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Having a rare Sunday off with my wife, we took a little trip to West Marin, a mere hour’s drive away from here in Berkeley, to get a bit of first-hand knowledge about this recently established cheese maker.

The Lafranchi family has been in the dairy business since Grandpa Fredolino came over from Switzerland to establish the dairy in 1919. Son Will carried on with the farm and through his regular visits back to Switzerland over the course of his life, his interest as well as the family’s in recreating some of the delightful cheeses they had enjoyed in the ‘old country’ were realized and the small cheese manufacturer quickly won numerous awards throughout the state for their quality cheeses.

At the Berkeley Bowl West, I’ve tried most of their cheeses that we carry and was pleased for the chance to try out some new types that we currently aren’t carrying–

Nicasio Reserve Raw-
Very tasty, just like the regular reserve, but when you use raw milk rather than pasteurized, the hidden flavors come out much more strongly and delight is to be had!

San Geronimo-
A washed rind combo reminiscent of a cross between French raclette and Fontina, and a superb melter! This cheese has presence, nice nutty flavor, and one I hope to bring in to the store soon.

Foggy Morning With Basil and Garlic-
The same Foggy Morning you may have already tried, but laced with a few herbs to give it a punch up on its flavor profile–worth the few extra pennies!

While there, we met one of the owners, a healthy young/old guy named Rudy (I hope!) who answered lots of my questions, and Pam behind the counter who was knowledgeable, friendly, and allowed me the freedom to take some shots of their operation.

The actual dairy is right up the road, with over 400 cattle pastured on over 1150 certified organic acres. Each morning a specially designed milk tanker delivers hundreds of gallons of organic milk to the cheese making facility, and with the able direction of master cheesemaker Maurizio Lorenzetti the farm continues to convert over 90,000 pounds of milk every year into their award winning cheeses.

The sign on Nicasio Valley Road

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The building converted to cheese making!

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Helpful Pam–a ready smile, an honest disposition, and a knowledgeable cheesemonger!

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The sales room…

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The actual cheeses…

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…and a view of the actual cheese manufacturing facility!

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A relaxing pond side retreat for lunches or picnics…

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Dairy cows doing what they do…

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All in all, a nice, relaxing day ending up in Petaluma for lunch, visits to some antique shops, a purchase of an old cast iron skillet, and a long, traffic-snarled trip home.

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