Archive | Spring 2013

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Eating Your Curds And Whey

EATING YOUR CURDS AND WHEY

By Jennifer Carden • Photos By Matthew Carden

Yogurt is one of our most basic foods—so simple and nutritious that it’s one of the first foods we feed babies. But even big kids and adults love it. Yogurt can be sour, sweet and a bit of both. It is always creamy—and delicious.

Many cultures around the world have long viewed yogurt as an everyday staple, but until recently most Americans have considered yogurt a “diet” food. Now it seems yogurt is everywhere. And for good reason: The probiotics in yogurt are good for your digestion, and it’s full of calcium and protein, too.

The yogurt offerings in local markets are expanding by leaps and bounds. There is extra-thick Greek-style yogurt, goat’s milk, sheep’s milk, raw milk, lactose-free, soy and even coconut milk–based yogurt. And then there are the “addins”: yogurts with cookie crumbs, granola and even sprinkles. You can find it packaged in returnable pottery crocks, plastic cups or even squeezable tubes.

One of our family’s favorite ways to enjoy yogurt is to turn it into a thick, luxurious, spreadable cheese. The following recipe for soft yogurt cheese is easy and fun to make … Read More

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Seasons of Cheese

Photo: Courtney Michalik

SEASONS OF CHEESE

It’s All in the Grass

BY KIRSTEN JONES NEFF

One light and airy barn, several artisanal cheese-makers with their wares, tin buckets of carefully paired regional wines, tables of locally sourced honeys, chutneys and jams, and dozens of swooning tasters … all on a bursting-with-green April day in the hills outside of Sebastopol. Oh, and did I mention Gwen, the sweet-eyed baby water buffalo waiting in the paddock beside the barn?

All of the above make for a very happy cheese lover’s love-fest. This is the “It’s All in the Grass” cheese education and tasting event organized by the Russian River chapter of Slow Food.

The theme of the day? Seasons.

It’s early spring and there seems to be a buzz of excitement in the air. The animals have been let out to pasture and their bountiful milk is infused with layers of botanical flavor provided, gratis, by the hills of western Sonoma County. Over the past decade, the sea-misted hills here, so radiantly verdant in the spring, have cultured the growth of an artisan cheesemaking mecca.

Thanks to natural abundance in the form of long growing seasons and diverse pastureland, and … Read More

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Where The Buffalo Roam

Photo: Courtney Michalik

WHERE THE BUFFALO ROAM

BY CHRISTINA MUELLER WELTER

Local Pioneers Try a Whole New Breed of Mozzarella

Buffalo, also known as American bison (Bison bison), have roamed their gated home in Golden Gate Park for over 100 years. Just to their north, the bison’s distant relative, the domestic water buffalo (Bubalus bubalis) has more recently taken up residence. The presence of the domestic water buffalo on two small farms in Marin and Sonoma heralds a new beginning in California for the production of cheese made from water buffalo milk.

Domesticated thousands of years ago in Asia and a global source of protein and fat for much of the world, water buffalo have a tiny presence in North America. On this continent, our ancestors looked to dairy and beef cows (Bovinae) for their protein and fat. In more recent decades, a few companies and individuals have undertaken to breed and raise water buffalo in the United States, although their endeavors were greatly restricted by the USDA after mad cow disease swept through in the 1980s. In our area, one prior venture located in Southern California that had supplied specialty markets and … Read More

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IG Vella The Big Cheese

IG VELLA THE BIG CHEESE

BY KATHLEEN THOMPSON HILL

What was that weird crackling noise? It got louder and louder, and scarier and scarier. Was it an invasion of crickets into St. Francis Solano Church? Crickets in Sonoma?

The noise happened at the funeral mass for Ignazio (Ig) August Vella, the face and grand master of Vella Cheese Company

As friends, family, community members and food industry folks entered the church, we each received an unusual 12-page program loaded with photos that chronicled the life of the renowned cheesemaker from his toddler years to those of meditative aging. There were photos of him on a tricycle in front of Sonoma City Hall, of him discussing cheese with his father, Tom Vella, and of him receiving the Lifetime Achievement Award presented by the American Cheese Society.

Sticking out of each program was a paper hat like the one Ig wore every day, shaped like an old Army sergeant’s cap, with cheese brand stickers on it. As the pallbearers turned to escort Ig out of the church, they opened and put on their hats. The entire audience followed suit, creating the eerie crackling noise.

Recently, a friend said that when she … Read More

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‘Til The Cows Come Home

Photo courtesy of the Jack Mason Museum of West Marin History, JackMasonMuseum.org

‘TIL THE COWS COME HOME

Marin’s Rich History of Dairying

BY DEWEY LIVINGSTON • PHOTOGRAPHS BY M.B. BOISSEVAIN

These days, food-lovers flock to the northern San Francisco Bay Area to sample the best in restaurants and local produce, and to appreciate the fine rural scenery and ambiance. Leading attractions are our prize-winning local cheeses and other fine dairy products. We are seeing a renaissance in dairying, but Marin County is not new to the gourmet market: In fact, it is the pioneer in quality dairy food in the West.

Marin County is such a desirable place today because of its prosperity, good schools, proximity to San Francisco and—most significantly—natural beauty and vast open spaces. This has been the case for over a century. Recent decades of intense planning and activism have helped to preserve Marin’s sense of place, but the foundation of the county’s magic was laid in its earliest days by the plain and hardworking people, mostly immigrants, who worked the land and passed it on, sometimes stubbornly, through the generations.

Agriculture, specifically dairying, has dominated Marin County commerce and economics since the beginning, and still … Read More

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Farmers’ Market & CSA Directory

FARMERS’ MARKET & CSA DIRECTORY

FARMERS’ MARKETS

MARIN COUNTY

CORTE MADERA CERTIFIED FARMERS’ MARKET

Year round, Wednesdays, noon–5pm, the plaza at Town

Center shopping center, Corte Madera, 415.382.7846

Downtown San Rafael Certified Farmers’

Market Festival

April–September, Thursdays, 6–9pm, Fourth St. between

B St. and Cijos St., San Rafael, 415.492.8007

Fairfax Certified Farmers’ Market

May–September, Wednesdays, 4–8pm, Bolinas Park, Corner

of Bolinas Rd. and Elsie Lane, Fairfax, 800.897.FARM

MARIN CIVIC CENTER FARMERS’ MARKET

Year round, Thursdays and Sundays, 8am–1pm,

Veterans’ Memorial Auditorium and Civic Center

parking lot, San Rafael, 800.897.FARM,

AgriculturalInstitute.org

Marinwood Community Farmers’ Market

Year round, Saturdays, 9am–2pm, Marinwood Plaza, at

Marinwood Ave. and Miller Creek Rd.,

San Rafael, 415.419.6331

MARIN COUNTRY MART FARMERS’ MARKET

Year round, Saturdays, 9am–2pm, Marin Country Mart,

2257 Larkspur Landing Circle, Larkspur, 415.461.5700

MILL VALLEY CERTIFIED FARMERS’ MARKET

Year round, Fridays, 9:30am–2:30pm, CVS

Pharmacy parking lot, 759 East Blithedale Ave.,

Mill Valley, 415.382.7846

Novato Certified Farmers’ Market

May–September, Tuesdays, 4–8pm, Grant Ave. between

Reichert Ave. and Machin Ave., Novato, 800.897.FARM

ROSS VALLEY CERTIFIED FARMERS’ MARKET

May 31–October, Thursdays, 3–7pm, Ross Post Office,

Ross, 415.382.7846

SAUSALITO CERTIFIED FARMERS’ MARKET

Year round, Sundays, 10am-2pm, Dunphy Park, Sausalito,

415.382.7846

Star Route Farms Farmstand

Year Round, Fridays, 2–6pm, 95 … Read More

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Stepping Up: A New Generation At The Helm

STEPPING UP: A NEW GENERATION AT THE HELM

STORY BY KIRSTEN JONES NEFF • PHOTOS BY COURTNEY MICHALIK

Along the busy Highway 101 corridor of Marin and Sonoma counties, we tend to measure time in hours or hurried minutes. But driving west past the Nicasio Reservoir, across the painted bridge toward Pt. Reyes Station, and then north along Highway 1 toward Marshall, time begins to both slow and expand. I can see geographic movement in the knuckle-like wrinkles of Black Mountain, and sense the work of the tides along the shores of Tomales Bay.

This ample sense of time is fitting, as I am on my way to visit two of the older dairies in the area, looking to meet two members of the youngest generation working in this ancient industry. Specifically, I am going to meet a herdsman at Pt. Reyes Farmstead Cheese Company, and a cheesemaker at Valley Ford Cheese. In an era when employment opportunities for college graduates are often completely disconnected from the past, I am intrigued by the chosen work of these 20-somethings, and hoping to see firsthand how they build on the work of previous generations.

Pt. Reyes Farmstead

A few miles north … Read More

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Escoffier Questionnaire: John Franchetti

Illustration: Dan Bransfield, DanBran.com

ESCOFFIER QUESTIONNAIRE: JOHN FRANCHETTI

BY MARISSA GUGGIANA

Learning that this issue would be an ode to local dairy, I immediately thought of Chef John Franchetti and that naturally led to my rolling Rossoo Pizzeria’s extraordinarily delicious burrata around in my mind’s mouth.

John is the chef and co-owner of Rosso, which now has a location in Petaluma as well as its original home in Santa Rosa. John is a Sonoma Countian by birth, but took off his culinary training wheels in New Orleans, working at Commander’s Palace and also under the tutelage of Emeril Lagasse. He eventually came home to northern California and, after perfecting pizza at St. Helena’s Tra Vigne, he opened Rosso with partner Kevin Cronin. There, they make and serve those rounds of dairy divinity that I still savor long after I leave the restaurant. John buys his groceries at the farmers’ market and helps the local “slow foodies” in their efforts. He is a good neighbor, in harmony with being a very good cook.

To turn an Escoffier Questionnaire query on myself, I would describe Rosso and John with the same three adjectives: warm, honest and deliziosissima.

Chef: John Franchetti… Read More

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Get Yer Goat On

PORTABLE PAIRINGS

Photo: David Katz

GET YER GOAT ON

BY DAVID KATZ

“Sauvignon Blanc is a magic bullet with fresh goat’s milk cheese.” Heard this before? When looking at the confounding world of cheese and wine pairing, it is easy to employ sweeping generalizations in an effort to protect your fragile ego from the ugly truth: The cheesy patch of the food and wine pairing world is just too dag nabbed complex for any sweeping generalization to be of much use to anybody.

Incredibly, the multitude of distinct aromas and flavors in wine are actually dwarfed by the number found in the world’s cheeses. There are certainly conventions for cheese and wine pairing, but personal taste has a way of diluting their usefulness. So, when considering the universal success of fresh goat’s milk cheese and Sauvignon Blanc, it is critically important to keep in mind that goats are not all alike, their feed is not all alike, their water is not all alike and the altitude, average temperature, production methods and cultures used in the cheeses made with their milk are not all alike.

Now on the Sauvignon Blanc side of the equation, the grape clones are not all … Read More

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Chive Talkin’

WHAT’S IN SEASON

Photo: Craig Lee, CraigLeePhoto.com

CHIVE TALKIN’

Littlest onion cousin adds delicate touch of spring

BY GEORGEANNE BRENNAN

Springtime cooking from my garden always has a chive component, and that includes the chives’ lavender-colored blossoms, with their delicate onion flavor and aroma. They seem to be the perfect garnish for spring’s quintessential dishes of fava beans, artichokes, green garlic and asparagus.

I love the way the seasons of the garden do the work for me, like going to an intelligently curated boutique where everything goes together without a lot of rethinking or searching for just the right complement. In the garden, with those beautiful chive blossoms growing near the asparagus and not far from the artichokes, why would I look to garnish with, say, sunflower seeds or seek out cherry tomatoes at the market?

Chives, with their slender stems and mild flavor, are the smallest and most elegant member of the Allium genus, which counts onions, garlic, shallots and leeks among its number.

Like all alliums, chives are bulbous plants that, when they are mature and the bulbs are ready for harvest, put forth stems topped with a cluster of pink, white, lavender or purple flowers, but … Read More

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