Monday, December 20, 2010

December. Whoa.

December has been a shiza storm of fist pumps, high blood pressure, applications (I would say this is the area for which I win most improved), and egg nog (with bourbon, without bourbon, with an egg nog cupcake...I like to capitalize on this glorious season of nog). I can hardly believe that it's Christmas week & I am on a plane headed to Wisconsin (free wifi!) for some squeaky cheese and a week of relaxation with the fam before the storm turns into a full blown hurricane de queso in 2011.

The 1st of the month really kicked things off with an appointment at the Alcohol Beverage Control office of SF to apply for a type 41 liquor license which allows on-premise sale & consumption of beer & wine (an effort I like to call...Operation Jubilation). I had a hunch that this appointment would be a challenge, and I had every intention of being fully prepared for a masterful performance. Oliver & I stayed up into the morning & I was up at the crack of dawn to gather residential addresses within a 150 foot radius around 736 Valencia (part of the initial application process & not nearly as bad as gathering addresses within 500 feet). By the time my 1pm appointment was upon me, I was feeling fairly confident...confidence that would be shattered in the matter of minutes.

Without going into too much detail, there was a moment when the lovely woman behind the counter (whom I am determined to become friends matter how badly she dislikes me) said, "Sarah, why are you giving me incorrect documents?" To which I answered with "Ms. Beautiful (that's not REALLY her name, but on the off chance that she reads this...I would not want to irritate her by using her real know), I was unaware that they were incorrect or I certainly would not have presented them to you." Wrinkly chin fully engaged (I have gotten much better at keeping this in check over the last three my opinion), I accepted a hug from a fellow applicant (total stranger) and headed for the train home. I had approximately 43 hours to get my self in order...and amend my Articles of Organization with the Secretary of State (f#$k).

I immediately called my lawyer & set an expedited amendment in motion (curds of thanks to Trevor!) and hoped for the best. I also had to hand-draw the space (my attachment of the architectural plan would not suffice...had to be drawn...very strange), which Josh was kind enough to help me with, contact the building department for a direct contact, and get photocopies of my parents drivers licenses (don't ask) who live in WI & are not super handy on the scanner (after some coaching...they nailed it!), amongst other tweaks & application refinement.

When Friday morning arrived, all had gone as planned & I was sure to impress Ms. Beautiful the second time around...and I did. Before I knew it I was watching a video about the responsible service of alcohol created circa 1993 and walking out of the ABC with this sweet poster...

and another pile of applications. One of which I have to sign acknowledging that the application process will take at least 5 months (what?!?), and another (my favorite) which I have to attached the addresses of all residential addresses with in a 500 foot radius of 736 Valencia and sign assuring that I sent a notice of my application to all 832 addresses (yes, 832 copies, 832 envelopes, 832 address labels, 832 return address labels, aaand 832 stamps). A task that would have taken me a week to accomplish on my I called in the troops & they really rocked it. (Curds of thanks to Nat, Laur, Russ, Steph, Bart, & Oliver for their amazing envelope stuffing skills!) So, here I am 20 days after my initial appointment with 4 more applications to complete & turn in to Ms. Beautiful at the ABC office. Then, I wait. (sigh)

Other less dramatic (thank Cheesus) and way more exciting happenings in December include securing a building permit!, purchasing gorgeous Heath tile (good thing we scored a deal because I pretty much sleep with the sample tile under my pillow...I love it), reclaimed lights from Big Daddy Antiques, and tables are being constructed out of salvaged walnut at Heritage Salvage up in Petaluma! If that doesn't make you through up a fist for pump or two...I give up.

So, we have officially entered the construction phase...and I am beyond stoked to see this concrete box morph into a little slice of cheese paradise...where all the hip wheels hang (muahahahaha).

Happy Nogging from Sconi!

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Jury Duty & the Brink of Sanity

Hello! Sorry for the break in regularly scheduled programming...wait, I take that back, the schedule has always been far from regular. So, while there is nothing new in the way of blog regularity, the newness is abundant in the way of Mission Cheese, and why not throw in a jury summons?

The plans for 736 Valencia are cruising along at freaking warp speed (thanks Josh!), which means decisions have to be made regarding all equipment (hood, range, refrigeration...lots of refrigeration for precious cheese, beer dispensary, dish washer, ice maker, freezer, & sinks) as well as building materials to be used for, well, everything (bar top, tile, flooring, cabinetry, bus station, tables, chairs, lights). All this and some hourly work I have picked up in a cubicle that shall remain nameless (must. pay. rent.) has kept me more than busy, but sane-ish. I knew jury duty was on it's way. I had already claimed hardship 3 months earlier, but I was sure this time I would not even be called in and all would be lollipops & rainbows.

Sunday call..."please call back on Monday, November 8" (phew)

Monday call..."please report to 850 Bryant (a.k.a. Suckfest, USA) at 9:45 on Tuesday, November 9" (NO! This is awful, but it's only one day & surely I will not be selected)

Tuesday, as the visions of lollipops & rainbows fade into the distance, I walk through 4 consecutive blocks of puke-scented sidewalk (really, how can it last for that many blocks?!?) to arrive at the San Francisco Hall of Justice at 850 Bryant, to wait. Waiting in the juror holding area was luxurious...wifi, tables, room to sprawl & I was pretty much able to go about business as usual. Then there is waiting in the courtroom...cell phones off (no service even if you wanted to be a rebel) trying to read a book as my to-do list scrolls through my mind...over & over. Sweating. Hours later I fill out an 8 page questionnaire & am told to return the following day at 10 am. Walk back to the train attempting to hold my breath through 4 entire blocks and go about my busy day.

Wednesday...ahh Wednesday. As a responsible citizen I report for duty at promptly at 10 am, to wait. Of course, since the plan was to head directly to the courtroom for jury selection, I left my computer & MC blueprints (yes, I hauled everything with me on Tuesday) safe & sound at home. So my productivity was limited to adding items to my to-do list (not helpful), iPhone capabilities...which are slim in SF (thank you AT&T), and my book. Trying my best to get lost in Garlic & Sapphire (by Ruth her!)...but...sweating.

After an hour of waiting, we are called into the courtroom for more waiting & then I painfully listened as 20 jurors were dismissed by the council. Then, instead of starting jury selection we are told of some complications & to return to the courthouse at 1:30. It's now 11:45, and I am stuck in Suckfest without my productive devices and a 30 minute one-way train commute home or to my hourly cubicle. I walk aimlessly debating what in Sam Hill to do with this precious 1.75 hours (yes, the sidewalk still wreaks). Finally, I decide to make the trek home for a quick lunch & to reunite with my computer for 20 mins. Awesome.

Following my lovely half hour at home, it was time to make the trek back to the corner of Strung-out St. & Vomit Way, to wait. Yes, it's true. More waiting in the hallway, no service, no luxurious juror holding area. Sweating...from both my brisk walk in the lovely San Francisco heat wave, and general anxiety about my growing to-do list. We are called back into the courtroom for yet another roll-call, and another 15 jurors are excused by the council. (ahhhhhhh!) Then, get this, we are told that due to some legal matters that have arisen, we are going to have to come back on Monday at 9 am to START the jury selection process. (good-bye flood gates) Wrinkly chin & sweating (now profusely) I wait for everyone to exit & approach the clerk to say something like...

"I cannot come back here on Monday. Can I file for some sort of special starting a small business hardship...see, there's cheese...I mean Mission Cheese...and (sniffle sniffle) needs me."

After grasping the situation, the clerk hands me a hardship form & I write my story of MC & all of the things that need to be done in the next 2 weeks & beyond. Ending with an old-fashioned-blue-book-hand-cramp (do they still use those?) & a sincere declaration of my respect for the judicial system, noting that I have served on a jury in the past & will serve again...but serving now may lead to severe anxiety & high blood pressure.

I hand my plea to the clerk, and she returns to tell me that the judge will not have time to look at it now, and I will have to come in on Monday to hear her decision. I felt the strong urge to throw myself on the ground wailing & pounding in a full-blown tantrum, but as a composed adult, I took my sweaty wrinkly chin self back out to the sidewalks-of-stench and put in a desperate call to Oliver. (lucky guy!) I explain the horrific situation to him as I cry/laugh (but mostly cry) & walk back to the train (that's 4 trips all day). Following Oliver's advice (your the best!) I head straight home to get cracking on my lengthy to-do list...aaaand why not whip up a batch of chocolate chip cookies for cozy comfort to be followed by Strauss egg nog & bourbon (duh). In my cookie-making-scurry I dropped the kitchen-aid mammoth mixer on my finger & broke a rubber spatula in half. (somebody pass the bourbon already) Awesome.

Then, somewhere in between cookies & egg nog, I received an "Unknown" call, which happened to be the clerk (eek!) excusing me from duty & wishing me good luck on "the cheese!" (fist pump fist party...fist pump)

We must all learn from this experience (very serious). Cheese saves the day! Always.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Meet Cheesemakers...tonight!

Tonight, at a lovely space that goes by the name of Local: Mission Eatery, there is an amazing opportunity to spend time with cheesemakers/magicians from 4 creameries new to the bay area. They will share the story of their journey into cheese, what keeps them going through the back breaking work of it all, & give us a little glimpse of the soul behind the delicious-ness waiting for us at the cheese counter. Their time is precious & tonight we are very lucky.

We will be tasting cheese from Bohemian Creamery made by Lisa (here at right), Bleating Heart made by Seana Doughty, Barinaga Ranch made by Marcia Barinaga (cute as a button with her sheep below), and Nicasio Valley Cheese Co made by Rick LaFranchi & family (his sister Jan will actually be in the house to represent). Oh, and we will also be pairing them with California beer & wine...not bad for a Tuesday night!

There are still a few tickets left, so buy them here & come have some fun & connect with lovely makers of CHEESE!

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Measuring Progress

Progress with the shop is moving right along and I plan to do my best to keep the updates coming as we navigate the loopty-loops of opening up shop. This progress I speak of is largely due to this fella. Meet Josh Lowe (450 Architects), Mission Cheeses' architectural designer. The story of how I found Josh goes a little bit like...

Oliver: "I think I know someone who we could talk to about the details of architecture"

Me: " we need an architect?" (delusional)

Oliver: "Well, it would be worth talking to him just to get a better understanding of the process" (smarty)

Me: "Alright. Sounds good. Let's meet for dinner."

We had dinner with Josh & his wife Carleigh & the rest is really history. Peeeas & carrots!

Needless to say, Josh & I have been seeing a lot of each other these days as we storm ideas for the space that will bring Mission Cheese from fantasy land to reality. He has challenged me to express the soul of MC into words & pictures, which he is translating, as we stare at our computer screens, into the design of the space. He rocks & I feel so stinking lucky to know that Mission Cheese is in such good hands.

This past Tuesday we spent over 2 hours taking every last measurement of the space (he actually did all of the work while I tried to figure out how to measure from the floor to the ceiling with a floppy measuring tape...which Josh executes effortlessly in this photo). Sounds like a snore, but I find this whole process to be fascinating. Can you imagine the excitement when walls, tables, chairs, & cheese knives start rolling in?

Josh, these curds are for you!

Friday, October 15, 2010

Cheese, It's What's For Dinner?

It has taken a few days of pondering the perfect way to share the Good Food Awards judging experience, and...I think...I' it! Make sure you have your volume on (very important!), press play below (give it maybe 20 seconds to get going...wait for it), scroll (slowly), & get excited.

Hoedown from Rodeo from Eleanor Stewart on Vimeo.






Get real!


Is that...oh yeah.


(fist pump, fist pump!)

Eh hem. In summary, it was delightful day of tasting semi-soft cheeses from across the country with Daphne Zepos (cheese writer, importer, & educator extraordinaire), Juliana Uruburu (Director of all things cheese at Pasta Shop), & Eskender Aseged (Chef & creator of Radio Africa Kitchen). I was truly honored to be a part of the first annual Good Food Awards. Winners will be announced on their website November 15 & more fun to come in January!

Go ahead, do a heal click, no one is watching.

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Scrumptous Events for October!

After a weekend of celebratory toasts with some of my favorite people on the planet...this show is officially on the road. The flood gates have lifted. The levee gave way. We have blast off. Full speed ahead. get the point. There's a lot to do to get Mission Cheese ready for her coming out party. BUT, there is always time for cheese-tastic events, 3 cheese-tastic events to be exact (2 for you 1 for me!). So, without further ado...let's start with some fun for you! (dork.)

Saturday, October 9th 5-11 pm (Yes, THIS Sat!) - Underground Market in Oakland
We missed 2 markets while biking down the Oregon coast (I survived! It was actually very awesome), but we will be at this Saturday's market serving up Raclette to as many people as we possibly can. They have more vendors than ever before AND it is all outdoors & much easier to navigate than the one in SF. So, I highly recommend it. Here is a list of the vendors that will be there in addition to yours truly.

Sunday, October 10th (this one is for me!) - Good Food Awards Judging takes place
In honor of the Global Work Party happening on 10/10/10, I will be volunteering my time to judge delicious cheese for the Good Food Awards organized by Seedling Projects. I will be tasting 50 different artisan cheeses & reporting back on the experience...not the winners, which will be announced at a par-tay in mid January. Seems more like a dream come true & less like volunteering...but I'll take it! (Seriously, all links in this paragraph are truly worth clicking on...amazing people doing amazing stuff!)

Tuesday, October 26th 7-9 pm - Mission Cheese & Local: Mission Eatery present...Meet the Cheesemaker!
We are teaming up with Local: Mission Eatery to bring you the opportunity to meet 4 fairly new remarkable NorCal cheesemakers & taste their cheese paired with local beer & wine. You know how much I adore cheesemakers, so this is your chance to hear their story & feel the love yourself. Marcia of Barinaga Ranch, Lisa of Bohemian Creamery, Seana of Bleating Heart, & a member of the LaFranchi family (it's a family dairy!) of Nicassio Valley Cheese will be joining us for the event & I just couldn't be a pinch happier. Tickets are $65, and I believe there are only about 30 of them. So...get yours while the gettin' is good!

I told you they were cheese-tastic...and really, all-around-FUN-tastic! Wouldn't you say? I do apologize for my overly geek-tastic (daaaa hahaha) behavior this post. Sort of.

Thursday, September 30, 2010

Break Out the Fist Pumps & Imaginary Drum Sets!

After many weeks of practicing my best patient behavior, I rode my bike on down to the Mission this afternoon & signed a lease for Mission Cheese! The space is, in fact, in the Mission (double entendre...hooray!) on Valencia St. between 18th & 19th right in the heart of San Francisco deliciousness...and it's going to be magical come February 2011 (ish-er-around-there).
I feel like a proud mother-to-be entering the third & final trimester (I guess I cannot say I know what that really "feels" like, especially seeing as I still enjoy wine, beer, whiskey cocktails & raw milk cheeses...but it seems like a fairly good analogy, no?) I am relieved & ready to move on to the next stage, I am stinking excited to see her (yes, it's a girl! duh.) actual silhouette, and I will count down the days until she's ready to say "Hello world! I'm Mission Cheese & I'm beautiful!" Something like that. I am also, fist pumping on the regular & it's really only a matter of time until the imaginary drum set comes out this eve (I have a few meetings first...have to keep my composure).

I would like to extend many curds of gratitude to the family & friends that kept me grounded over the past few months. While the process was long, it was actually pretty smooth...but my emotions definitely told a different story at times. (Hello! These things are too be expected from a mother-to-be...right?) Oliver definitely took the brunt of it, a trend that is likely to continue (sooorry...I love you). Also thanks to Pam (my agent...not sure what I would have done without her!) & Ron (landlord!) for being so kind & working with this rookie. You all rock & I see delicious cheese in your futures.

There you have it folks! I think that is about all I can write today...just too busy fist pumping.

More to come...much much belts required!

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

ACS...Hit the Highlights

This little diddy recapping the cheesiest week of the year is much over due, but as they say, better late than never, eh?

As expected, my week in Seattle was jam-packed with cheese enlightenment, friends new & old, and good good times. I had the privilege of staying with my friend and Seattle resident cheesemongress, Sheri. (She & her hubby Morgan were first-rate hosts!) I was beyond pumped to see her in action in her beautiful shop, Calf & Kid, in the magical Melrose Market. Attention anyone in Seattle or passing through in the future: Go here. Pikes is worth a look, but this collection of thoughtful purveyors is a must see...and taste. Sheri stocks her case with an amazing selection of cheese from around the globe with a strong representation of local Washington beauties. Some favorites that I had never tasted were by Black Sheep Creamery, Gothberg Farms, Estrella Family Creamery, & Kurtwood Farms. Scrumptious.

Speeeeaking of Kurtwood Farms, Culture Magazine (yes, this is a cheese-centric publication) & Rogue Creamery just so happened to be throwing a little shin-dig to kick off the conference at this lovely farm in Vacharon, just outside of Seattle, to which Sheri scored an invite for herself & a cheese-loving guest (lucky me)! Kurt, of Kurtwood Farms (duh) hosted a beautiful farm house eat-fest highlighting some amazing cheeses, including his own, Dinah's Cheese. Kurt, former chef & cafe owner, moved out this plot of land in 1991 & has crafted this majestic farm since (the pic above is of the farmhouse kitchen & left is the milking barn). Dinah's Cheese, named after his first Jersey cow, is made from the milk of the four cows on farm & has been in high demand since it hit the market & commandeers the cover of the latest Culture Magazine (yes...a cheese-centric mag to which I am most certainly a subscriber) & a generous feature including a centerfold (oh la la). The party was amazing & chock full of cheese greats including Sue Connely, Janet Fletcher, Willi Lehner, and you could just feel the energy & soul of the American artisan cheese movement. Loved it & the pizza from the wood-fired oven. I know...I am a brat (by that I mean spoiled brat, not a German pork-sausage...that would be weird).

The actual conference started bright & early Thursday morning with sessions ranging from Health & Mental benefits (summary: it's good for you! Hooray!) of cheese to Cheese Shop Do's & Don'ts. While I could go on for days about the amount of exciting cheese info that I sponged over 3 days of seminars, highlights go to...

  • Ari Weinzweig of Zingerman's discussing their open book finance approach to reducing stress, motivating staff, & operating profitably (it helps). For any budding small business-makers out there, may I suggest, "A Stake in the Outcome: Building a Culture of Ownership for the Long-Term Success of Your Business" by Jack Stack & Bo Burlingham & "Managing By The Numbers: A Complete Guide To Understanding & Using Your Company's Financials" by Chuck Kremer. I know...perhaps you are snoring or thinking " I would rather stab my eye with a fondue fork," but if the success of Zingerman's is any indication...this stuff works, and it can be fun. Honest!

  • Herve Mons of Mons Formagerie & perhaps the best affineur in the biz, RaefHodgson of Neal's Yard (& also son of founder Randolph Hodgson), and Doug Earb of Landaff Creamery were on a panel discussing the affinage (aging) process of cheese...always one of my favorite topics! Listening to this panel talk about the process of bringing cheese from it's infancy to adolescence & finally adulthood really brings the process to life. Herve spoke of a "hospital" portion of his caves in France that pays special attention to cheeses in need..."and as with any hospital, you either come out better, or not." Slightly starstruck by Herve & his cheese fame, this session certainly earned highlight status.
  • Last on the highlight list is a tasting, but not a cheese tasting, a charcuterie tasting (cured pork & cheese are best friends...add beer, wine, & crackers and you have quite the wily crew). The panel included Armando Batali of Salumi (& father of Mario I know where Mario gets his notorious fiery personality from), Paul Bertolli of Fra'Mani, and Herb Eckhouse of LaQuercia. Needless to say everything we tasted was out-of-this-world, and if you ever have the chance to nab a Mole Salame from what it takes to make it happen. It is heaven in your mouth. Curds of thanks to these guys for bringing class A quality charcuterie to the U S of A. You guys rock!

Seems like a very brief recap of a jam packed conference, and I promise to write more later about the festival of cheese (uh huh) & this years big award winners (hooray). To be honest, I have to finish packing for a trip that I am supposed to leave for in about 45 minutes. (yikes!) Yes, in just under an hour I will embark on a road trip (Ride350) up the coast with to Astoria, OR...and then ride my bike back to Cali (almost...Gold Beach) all with 7 lovely friends in the name of climate change. I have padded spandex. Wish me luck.

STILL working on the space situation, for those that are curious. I should have news soon (translation...before Oct 1). It has been a real nail biter of a situation!

Monday, August 23, 2010

Reflections of a Cheese Lovin' Year

This time last year, I was fixin' to attend my first American Cheese Society (ACS) conference in Austin. Aside from massive amounts of cheese, no idea what to expect. The trip was followed by a journey to Europe & ultimately catapulted this Mission. Now, here I am, 1 year later packing for the same conference, but it feels completely different. This year I head north to Seattle & I am beyond stoked to see friends made throughout the year, chat cheese, & let loose (yes...cleesemakers & mongers like to...well...have a good time).

I am especially pumped to see Sheri Lavigne & her new shop Calf & Kid, which opened back in April. Sheri & I met last year in Austin, both budding cheesers, & a year later her shop is wildly successful AND she has offered to take me in as a house guest for the conference! As the resident Seattle "cheesemongress" she has been invited to some cheese-a-licious events...and yours truly will be riding her coattails as her guest. Rock. On. The stories are bound to be entertaining & of course, I will share.

What a glorious year it has been...enough to make me misty eyed. The places I have traveled, people I have met, and the lessons I have learned in the name of cheese have warm my soul & allowed me to keep focus on the Mission. Speaking of which...I do not have the official update on the space. Unofficially I would say it's looking pretty good. Fist pumps & air drumming reserved until all is signed & sealed. year. Really? More to come from sunny Seattle!

Monday, August 16, 2010

Update. Yeah!

Where do I ever begin? It has been busy busy since my last post with a nice little cold nuzzled in the mix ('s pretty much winter here in SF) that has had me off cheese for the better part of a week (don't worry...I am holding up...sniffle). Lots of good stuff has happened, let the update begin.

First, Oliver & I made a trip to the Hughson to check on the progress of our cukes & provide a little trellis action for them to climb. Sounds like a fairly easy task, but for this rookie farming produced a good bit of comedy. (glance left to see my mallet gracefully missing it's target) After thorough research of the cucumber trellis, we decided to use these here 7 ft T-posts, nylon trellis netting, various wire types, and string. Just for the sake of detail I'll give you the play by play...

1) Pound giant posts in the ground. 3 per row, with the exception of one mini row. 5 rows. 14 posts. (I like math.) Let me just say, I know that mallet looks wimpy...but it was serious heavy. The aftermath was worse than Bowlers Elbow (don't pretend like you don't know what I am talking about).

2) Stretch nylon trellis netting between posts & secure with wire on top & bottom.

3) Secure net to posts with string for good measure.

Voila! A giant jungle gym for mini cucumbers. They are going to love it!

That very evening we cruised to Oakland for the very first East Bay Underground Market & it was ROCKIN'! We melted through 30 lbs of raclette before we sold out. The crowd was psyched, patient, & hilarious! I think my favorite line of the night was..."I'm lactose intolerant & I don't care!" Classic. Loved it. We also received a lovely shout out in the Oakland North, which really put things over the top. I am beyond grateful for the support, excitement, & appetite of this lovely Bay Area. So smitten.

Finally, on the business front it has been a few weeks of conversations with my ever so knowledgeable CPA & lawyer working out investor logistics (If anyone out there is starting a biz & needs a referral, let me know...these guys rock!) & securing angel bucks* to allow this Mission to come to life. 88% done. (Can I get a fist pump?!?) Then of course there has been the hunt for a space, which continues, BUT there is a front runner folks! Yes, that's right...I said it. My next post is likely to be either an euphoric fist pump packed celebration, OR a pretty deflated back to the drawing board wet blanket. Which shall it be? Fingers, toes, arms, legs, & eyes crossed for the former.

To be continued...

*angel bucks: money when you need it

(my first cliff hanger & footnote in the same post! Exciting?)

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Barinaga Ranch...Best Monday Ever

To make a long story short, SF Undergound Market Part Duex was a smashing success! We stayed busy & kept the dance party going until our puppies just couldn't take it anymore. Heaps of curds of gratitude to Jenny Lou & Oliver for hanging out with me & giving out free high fives all night long, and to everyone who came to the market to show their support. My milk jug overfloweth.

It was only appropriate to follow such an exciting cheese weekend with a cheesemaker visit. Monday morning, I cruised to Barinaga Ranch to rendezvous with Marcia Barinaga & her sheep up in the hills overlooking Tomales Bay. Life. Is. Good.

Marcia, a former science journalist with a PhD in molecular biology (yeah...brainiac it), has moved from Oakland to the beauty of West Marin to make cheese. Hallelujah! She & her husband, Corey, purchased their ranch back in 2001 determined to become a sustainable part of the community & have poured their hearts into the operation ever since. The first barn was built in 2007 & not long after came the cheese room (built inside a retired shipping reuse EVER!), and the first batch of cheese was ready for sale in 2009 for a lucky few. The cheese, is a raw sheep's milk tomme, Baserri, and it's mini-me Txiki (the names translate to "farmhouse" & "little" in Basque) They are intended as a West Marin version of a Basque cheese. It is made by hand with the help of an old soup kettle (second best reuse EVER!), and it is utterly dreamy.

After visiting the cheese (Marcia had to take the latest batch out of the brine) we pay the lil' lambs & their milking mommas a visit, and for the first time...I was able to pet a sheep! Past sheep farm visits have not gone as well...visualize a flock of boney-legged-fluff-balls scurrying away in complete horror. Yep. The calm demeanor of these ladies basking in the cool coastal air allowed for some good quality time & by the end I was ready for a snuggle. Seriously. Look at them!

As you probably know, sheep's milk cheese is not quite as common as the rest & there are a few reasons. 1) Sheep generally produce less milk than their goat & cow friends. Their milk is higher in butterfat & therefore provides a better yield, but it's not enough to make up for the difference. This leaves less cheese overall & higher prices (certainly worth it if you ask me). 2) Since the whole hoof & mouth fiasco, it is nearly impossible to import sheep, so we have to work with what we have her in the U-S-of A & keep our fingers crossed for females. On Marcia's hunt for her flock, she did her research & bought some East Fresians from Everona Dairy out in Virginia. Since she has cross-bread some of them with Katahdin, an African hair sheep, for a hardier flock hoping for increased resistance to parasites & disease. Her flock is set to nearly double this year, and more sheep means more milk & more milk means more cheese!

After meeting Marcia, yet another brilliant & inspiring cheesemaker, and hanging with the sheep, I was pretty sure my trip to Marshall couldn't possibly get much better. Then I found these guys...cuddling porks, I mean...pigs. They are a perfect compliment to any cheese operation eating whey for days in between mud rolls & snuggles. They also make delicious bacon, braised pork shoulder, porchetta, ribs...what? They do!

Thank you to Marcia for having me out for such a lovely visit! You reinforce my opinion, yet again, that cheesemakers are the best people on the planet. Once Mission Cheese finds a space (yes...still on the look-out), I would be honored to bring your cheese to the people.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

SF Underground: Part Deux

Yes, the potatoes have arrived from Fully Belly Farms (via Natasha at Capay Organics farm store...thank you!) & Haut Jura Raclette is in casa. Now all we need is a roast-a-thon & a hop, skip, and a jump over to SOMArts & we are ready to roll for this Saturday's market! Righto...we are lucky enough to be invited back to the SF Underground Market (Mission Cheese will be there for the night shift 6-midnight...follow the link to sign up & buy tickets) & I have to admit that I am stinkin' fired up! For those of you that missed the last market, it goes a little something like this...

Raclette, meet Flame. Flame, this is my good friend Raclette. She comes all the way from Jura region of France & has been known to melt when approached by a hot fire like yourself.

Friendly sharp Knife, meet Raclette. She likes to be scraped. Strange, I know.

She particularly likes to be scraped atop small boiled (or in this case roasted) potatoes & cornichon and topped with some fresh cracked pepper. Just in case you were curious, Knife.

The rest is fairly self-explanatory (Face, meet Raclette) and DELICIOUS!

Would love to see as many cheese-loving faces as last time. We will do our best to be a tad faster this time to avoid the 40 min line, but as you well know...Raclette is the boss, and she is quite feisty!

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Sometimes you just have to plant it yourself!

Raclette, the delicious melty cheese delight that we served up at the SF Underground Market back in June, & will be serving up again at the next market on July 24th (fist pump fist pump), traditionally is served with cornichon. Cornichon are typically found in micro bottles coming to us from France, which is not all too useful or environmentally friendly for a serious raclette operation. Challenge? I accept.

The next best option after said micro bottles from France was a bulk offering (yes!)...coming from...India (no! nothing against India...but that's stinking FAR). So, the search began for a farm growing miniature sized cucumbers ready for moi to pickle them into cornichon. luck. Time to move to plan C, the do it yourself method. Plant. Harvest. Pickle. FUN!

Cucumbers young'ins being lovers of the sun & heat are not likely thrive in the foggy & sometimes blustery San Francisco summer. Hmmm. Lucky enough, Oliver's family has a small outfit in the sunny Central Valley! Hughson, to be exact. (Pronounced like Houston, without the "t"...just in case you were curious.) The Dameron family graciously agreed to let us use a plot of their beautiful soil & even asked Neighbor Dave to come over & "disk the soil" (from what I can tell this means to get it know...mix things up a bit). Neighbor Dave went above & beyond & actually tilled & removed weeds & such, so by the time Oliver & I arrived, our cucumber garden was pretty much ready for planting! (Neighbor Dave, I don't even know you, but I think you're pretty awesome & I see some delicious cheese in your future.)

From there it was pretty simple, "farming light" I like to call it. We marked some nice & even rows 4 ft apart, created square-ish mounds about 2 inches high & about 4 inches apart, & planted 6 seeds in each mound. By then it was 90 degrees out & my SF blood was baffled. (Yes, I am well aware that the country is in an insane heat wave...but SF seems to maintain a blissful breeze & temps hovering around 70.) The rest of the day went something like this...lounge on couch, eat, cold beer, pool, couch, pool, eat, cold beer. Ahhh...good old fashioned summer day. I remember these!

Sun kissed & exhausted Oliver & I head back the fog. 5 days later we received word that we have babies...of the two-leaf variety (though with 90 miles in between us, something tells me this may have to be a joint custody arrangement). To be continued...

Heaps of curds of thanks to Sam, Gail and the Dameron family farm for allowing us to use their beautiful land for this project, sharing years of farming knowledge, & for nurturing our little seeds to two-leaf status. This mission would not be possible without you. And to Neighbor Dave...wherever you are, this curd is for you! Also, hats off to all you farmers out there, even "farming light" had me exhausted. You amaze me!

Friday, July 9, 2010

La Vie Bohemian Creamery!

Several months removed from the Great American Cheese Tour, and patiently waiting for the most perfect space for Mission Cheese to call home, it's time to get back to the heart of this mission...the cheese & its makers.

First stop, Bohemian Creamery! Founded by Lisa Gottreich & Miriam Block, ladies sick of life at a desk with a serious zest for life...and cheese. Former home cheesemakers, Lisa & Miriam followed a passion & a wild hair to create Bohemian Creamery & a variety of hand crafted artisan cheeses from sustainably farmed goat, cow, & sheep milks. (Hooray!) Their mission began in Bodega Bay leasing space from a small goat farm with a micro cheesemaking facility. Recently, they scored their own digs in Sebastopol & after an intense retrofit, have been officially making cheese there for about 1 month. This is the delightful operation which I was lucky enough to visit.

T'was cheesemaking day & Lisa was hard at work making Boho Bel (a Bel Paese style cheese made with organic jersey cow's milk & aged for 6-8 as the rind, flavor, & texture of this beauty come together). I arrived just after Lisa had added the rennet & was waiting for the curd to set, which was a perfect opportunity to visit her beautiful family of goats. A wonderful crew of saanen & alpine goats all baring bohemian names & ready to give their left utter, or a little horn jab to their neighbor for some love from Lisa. These social butterflies are the pride & joy of this outfit, and I am pretty sure both Lisa & I would have been happy as clams to hang out with them until sundown, but the curd is the boss.

A good half hour had passed & we head back to the creamery for a taste of the Boho Bel & Lisa suited up for curd cutting. I was in heaven grabbing giant whiffs of the sweet buttery aroma of the rich jersey curd. (It seriously looked like an enormous creme brulee & took every ounce of self control to keep my wits about me & avoid taking a scoop straight to my face.) After Lisa got the curd right where she wanted it, it was time to release the whey transfer the curd into the hoops, or molds, for further draining. Aside from life & cheese chatting, my task was to alert Lisa of rogue curds coming out of the drain at right. As you can see in this new set up there is a bit of crafty improvising until the official system is in place...but it certainly does the trick. I only failed at my task was so lovely chatting with Lisa that I lost focus and some curd was sacrificed...lucky for their dog who was the proud recipient of the run-a-way curd. I may, or may not have been slightly jealous.

The curds were happily cuddling in their hoops (which now looks like a delicious souffle or breakie strada...YUM!) & whey continues to drain as Lisa begins the intense cleaning process that follows cheesemaking & often takes just as much time. (If only it produced an equally delicious outcome...saaay bacon? would be nearly perfect. haha...ok, I'll stop.) After the scrub Lisa sent me home with 2 rounds of cheese, both Boho Bel & Bo Peep (a sheep & cow's milk soft ripened cheese modeled after a Corsican basket cheese), a wonderful hug, and a renewed Mission Cheese glow. Loving food is wonderful, but connecting with those that produce it, to me, is nirvana.

I love this mission & I cannot wait to share!

Curds of thanks to Lisa for showing me around...and for making delicious cheese for all to enjoy.

Thursday, July 1, 2010

Celebrating Independence from the Cracker Isle!

We all know that crackers & cheese are even better friends than peas & carrots, and if you've fixed a cheese plate or two in your've likely struggled finding an appropriate partner for your beloved queso. Am I right? Am I overly particular? Basically, I am traumatized nearly every time I visit the cracker isle. Too bland. Too much flavor. Too expensive. Too much plastic (I love you Rustic Bakery, but $7 for a dozen or so crackers wrapped in two layers of plastic gives me serious buyer's remorse). It's enough to drive any cheese plate enthusiast to drink. I' plan. Save your liver & make the crackers! YAAAAAAAY!

It is actually far easier than it sounds & the results are delicious & waste free!

2 c Flour
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
2/3 c warm water
1/3 c olive oil

Step 1: Preheat oven to 400 & mix flour, baking soda, & salt in a large bowl

Step 2:
Mix in warm water & olive oil until smooth-ish dough forms

Step 3: Split dough equally & roll out on 2 lightly greased cookie sheets. The rolling pin wasn't much help on these jelly roll pans, so I used a handy glass (what looks like a triple shot once used to take back whiskey after shopping in the cracker isle...haha...ok, maybe that's a bit aggressive) & it worked just swell.

Step 4:
Using a sharp knife or pizza cutter gently cut dough into desired cracker shape. Yes! YOUR the decider! (See...isn't this fun?!?)

Step 5: Sprinkle with whatever your buds desire. I choose a simple sea salt & fresh cracked pepper combo.

Step 6:
Cook for 10-15 mins (my oven is a bit wacky so I had to keep a close eye after the 10 min mark, but maybe yours is different) & voila! Crackers!

Step 7: Proudly present your delightful cheese plate & it's worthy cracker sidekick. Sit back & enjoy.

Thankful cheese plate eater: "Ohh...these crackers are so delicious...and...they look homemade?!?"

You: "Oh (hmhmhmhmmmm) yes...just whipped them up this afternoon. No big whoop (hmmhmhmhm)."

I'll be taking my crackers to a cozy little nook in central Oregon for some fun in the sun, great people, & a cheese plate in nature. (ummm...does it get any better?) Happy Birthday America!