Monday, April 16, 2007

Coveted Cuesta

We've been coveting the super-fresh goat's milk cheese from La Cuesta Farm in Clifton since we started our little biz back in October. They were one of our first cheesemaker visits, and sweetly apologized for not only not having cheese to sell us (they sell locally and are perfectly content with their size), but also for choosing not to ship due to bad past experiences. It's imperative to understand that the loss of artisanal cheeses carry more value than the dollar that's placed on them. Cheesemakers, like John and Alberto of La Cuesta Farms, cringe at the thought of their cheeses going to waste, as do we. It's one thing for a large supermaket to buy your cheese, and then an entirely different animal to find that it's sitting on the shelves wasting or, even worse, as in the case of La Cuesta, to find that it's sitting on the loading dock at the wrong time, melting in the summer sun. It didn't take long for us to understand La Cuesta's trepidation to selling us cheese way out in Houston. But, we can be a bit relentless when it comes to getting good cheese here in H-town. Not just for our customers, sorry to say, but for ourselves!! Heaven forbid I should be left with our box of samples for one minute. When La Cuesta agreed to sell to us recently, needless to say, we were ecstatic. I haven't been able to get the bright, almost champagne-like flavor of their kefir out of my mouth since last October.

John, an ex-architect, works closely with the goats, all named and doted upon appropriately. "Come on ladies," he says to the herd as I get them to pose for a picture. Alberto makes the cheese, and I finally got to meet him last week. This time, they were ready and willing to provide us with a case of their much-coveted (for us at least) plain chevre and original Suave, an unsalted feta ready to crumble over any drab salad in need of a boost. Although my visit was short, had to make it on to two other cheesemakers afterwards, I got a taste of their chocolate and goat cheese torte that's in the works. John's been working with a local chef to perfect the recipe, and I can't wait--layers of their plain chevre, chocolate mousse, and a soft chocolate ganache over top. Although we've been trying to get John and Alberto to ship to us, I can't help but sympathize with their shipping mishaps. I would love to make the trip out to Clifton each week to gather cheese for Houstonians and, of course, say hello to the ladies.

Sunday, April 8, 2007

Travels to the Hill Country and Back

Last week we finally had a good reason to go west: the Hill Country Food and Wine Festival. It was perfect timing as the wildflowers were in bloom. (We refrained, however, from taking photos of ourselves basking amidst the bluebonnets.)

The festival was in Georgetown, outside of Austin. There we saw two of our favorite Texas originals, Paula Lambert (far left) of the Mozzarella Company and her master manager, Mitchell (center).

(Don't assume from this photo that we were working hard, most of our time was spent in wine tasting.)

On our way back we stopped at Pure Luck, where we didn't find Amelia, but peeked in on her assistant Juana, busy making cheese, and some of their new arrivals.
(Can you believe all of the Pure Luck comes out of this tiny room?)

Our final stop was to visit a new cheesemaker, 18-year-old Chrissy Omo of CKC Farms in Blanco (pronounced Blank-oh, not Blahn-co, as Kendra kept reminding me). Cheesemaking at CKC is a family affair with younger brothers Kenny and Connor (the K and C of "CKC") chipping in and Mom and Dad giving their full support. The inspiration, however, comes from Chrissy, who after visiting cheesemakers in Italy, came back impassioned and determined to start making cheese. Now in her second year of goat-raising and cheesemaking, Chrissy seems as happy and confident as ever, and her efforts are impressive. We loved her Baby Caprino, a small soft-ripened round, and her Baby Blue, a soft blue with a molded rind reminiscent of Montbriac.

After getting up to milk the goats she travels to Texas State where she's studying international business. And I could rarely make a 9 a.m. class . . .

What a cheese plate!

A few weeks ago we had the opportunity to witness cheese history, the first gathering of Texas's 14 cheesemakers. Jealous? Don't worry your Houston cheesemongers will bring them to you here soon enough. Slow Food of Dallas hosted the sold-out event, which included a tasting of one of each cheesemaker's cheese. We enjoyed our Texas favorites, including Velhuizen's Gruyere, Pure Luck's Ste. Maure, Chateau de Fromage's Truffled Chevre, and Mozzarella Company's Blanca Bianca, but also came across some new finds.

Keep your eye on our blog as we visit the farms of our new discoveries!

Cows in Repose on Veldhuizen Family Farm. Dublin, TX