Monday, October 12, 2009

Hudson Valley

After a mere hour & 40 minutes in NYC gridlock traffic, I head north through the absolutely beautiful Hudson Valley. I am constantly trying to snap shots that can accurately capture the fall colors & have been unsuccessful thus far. I think I need more sunshine, but I will certainly keep trying. Despite my distraction with the beauty, I was able to visit 3 creameries & a farmer's market...not to shabby. First stop...

Sprout Creek Farm, just outside of Poughkeepsie & about 45 minutes past bumper-to-bumperville, is a beautiful country escape. This 200 acre working farm is a non-profit owned by the Society of the Sacred Heart. It was established as an educational program for students back in 1982 & continues that same philosophy today. Students visit from surrounding areas to learn what brings food from the farm to table & all the joy in between. They began making cheese in 2000 to generate some additional revenue & have been producing delicious goat & cow's milk cheese since. Batch 35, a washed rind raw cow's milk cheese, & Camus (Kah-moo...could have fooled me), a mild raw cow's milk blue, were my favorites of the wheels I tried. Both fairly mild for those of cheesers trying to break into stinky or blue goodness.

Just over an hour north, I stopped at Hawthorn Valley Farm for tour, which began flipping feta curd (fun!), & a chance to shoot the curd with cheesemaker, Peter Kindel (in the pic at right, with his old school copper kettle). Peter & his wife have traveled the globe digging into the art of artisan cheesemaking, including stints in France, England, Colorado, & Sonoma County's Redwood Hill. The farm & creamery are certified organic & even more rare, biodynamic. Peter is doing some really amazing things since coming one year ago including a traditional clothbound cheddar & washed rind raclette-style cheese. I am certainly excited to see what comes out of this dairy in the next few years.

The last creamery stop of the day was Old Chatham Sheephearding Company, which is the most picturesque farm I have seen on my tour thus far. The bright red barns are nestled in the hills of the Hudson Valley & the fall colors of the surrounding trees add to the dramatics. I hope this picture does is a lick of justice...because it was a remarkable site for the Mazda & I upon arrival. The farm is open to the public, so I took it upon myself to hang out with some baby sheep before my tour of the creamery. Old Chatham focuses mostly on soft ripened Camabert style sheep's milk cheese, so I was really excited to get a closer look at the operation. In the pic at right you can see Brian, who was super camera shy, pouring the large uniform curds into the molds for draining. After this, they move through a variety of aging rooms to dry out & form their beautiful white bloomy rind. Delicious. After the creamery, I was able to witness my first sheep milking, which was highly entertaining. I was pretty much expecting a little brawl to break out as stocky white puff-balls filed into the milking barn. Pretty glad I am not an ewe...if you know what I mean.

After my delightful visit at Old Chatham, I moved north still to the Sarasota Springs Farmer's Market where I chatted with the makers of Argyle & Longview Farms cheese. Both are fairly new producers making wonderful small production cheese. Longview produces an young alpine style cheese that is caramel, nutty, & delicious...amongst many others. Argyle, who's farm I would visit the next morning, makes a Caerphilly style cheese that is unbelievably creamy highlighting the delicious milk from the family farm. It was just a beautiful market for such a small community. I am finding a lot of that up in these parts, which is quite wonderful!

Not bad for a day north of The Big Cheese.

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