I had a three day weekend (hooray) and what did we do on one of those days? The cheesemonger blogger, his wife, and two friends went on a leg of the California Cheese Trail.
We started off the morning picking up Astrid and Bruno, a couple of globe-trotting friends of ours and brought fixings to make popovers. A few minutes after we were on the road to Marin for what turned out to be a slight re-run of our last Cheese Trail sojourn from last summer, but with the added pleasure of A&B along, it was all fresh and new.
Our first stop was the Nicasio Valley Cheese Company where my wife insisted on getting a wedge of their San Geronimo cheese. A big hit with her, and then we were off to Point Reyes Station where we would visit the relatively famous Cowgirl Creamery spot. Clean, public, and filled with not only their own cheeses but other local or California-bred wheels as well. Point Reyes is a beautiful, picturesque little coastal town with art galleries, cute shops, and all that is ‘precious’. Regardless, the day was sunny, warm and gorgeous and we traipsed about, had lunch at the Station House Cafe (breaded and fried oyster po’ boy and oyster stew)
Here are some of Cowgirl Creamery’s little discs in their aging room.
Then a long and leisurely drive up the California coast skirting Tomales Bay, carefully avoiding all the middle-aged bikers in their bicycling finery and togs (they might look silly to me but at least they’re out there exercising), and decided to hit Matos Cheese Factory on a long, lonely country road. Our GPS unit made short work of any confusion and the occasional wooden signs posted with nails on a fence or tree helped us to find the spot with minimal difficulty.
We left the main road and bumped along a rutted dirt path lined with trees, went past a vineyard or two, and then found ourselves…in what seemed to be someone’s back yard. Off to our right was a barn full of recycled cans, a dog roamed the yard, and…we realized that we had arrived.
The unprepossessing spot initially filled me with some confusion but when I saw ‘duck eggs for sale’ below their ‘open’ sign, I was the first through the door. And Sylvia Tucker, the manager of the operation, was charming and utterly delightful. Matos Cheese Factory has been selling cheese for three generations, mostly via mail order to Portuguese throughout the area. They make only one cheese and one cheese only: Saint George, a wheel aged about three months. Mild but very flavorful and a great melter. Many local chefs from restaurants in the area now regularly buy their cheese, and well…so did we.
Interesting factoid: though they have about 250 head of cattle, only about 35 or so are currently giving milk. Obviously, milk comes from cows who need to feed their calves and not all cows will be pregnant or nursing (so to speak) at the same time. Moreover, the area is experiencing a severe drought which affects production a good deal. I believe she said they had their own well which allows them to get through this current water crisis with some ability, but its tough all over.
The cheese aging room, the sales room, and Sylvia and I deep in discussion about something to do with cheese. Where my wife’s hand is attempting to reach I won’t begin to contemplate.
There was a nice little video of the cows going off to be milked but WordPress wants $60/year for the privilege of doing this. Considering how often I might do this, I’m sorry, folks–you’ll have to imagine a couple of dozen stinky cows with swollen udders jouncing along a fence toward their afternoon relief.
I mentioned duck eggs. Their prices were great, given that typically at our own retail grocery they range about $11-12/dozen. Here? $6/dozen. Sylvia’s daughter who is training to be a pastry chef decided to raise a few ducks for their eggs (duck eggs are marvelous in pastry making) and her mom handily sells them through their cheese selling outlet right there on the farm. She raises a variety of different breeds, and in the image below you can see that the mallards’ eggs are larger and ever so slightly green in color.
A bit later we ended up at Marin French Cheese Factory outside Petaluma where we made no purchases but sat by the large pond to relax and enjoy the scenery– which included a solitary duck foraging for food. Included also my wife and our friend Astrid and two pair of reclining legs in the grass. Not to mention a view up into the trees and skies above us.
The following morning I shredded a single potato into shoestrings and along with a bit of shallot, dried thyme, and a pinch of kosher salt, I prepared some morning fries to be the bedding for a couple of freshly poached duck eggs. With a final, light dusting of fleur de sel salt I found that three minutes in the shell was perfect timing to create gently, soft boiled eggs with the yolk ever so slowly flowing out when cut.
Today Sunday will prove to be a leisurely day, running some boxes to the storage locker, taking items to a recycle depot, and doing a bit of reading, a bit of chilling, and maybe some drawing.