Sometimes, I get to do really fun things because of this love I have of sharing. I have been sharing here on this website for almost 7 years now! Can you believe it? Because I love to share, the California Milk Advisory Board invited me to learn more about California Milk, California Dairy Farms, and (of course) California Cheese. CMAB invited me and a handful of other foodies, bloggers, and even a chef to learn more about delicious cheeses on a little California Cheese Crawl through the Bay Area, up to Sonoma County, and through Napa Valley.
LOVE AFFAIR WITH CHEESE
My love affair with cheese began as a young girl. For those of you that visit with me here regularly, you know that I grew up in New York with both Italian and Filipino roots. Italian American food is both familiar and comforting. It reminds me of home. Of my great big crazy family. And believe, you-me, the traditions I have with cheese started long before charcuterie and cheese boards were trending.
When mom made dinner, it was always served family style. When she served dinner, like this for the whole family, it was almost always Italian. We lived on pasta, soups, potatoes and eggs, and antipasto platters that would always be refilled. But after all the guests had gone, or after dinner was long cleaned up and the dishwasher was loaded, there were nights that I would watch my dad’s shows with him, complete with a T.V. tray table for our snacks.
Our “snacks” would consist of an apple or a pear on a cutting board where dried sausage and CHEESE would be the star. On occasion we might have chigala bread, (if Uncle Joe came to visit) and sometimes, we would have biscuits or even gardiniera. There would be olives. Stuffed Peppers. And did I mention BREAD? We would always have our bread. If this delicious snack time fell on a weekend, you can bet that Dad and I also visited the Italian Deli and we would score hand pulled mozzarella that would be sprinkled with some sea salt, cracked pepper, and olive oil, as well.
This late night snack wasn’t limited to something that included just me and Dad to enjoy together, in fact, all of my siblings would enjoy these snacks with Dad on his tray table, each of us, having our own preferred components of what would ultimately serve as an “almost” second dinner.
Of course, my favorite component of these evening snacks was the hand pulled mozzarella, and the sharp aged provolone. Cheese lover all the way…
I learned a ton of things on this excursion about California Cheese that are interesting. Here are some of the surprises that I learned along the way:
- 99% of the Dairy Farms that supply the milk for the cheeses are family owned.
- Many of these family owned farms are operated by their 3rd and 4th generational owners. (Talk about KEEPIN’ IT IN THE FAMILY!!!)
- Quite a few of those 1st generation dairy farmers came from places like Italy and other European countries. So you can see obvious European influences in the production and flavors of these California Cheese Makers.
- The largest cheese plant in the WHOLE WORLD is located in California.
- The dairy industry is making a collective effort to be more sustainable and responsible in making award winning cheeses of all kinds.
So, now that I have given you just few of the MAJOR take aways from the entirety of trip, I want to outline each day for you in THREE different posts. In this post, I’ll share all the yummies and happenings of DAY ONE.
The Ferry Building
Our first day in the Bay Area began with a visit to The Ferry Building in San Francisco.
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The Ferry Building in San Francisco is home to a variety of shops that peddle local cheeses, meats, and other food. If only I could take home one of everything!! But for now, I will happily bring some stone fruit and some berries for a little snack back in my room later tonight. 🍑🍓🍑🍓= 😍😋😍What would you love to bring home from this beautiful bounty?
This major point of entry for the west opened up in 1898, receiving settlers and visitors to the area via train. When technology offered newer options of travel, by way of Ferry, the entire building went through changes to keep up with the advancements in different modes of transportation. When travel by car became the choice mode of transportation, the Ferry Building underwent changes leaving it dormant for many years.
In 2003 The Ferry Building reopened its doors and became more of a marketplace that offers visitors world class food, specialty products, fresh and local produce, and drinks.
Inside the building that is made to feel like an indoor street market, you can find The Cowgirl Creamery. This specialty cheese shop, not only carries their own artisanal cheeses that they produce, they also carry a variety of both sheep, goats’ and cows milk cheeses from other California Farms as well.
While visiting this CHEESE SHOP, I got a ton of ideas on how else I can serve cheese creatively while entertaining at home. From accompanying my cheese board with a dried fruit torta, to making sure tha I include varieties of cheeses that are strictly from one area or another…almost like a FLIGHT.
And since our family has a serious love of grilled cheese, I also was intrigued with the local products from McEvoy Ranch that we could play with when serving, cooking, and slicing California Cheeses.
I will certainly be including these jams and spreads in our next grilled cheese sammie making sessions. After I shopped a little, got my fill of stone fruit and berries, we were off to our second stop of the day which was Fiscalini Farms.
This tour of their cheese making facility was extremely enlightening, and I have to admit, a little tiny bit of CHEESE HEAVEN.
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I would like that one up there! And that one…and that one…and that one…📷: @heidimanabat • • • • Part of being invited to participate in the #californiacheesecrawl2019 by @realcaliforniamilkphl means I am given the privilege to learn from Dairy Farmers turned Cheese Makers turned Environmental Advocates, turned Award Winners, just how much goes into making a wedge of bandage wrapped cheddar. @fiscalinicheese is a dairy farm in Northern California that began in 1914. About 20 years ago, they decided to try their hand at making cheese, using both raw and pasteurized milk from their own farm. Since then, they have racked up numerous awards for the different types of cheeses that they produce. Fourth generational farm owner, Lauren, shared the ins and outs of how her family runs their farm today during our first tour for the day. Check out my stories for what I learned, today! • • • • #realcaliforniamilk #realcaliforniamilkphl #farm #dairy #dairyfarm #cheese #cheddar #farmtotable #nocal #california #californiamilkadvisoryboard #californiacheesetrail #cheesemaker
After learning all about the process, and actually being walked through each step of how it’s made, I almost felt like a kid in a candy store when they allowed us to explore the curing rooms.
From entering the facility through the office, and then parading through the rooms where the milk is warmed, and the curd is cut, to where the cheese is shaped, and drained and then finally to the areas where the cheese is cured and smoked, I came to the obvious conclusion that cheese making is really a scientific process.
DID YOU KNOW?
Some of the best cheeses of the world have come out of mistakes made somewhere along the way!
A League of their Own
Here are some of the details about this Swiss family owned DAIRY farm since 1914 that impressed me the most:
Laura shared that she is a fourth generation owner of the farm. The Fiscalini family is one of quite a few family owned dairy farms that tend the cows, which produce the milk, that makes their cheeses. Most cheese makers just buy their milk from other Board Certified Dairy Farmers.
This family has only been making cheese since the year 2000. This has not hindered their ability to MASTER cheese making in such a short amount of time. In fact, they have won quite a few awards for their Bandaged Wrapped Cheddar and their San Joaquin Gold, that also sets them apart from some of their other cheese making friends in the area.
Their cows have often been referred to as “Happy Cows,” and owner John Fiscalini knows that their high quality cows’ milk makes all the difference in producing their award winning cheeses.
But, even as I write this piece, documenting our trip, I am saddened. I only wish that ALL of these cheeses were made available here in the Philippines. While I LOVE the award winning cheeses that Fiscalini is known for, I will share some of the others that I enjoy and would love to bring to the table for my family.
I enjoy this cheese because it has very little bite. It’s not aged as much and is similar to a table cheese that is really versatile and can be used in almost any dish I create for my family.
I have an affinity for this cheese because it’s so cute.
You guys know I love the color purple, right?
But interestingly enough, I enjoy this cheese even more because cheese monger, Josiah Baird introduced this Cabernet Sauvignon soaked white cheddar to me. Plus it has a purple hue and mild flavor is kid friendly (believe it or not) too.
Unfortunately, I did NOT get to enjoy this delicious spreadable cheese during our Cheese Crawl, but I did try this one awhile back during another event hosted by the California Milk Advisory Board. I love this spreadable cheese because it has a creamy, mild flavor with a hint of horseradish that goes great on crackers, toasted bread, vegetables, and even grilled meats.
The question at hand…
Now, that I have had the chance to fall in love with all of these cheeses yet again through the generosity of CMAB, the question at hand is: When will ALL of these delicious Fiscalini cheeses be made available here in Manila? Can we have them all here soon, please?
The Largest Cheese Company in the WORLD
Hilmar Cheese Company is the largest cheese manufacturer in the world. Would you believe they produce more cheese that is actually private labeled by other companies? During this part of our trip, we were welcomed to the Visitor Center that was perfect for “Cheese Moo-bies” (bet you didn’t see that one coming) like us.
The entire second floor was set up to receive school aged children as an alternative learning experience, not just in cheese making, but also in sustainable farming as well. I was most impressed with the idea that everything comes from the immediate area. From the California milk that is brought in by the truckloads, the feed, and even the beds that the cows sleep on.
Sustainability down to the water which becomes a by-product of the cheese making process!
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THIS WATERFALL WAS ONCE MILK! So, one of the things that I was honestly concerned about when I was invited on this trip by @realcaliforniamilkphl, was whether or not we would see the animals being treated humanely, and whether or not the process of making cheese was sustainable. At Hilmar Cheese, we learned that from beginning to end, the cheese making process is mindful and eco-friendly. I truly was impressed and pleasantly surprised to see such responsible farming and cheese making. Kudos to @realcalifmilk 🙌🏻 📷: @recyclenation • • • • #travel #travelblog #dairy #cheese #cheesemaker #responsible #californiamilkadvisoryboard #californiacheesecrawl2019 #realcaliforniamilk #realcaliforniamilkphl
Can you imagine? I was blown away.
So not only did we enjoy making some Queso Blanco together, we also enjoyed a short tour of the facilities while learning exactly how the the cows are treated when milking.
Of course, by this time, I think the group might have been a little hungry as well.
Even the cafe downstairs had a HUGE selection of cheeses not just from California but from all over the world. My favorite affordable pick of the day?
These cheese curds really do squeak when you chew them!
Before retiring to our rooms that night, we enjoyed a relaxed dinner at Dewz.
Enjoying a completely local meal in a restaurant owned by a fellow Fil-Am was the perfect way to end the night. I really enjoyed all of the dishes prepared by this award winning restaurant specializing in American cuisine, but I must say, it was also a remind to me just how BIG American portions are!
I tried my best to finish everything on my plate (just like my momma taught me) but I found myself struggling after the salad plate was cleared. I loved that all the produce was sourced locally, and I love that each course was thoughtfully prepared, even highlighting some of the cheeses from the Cheese Crawl along the way.
Hilmar Cheese Company
Want to check purchase REAL CALIFORNIA CHEESE here in Manila?
VISIT: S&R Membership Shopping, Royal Duty Free, Landers Superstore, SM Hypermarket, Puregold, Cash & Carry, Rustan’s Supermarket, Robinsons Supermarket, Unimart Supermarket, SM Supermarket, Makati Supermarket, and Landmark Supermarket.