To know California cheese is to know Cowgirl Creamery.
Pioneer cheesemakers, Sue Conley and Peggy Smith, started Cowgirl Creamery in the early 1990s in a dilapidated barn in Point Reyes.
Conley, an alum of Chez Panisse in Berkeley, and Smith, who helped found the iconic Bette’s Diner in Berkeley, got the notion to make cheese after working on their days off at Straus Family Dairy, where they fell in love with the lush organic milk and its distinct nuances from season to season.
Wanting to help local dairy farms that were going broke, the two set about to create a way to showcase that wonderful milk in value-added products.
Today, Cowgirl Creamery crafts some of the state’s most extraordinary cheeses. It boasts a cheese shop and restaurant, Sidekick Cafe & Milk Bar, both in the San Francisco Ferry Plaza. It sells at five farmers markets in the Bay Area. And its original creamery and cheese shop, Tomales Bay Foods at Point Reyes Station, still remains a must-stop for any visitor to West Marin County.
Now comes their first cookbook, “Cowgirl Creamery Cooks” (Chronicle Books), of which I received a review copy.
There are recipes galore for everything from their beloved grilled cheese sandwich to making your own fromage blanc at home. Moreover, the book is imbued with delightful stories about how their business came to be. Additionally, there are tips on creating a balanced cheese course, how to properly store cheese at home, and answers to whether you are supposed to eat the rind on cheeses (the French don’t for the most part, but Conley and Smith do).
With holiday entertaining on the minds of all of us, I couldn’t resist trying the recipe for Red Hawk Potato Gratin.