Monday, July 09, 2007

In the Works

(The Cowgirls - Rachel, now working at the warehouse in Petaluma, Sue & Peggy--photo taken last August)

I do not like to be idle. To stay out of trouble I've been putting some time in at Cowgirl Creamery. It is always fun to step behind the counter again and sell a wide variety of fine cheese. I'm in my element. I get to talk about all kinds of cheese for hours! There are lots of new faces behind the counter, so I get to entertain them with many stories about my cheesemaking adventures. It is easy to sell something that you're passionate about. The customers seem to pick up on my enthusiasm and buy lots of cheese. I enjoy giving them fascinating tidbits about the cheese that they're tasting. For example, Everona Dairy's Piedmont, a sheep's milk cheese from Virginia is made by a medical doctor, Dr. Pat Elliot. I believe she's a cardiac surgeon. One ounce of a rich triple-cream like Mt. Tam has LESS calories than one ounce of parmigiano reggiano. Why? Because there is a lot more moisture (water) in a soft cheese like Mt. Tam, than a hard cheese like a parmigiano. Essentially, the harder the cheese, the more concentrated it is and the less water is in it. And goat's milk has less fat, naturally in it than cow or sheep's milk. I'm not saying that cheese is a low-fat or low calorie food. I just know what's going to make me fatter, faster.

I love talking to customers. Everyone is always happy when they enter the cheese shop. I can make them happier by offering a taste of anything they see. People become overwhelmed by the selection, so I enjoy helping them explore the possibilities. I just feed them until they find something they like. I engage them by asking questions like: "Do you like your cheese hard, soft or somewhere in between? Do you like it mild or bold? Creamy or pungent?" I try to zero in on something that they might enjoy. I can usually find something that they like and that they might not have tried before.

One customer particularly stands out from my stint behind the counter last week. A family was buying a bunch of cheese to pair with wines. They looked familiar. They've been in the shop before and were familiar with many of the cheeses Cowgirl sells. We were discussing what would pair well with a white wine (savignon blanc?) As we discussed our options, I was impressed with her cheese knowledge. She also really knew her wine. Turns out she and her husband publish a website called Fork & Bottle. I've looked at it before. They really enjoy their subjects, food & wine. They seem to have an emphasis on local foods from the Bay Area (they're in Santa Rosa) but their site is quite extensive and is a clearinghouse of food-centric information. I am intrigued by their cheese and wine parings that they're working on at the moment. I hope I was able to give Joanne some good cheese for her research!

(left: Trethowan's Gorwydd Caerphilly cheese)

I also like to see the regular customers who know what they like and look forward to getting their favorites. I'll try to point out certain cheeses that are truly stellar at the moment. For instance, last week I cut open a wheel of Gorwydd caerphilly, a Welsh cheese. It knocked my socks off. It was perfectly ripe and had a bright flavor that dances between lemons, asparagus, and thyme. Glorious. Sometimes it can be too ripe and sad. This one was just right. When someone asked me what was my favorite cheese I'd show them the caerphilly. My favorite cheese is whatever is at its peak on that particular day.

I've been missing my work at the dairy so I went out and bought a gallon of goat's milk at Trader Joe's. I made a batch of fresh chevre for our house and to share with Jim's uncle in McMinnville, OR. After it set up and drained for a day, I took some of the curd and made roasted red bell pepper chevre as well as fig and honey chevre. I kept a small amount and just salted it so I could have plain chevre for breakfast.

(right: freshly drained chevre ready to be salted and eaten.)

Cooking tip: I got a filet of salmon for dinner the other night. I cooked it on the stovetop so it got a nice, crisp skin and moist center. I then took a dallop of my roasted red bell pepper chevre and let it melt over the top of the hot salmon fillet as you would with herb butter. The results were a big hit at the dinner table. It really punched up the flavor of the fresh salmon and made everything sing. I've got to try that again. Working at Goat Lady Dairy made me realize how fun it can be to play with flavored fresh goat cheese.

Real Estate update: We found a great little farm between Carlton and McMinnville in Oregon. 13 acres with an Arts & Crafts bungalow, a barn, a few trees, and bare earth. We put an offer in it, haggled a bit with the seller, and now we're in escrow! My God! We're really doing this! Oh SH*T! We've got a lot of work to do, but we're going to make some our own cheese one of these days and were going to do it on Highway 47 in Oregon.


Cynthia said...

You're in escrow?! Holy moley!! We need to get together some time -- I want to hear all about it.

adriane said...

Wow, congratulations! How exciting!

Sairbair said...

Yes! Very exciting. Thanks! I'm very nervous but I won't let that stop me. Now comes the hard part: purging & getting rid of the clutter.

Jack said...

Hey Sarah!
Thought of you the other day and just had a gander at your latest movings and shakings here to see what you've been up to. Sounds incredible with the Oregon move. Best of luck with that. Would really love to come visit you guys at some point - guess it won't be in SF, but an Oregon farm sounds lovely.
Greetings and all the best from a finally sunny Denmark

Momily said...


Massive congratulations, how very exciting... we are going to miss you soooooo much... I hope there will be guest rooms??

Papasan said...

Talk about burying the lead! That's very exciting news. Any sense of timeframe?

Sairbair said...

Well folks, no time frame yet. We've walked away from the deal. The house needs some major repairs and we just don't want to take on that kind of stuff. I just want to make cheese! I don't want to have to restore a farmhouse, too. Oh well.

Joanne said...

Sorry to hear that property didn't pan out. Thanks for the mention - the cheese was for a sauvignon blanc tasting (my notes will be up soon :) not the cheese pairing project. Hope to see you next time we're in!