Friday, January 15, 2010

Stinkin' Good Fun at Meadow Creek Dairy

The finale of the eastern leg of the Great American Cheese Tour could not have been any more delightful. I am joined again by Mum (long story), for a journey southwest to Galax, Virginia. There, at 2,800 ft nestled in the Blue Ridge Mountains, we visit the Feete family's Meadow Creek Dairy. This farm has the highest elevation of any that I have visited on the road, and it is certainly a unique beauty.

First, a little background on Meadow Creek Dairy. Helen & Rick Feete started dairy farming in 1980 and have been committed to sustainable practices from the beginning. Their belief is that healthy happy cows, enriched soil, & environmentally sound farming practices produces the best milk. Judging by the taste of their cheese, I would say this is a pretty stellar philosophy. They began selling fluid milk, but as a reaction to fluctuating milk prices (pretty common GATC story), Helen began making cheese in 1998. Rick continued the all important job of managing the herd of 80 cows, all with names and family trees. Their award winning cheeses reflect the unique characteristics of the terrior in the Blue Ridge Mountains and their commitment to responsible & careful farming.

Mum & I arrived to the late morning hustle & bustle of cheesemaking. Rick & Helen's daughter, Kat, was under the weather, so the fine tuned family operation was down one person, and everyone was pitching in. We began our tour with Kat's husband, Dan, who took us into the cheese room where they were still cutting the curd & placing it in the molds for draining. Linda, their sales manager, is the one working the curd in this photo. She is the newest member of the team coming from Italy, where she was working for Slow Food (amazing!).
From the cheese room we headed to the aging cave which was mostly filled with Grayson, their most popular cheese. For those of you that have tried Grayson (or Taleggio, which is the closest comparison, but not nearly as my opinion), it packs a pretty pungent aroma, as did the cave. It was a stinky cheese lovers dream! Sorry Mum. I could have watched the ladies wash loaves of Grayson all day...but it was time for lunch! Yes, the Feete family invited us to stay for lunch. Does it get any better?
Mum & I sat around a large table in the kitchen above the cheese room with the entire Meadow Creek family to a delightful tartiflette (potatoes, cured ham, some onions, and melty Grayson cheese). Stinking delicious! We chatted cheese & slow food before heading out to check out the herd.

The final part of our day we spent out in the pasture with Rick & it was quite the treat. The sound of 80 cows chomping on fresh green pasture is surprisingly loud. Helen & Rick had grown the heard from scratch, so each cow had story & of course a name. Bridgette is the beauty in this picture, she is half Jersey half Montbilard...ehh, quite french. Can you tell?

After a solid four hours touring the farm, Mum & I were set to hit the road. It was a wonderful day thanks to Rick, Helen, & the entire family. We were truly honored to spend the day at Meadow Creek Dairy. These curds are for you Feete Family! Thank you for taking time out of your busy schedules to chat cheese.

Now, back to San Francisco...where I have actually been for two months, and where I will stay put for some Bay Area cheese fun!

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