the feta. It was my candy for the rest of my drive.

You can pick up Jollity cheese locally in Placerville and at various farmer’s markets close to the farm. Plus, the farm is open Tuesdays from 9am-noon.  You can peek into the creamery and see the goats and purchase cheese.  Or if you come by when the farm is closed, at the bottom of the hill, you can park your car and pet goats hanging out close to the road.

Charley, is a really nice guy, and he makes some really nice cheese.Otie

Goats & Rustic Cheeses

bohemian-creamery

Lisa Gottreich’s goat cheeses at Bohemian Creamery have the rustic look that reminds you of a European back road discovery. Imperfect rinds and bold tastes. This is the newest stop on the Sonoma cheese trail.

Here you’ll find a case full of rustic cheeses made from goats (which are sitting in the pasture just behind the shop), cows, sheep and water buffalo and every combination you can imagine. You won’t find these cheeses in a store, so stock up. You’ll be offered a taste of each before requesting a wedge or two be wrapped up for the road.

Caproncino Goats & Rustic Cheeses California Cheese Trail

Lisa has also been making a very unique whey frozen yogurt and whey sodas; light icy treats infused with a different flavor each day

The shop is just along Occidental Road outside Sebastopol amidst several wineries. Open Friday-Sunday, 10:00am-6pm.  Plan a day stopping at several Sonoma county cheesemakers by clicking here.

Bohemian Goat Goats & Rustic Cheeses California Cheese Trail