Thursday, October 8, 2009

The Woodlands Farmer's Market

Starting this Saturday October 10th you can find us at the Woodlands Farmer's Market located in Grogan Mills Center, 8am-12.

This is a seasonal market ending on December 12th.
So, come by and check it out.

And to the T'afia followers, don't worry we will still be at the Midtown Farmer's Market.

Friday, September 18, 2009

June's Promise

Amelia has done it again! She has made yet another amazing cheese.

June's Promise, named after her 1 yr old son June.

It will be making its debut at tomorrow's Midtown Farmer's Market. Come by and try it!

We think it's great.

Thursday, August 27, 2009


Houston Dairymaids now has a fan page on Facebook!
So, become a fan.

Houston Dairymaids on Facebook

Sunday, August 9, 2009

ACS 2009 - Cheese in the Heart of Texas

The ACS (American Cheese Society) conference in Austin was a great opportunity to show off our state and its excellent cheese. I went early last week to participate in the competition judging.
Some 1300 American dairy products (not just cheese, but also butter, yogurt, and cultured cream) were shipped to Austin for careful critique. Volunteers organized the entrants, making sure they were at the proper tasting temperature when they reached the judges.

Half of the 28 judges were designated "technical" judges. These were dairy and cheese experts and scientists. They were each paired with an "aesthetic" judge, who was closer to the consumer side of the cheese world.

("Aesthetic" judge Edouard Damez of Central Market with "technical" partner, Kate Arding of Culture Magazine.)

I was, of course, on the aesthetic side, and had the "feel good" roll of awarding points for the good qualities of each cheese. My technical partner, Dr. Steve Zeng, is a goat and goat cheese expert from Oklahoma. His job was to look for faults and deduct points accordingly.

(Dr. Steve Zeng and me, in our lab coats.)

Each team analyzed the aroma, flavor, texture, and appearance of about 45 cheeses per day. Despite the heavy workload, everyone was very conscientious in their judging, even with the less-than-desirable categories.
(Stephen Corradini of Whole Foods Market bravely faces a block cheddar category.)

The amazingly efficient organizers tallied the scores on the second day and ranked the winners. We then tasted all 88 first places and cast our votes for "Best in Show."

(First place winners lined up for the final round of tasting.)

Even in this elite group, there were clear standouts. The winner?

Rogue River Blue from Oregon.
A raw milk beauty wrapped in grape leaves.
If you can find it, try it!

Friday, June 5, 2009

Amanda's first visit to the Veldhuizen Family Farm and Sand Creek Farm.

Friday, May 22nd at 6am, Tod and I began our journey to the Veldhuizen Family Farm and Sand Creek Farm. A few noteworthy stops were made along the way. In Hico, we visited the Billy the Kid Museum.


Dr Pepper Museum in Dublin. I bought a harmonica at a super cute boutique in Hico, and practiced it on the long drive.

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Perfect day.

Finally we arrived at the Veldhuizen Family Farm around noon.


Stuart, Connie, and their son Jesse met us in the cheese shop, I saw the “blue room” where one of my favorites, Bosque Blue, is made. Once we loaded the van with Bosque Blue, Stuart drove Tod and I around their 180-acre farm.

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He told us about the cows and their diets. Each cow eats 50 lbs of dry matter a day, which is about 150 lbs of grass. After driving around checking on the cows we headed over to the cave and packed the van with Redneck Cheddar, Greens Creek Gruyere, Stuart’s Special, Texas Gold Cheddar, and Caraway Cheddar.


Meet the Houston Dairymaids mascot, armadillo Sheriff Johnny Law.

Next stop Sand Creek Farm in Cameron.

Sand Creek Farm’s primary product is their grassfed/grain-free raw milk. With this milk Ben makes delicious Gouda.

Ben and I.

Back to Houston after a fun, informative day!

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Roadtripping with the Dairymaids

I’ve been waiting for this for months! My first road trip with the Houston Dairymaids. Horrible weather. Very dark and rainy. I was watching for tornadoes on the horizon. Lots of “oreo” cows and bluebonnets.
First Stop: Texas Cheese House in Lorena. A retired man by the name of Scott Simon embarked on this cheese venture a little over a year ago to alleviate boredom. He makes a variety of cheeses, mostly flavored, depending on “what he feels like making that day.” He uses Nesco ovens to make the cheese! Then they’re cryovac-ed and stored in cheese-erators.

He also sells local cheeses including cheeses from The Mozzarella Company and The Veldhuizen Family Farm. Simon says he makes the best grilled cheese- you choose the bread and the cheese.

Next stop, Brazos Valley Cheese House located in the homesteading community of Brazos de Dios near Waco. We were welcomed into the cheese room by Mark, Sharon, and Rebeccah. There we sampled smoked gouda, havarti, jack, muenster, cheddar, blue, and brie. Although I’ve been on a blue kick recently, the havarti and cheddar were my favorites. This blue was young, and just wasn’t as good as the riper BV blue we’ve been selling at the markets. All of the Brazos Valley cheeses have one thing in common- amazing creaminess.
We were running behind due to the weather, so sadly I had the shortened version of the tour. The land was beautiful. We visited the Gristmill and were greeted by a super friendly teenage boy who eagerly showed us the workings of the gristmill. The meaning of the phrase “nose to the grindstone” was explained to us- watching closely as the grains are ground between the grindstone and the steel- if the grindstone touches the steel you will smell the spark. He also explained “rule of thumb”- rubbing flour between your finger and thumb to check for texture.
After our lesson in the production of flour Lindsey, Mark, and I had lunch at the Homestead Heritage Restaurant. We all had burgers, fries, and ice cream. The burgers are made of grass-fed beef raised on the land and topped with Brazos Valley cheese on a homemade bun made of their freshly ground flour. (Lindsey’s first burger in 2 years!) The fries were homegrown homemade sweet potato fries with sorghum syrup. So good!
Before leaving we visited The Barn, a shop that sells handcrafted furniture and gifts made by the Brazos de Dios community. As we were loading the van and saying our goodbyes Mark gave me a box full of a variety of cheeses! (Fresh mozzarella, marinated mozzarella, horseradish pecan cheddar, blueberry havarti, and southwest leicester.) The horseradish pecan cheddar was my favorite. Leaving Brazos de Dios left me with a ton of questions. Hopefully I will have the chance to visit again and stay longer.

Our last stop was La Cuesta Farm. Unfortunately, this is the last pick up the Houston Dairymaids will do. John and Alberto have sold most of their goats and are no longer making cheese (at least for now.) I will miss their fresh chevre so much! I have never had a fresh chevre better than La Cuesta’s. I didn’t get to see where the magic happens or pet the goats. Heartbreaking.

I had so much fun talking to Lindsey and the cheesemakers! I can’t wait for my next invite to tag along.

Monday, March 9, 2009

On the Road with the Houston Dairymaids

It’s been a while since Lazy Lindsey posted a Dairymaids blog, so she asked me to guest write a post! Last week we undertook a road trip up Waco way to visit a new supplier, the Brazos Valley Cheese Company, and the Dairymaids’ old friends at La Cuesta Farms.

Our journey began early on a misty March morning. First stop:The World’s Largest Teapot in Navasota.

With that out of the way, we continued on to Brazos Valley Cheese, a company run by the Brazos de Dios community. Our trip included a tour of the incredibly beautiful land of Brazos de Dios, a religious community of about 1000 members on 500 acres on the Brazos River outside of Waco, Texas. The community espouses a simple, back to the earth philosophy of life, using centuries old techniques of farming, woodwork, blacksmithing, and fine artisanship. The community is supported by a "traditional crafts village" called Homestead Heritage, which serves as both a tourist destination and classroom for traditional farming and craft techniques.

Our first stop naturally enough was the cheese house, located right at the entrance to the property. We were met by Marc Kuehl, business manager of the cheese company. The cheesemaking operation, like much of the rest of Brazos de Dios, was a mix of modern high-tech machinery and centuries-old techniques and musclepower. Here we see the modern stainless steel, temperature regulated vat in which the milk and other ingredients are separated into the whey and curds that are destined to become cheese. Meanwhile, in the background, we can see the beautiful home made contraption of wood and steel that’s used to press the cheese into wheels.

Hard cheeses are aged in a large walk-in refrigerator.

Marc & Lindsey remove soft cheeses from a smaller refrigerator.

Life as a Dairymaid is not all wine tastings and fondue parties, as Lindsey loads the Cheesemobile with Brazos Valley cheese.

Marc and cheesemaker Rebeccah pose in front of the 150-year-old smokehouse, dismantled in New York and given new life on the Brazos de Dios farm.

Rebeccah loads mozzarella into the smokehouse. What's in a smokehouse? Lots of smoke, as this **cough cough** photographer can attest.

Taking a break from the cheese talk for a moment, the Brazos de Dios property is populated with dozens of 19th century barns and buildings saved from demolition in New England, rebuilt and modernized for daily use on the homestead. This old home conceals a modern commercial kitchen, and was hosting a cheesemaking class when we were there.

This new acquisition is a large old barn, under (re)construction for use as a general store.

An overlook offers an overview of the community's farmlands in the Brazos River valley.

Fields at Brazos de Dios are plowed with horse-driven machinery and hard work.

Grain is ground into flour in this centuries-old mill fueled by windmill-pumped well water.

More centuries old techniques to be seen in the forge & metal shop.

Overall our visit to Brazos de Dios was quite interesting and enjoyable. Although much of the public area of Homestead Heritage was obviously geared towards tourists and school field trips, the workshops are real, working operations that produce products both for daily use by the community members and for sale to the public. The mix of ancient techniques with modern technology was not as contradictory as one might think, and provided an interesting comparison with other communities (such as the Amish or Mennonites) who for the most part shun modern technology completely.

After a delicious lunch at the Homestead Heritage restaurant, it was off to the La Cuesta goat farm, about 20 miles down the road. I didn't take too many pictures here, as Lindsey said she had covered it before. However farm owners John & Alberto were gracious hosts, and you can never have too many cute goat pics (or too much La Cuesta goat cheese!)

Well, that about covers my first trip with the Houston Dairymaids. Hopefully I will have the opportunity to document further cheesy adventures around Texas in the near future!

--Nick DiFonzo

Cows in Repose on Veldhuizen Family Farm. Dublin, TX