Thursday, June 10, 2010

Cheese Club

"Stop looking at me...goat"

So…I think I’ve found them. My People, that is. Last weekend I was able to attend a club that was perhaps designed to fit my every destiny…encompassing my deepest passions and taking them to a level beyond my wildest dreams. Yes, that’s right, I have found my kin. I am now officially a member of The Cheese Club.

When I received the initial invitation, I believe my response was: “I’m not sure you fully understand, I’m actually getting hot I’m so excited. YES, I will be there!” Because I love cheese. I love it. As I’ve told you before, it fascinates me, and I will never be able to taste or learn enough about it.

But this was no "Bring your favorite cheese and we’ll sit around in a living room and drink okay wine and have small talk about cheddar vs. mozzarella." It was perhaps the farthest thing from it, and I can only hope I can depict and articulate it justly.

The meeting this time was held at Carol and James’ goat farm on Lamborn Mountain Farmstead in Paonia. Overlooking the mesas, valleys, and adjacent mountain ranges, the setting alone would have made the experience. But that turned out to be just simply the background to the afternoon’s events, which started out with a lesson on goats, their milk, the steps to getting it and processing it, and how much of an impact all of these often forgotten-about factors have on the quality of the cheese you buy and eat.

This of course, was followed by a hands-on demonstration of how to milk their goats. James took us through the whole process, and we were able to get our own hands on the udders in no time, spritzing the freshest you can get goat’s milk into a silver pail. Years ago my sister once had a dream that our whole conglomerate of a family owned a farm, and I apparently was the big boss woman running the show. One of the major details she remembered was that I was particularly talented at milking goats in the dream. So when I reached under that goat and started strategically extracting the milk from its udder (there are some specific finger movements going on – no pulling), I realized that that was no dream, it was a prophecy. I kind of really rock at milking goats. Who knew?

In the meantime, Carol was setting the table on the patio with all of the different cheeses each of the guests had brought to the meeting. There were so many different types I couldn’t believe it, ranging from all different ages, milks, shapes, sizes, softness’, and flavor accents. I was taken enough by that alone, until I realized that each and every one of them was homemade. Every single person there makes their own cheese, and brings their projects to meetings to share, taste, and discuss. (Every person who is a veteran member I should say…newbies bring the wine). I was floored just by looking at the spread. But then, of course, we tasted.

A roasted red pepper soft goat cheese spread with toasted seeds and spices on top from Wallace and Gromit! "Cheese, Gromit, Cheeeese!"

Goat's milk feta and mozzarella

A woman's first attempt at making goat cheese...very much a tasty success!

"Tomme de Stewart's Mesa"

With that beautiful round, perfect rind, and creamy, complex, savory flavor, you would pay big bucks for that Tomme in any cheese store

How can you choose just one? Fresh goat cheese rolled in 1) nothing 2) Herbs de Provence 3) Fresh minced ginger and tarragon 4) Fresh minced ginger

Answer: You choose them all, because they're that delicious

...but I wouldnt complain about a lifetime supply of the ginger-tarragon.

This cheese plate would blow you away. From left to right, a marinated soft cows cheese in olive oil, rosemary, and juniper berries, a waxed covered Edam that is so creamy it melts in your mouth, and the best smoked Gouda you've ever laid your eyes upon.

How do you do it, Jim??

Not only was every cheese there fantastic, unique, and well crafted, the people behind the cheese were even more impressive. There is such knowledge to be gained on such a subject, and there is no better way than to learn about the process than by performing it hands-on. They are all so talented at the art of cheesemaking, and there was only a feeling of interest, support, and light-hearted infatuation in the circle we sat in as we passed each plate around. I honestly think there was no place I would have rather been.

And if that weren't enough, I soon found out that Carol had been cooking Cajeta all day; a traditional Mexican sauce made by cooking down goat's milk (or cow's milk, or a combination, but this of course was all goat) sugar, baking soda, and any flavorings you like. In this case Carol infused the sauce with cinnamon sticks. This, of course, was served over her unbelievably tasty homemade goat's milk vanilla ice cream. I don't think I would have believed you if you said there was something that would top an entire homemade cheese tasting, but after trying this delectable dessert, I was proved very wrong.

It was a day full of favorite things; sunshine, warm air, mountains, greenery of summer, animals, good people, wine, cheese, homemade EVERYTHING.

And to top it all off, I got to bring home fresh goat's milk from the morning milking (the milk we had produced hadn't sufficiently cooled down enough by the time we were leaving). I never knew goat's milk could be so crisp, clean, refreshing, and not goaty in the least, all surely due to the professional care and attention Carol and James give to their milk and cheese productions. Thanks to them, I have been enjoying it in my oatmeal all week long. A small reminder of one of the best days ever; a day when I found out good cheese is made from even better people.

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