Hot On the Cheese Trail

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Mateo recently returned home from a work retreat with a map of the Sonoma Marin Cheese Trail. This handy little map brought to you by the California Artisan Cheese Guild keeps making its way back into my hands, so on Saturday I decided to take it for a spin. Mid-morning, my family packed into the Camry and embarked on a cheese trail adventure.

Our three stops on the Marin driving tour were Marin French Cheese Company just outside of Novato, Nicasio Valley Cheese Company in the small town of Nicasio, and our family favorite – Cowgirl Creamery in Point Reyes.

Marin Cheese Trail

We arrived at Marin French just in time for lunch, along with a merry band of bikers. Inside the sizeable retail operation, we sampled their cow’s milk offerings. I’m not a big fan of this dairy, but some of the first ‘exotic’ cheeses I ever sampled in my youth, were their Rouge & Noir camembert and brie. I find their cheese to be too mild, lacking in distinguishing qualities, and most everything we tasted was young and not ripened enough to my liking.

Just as I was about to give up on flavor, I honed in on a style I hadn’t heard of, Schloss, a square wash-rind variety that makes up for all of their mild-mannered options with the flavor and pungency of an Austrian style aged cow’s milk cheese. We walked our stinky little Schloss out to a picnic area near the small, picturesque lake and enjoyed it with a hearty seeded baguette and salami. Sadie and Caleb shared a portion of our snack with the geese and ducks gathered near our table, while Mateo and I sat in the sunshine basking in a quiet moment.

Marin Cheese Trail1

We then drove for about 10 minutes until we reached Nicasio Valley Cheese Company. There, we sampled a large variety of…wait for it…more mild-mannered cheeses. My taste buds were losing interest fast and I’m thinking bring on the stink bring on the funk! At last, I found a happy marriage of flavor and pungency in their Nicasio Reserve, a Swiss-Italian mountain cheese. We bought a square to later share with our friends at dinner, then on to Point Reyes Station!

Cowgirl Creamery never lets me down. I will wait in the longest of lines only to be rewarded with delectable, perfectly aged cheese that lacks not at all in flavor and personality. Caleb and I particularly enjoyed the Gouda-style Wagon Wheel and a very mature Red Hawk, which is made right where we stood and flourishes off the salt air cultures unique to that area. Finishing our cheese tour at Cowgirl Creamery was the perfect end note and with happy bellies filled with way too much cheese, we returned back to the East Bay. What a trip!

Marin Cheese Trail2

4 thoughts on “Hot On the Cheese Trail

  1. Oh Yummy! I’m totally with you, stinky is the way to go. Do you like camembert? Camembert and limburger were the cheeses my mother loved when I was a child and therefore, so did I. Along with Kraft roka bleu in little painted glasses which we saved and used for juice. And Velveeta melted cheese sandwiches.

    Trader Joe usually stocks camembert only at the holidays, but now seems to be carrying it all the time. I hope it lasts! Their morbier, which I love, has been out of stock for weeks. You can never count on Trader Joe to have what you want in stock. They run out, or drop the product, and leave you in the lurch. Whining doesn’t help. i like buying cheese at T. Joe because they are so much cheaper than the fancier cheese stores.
    Love, Von

    • Thanks, Yvonne. I didn’t realize that you were such a fan of good cheese. I’m curious if you’ve ever been to Cheese Plus in S.F. You may pay a little more than TJ’s, but the quality of their cheese is excellent, in my opinion. Plus (hah) they have a great selection of hard to find cheeses. My experience with cheese is that usually paying a little more generally does equate with getting better quality and ensuring that the cheese is properly cared for.

  2. Anya my cheesy tochter…You have convinced me that stinky is the only way to go! Who knew that a lifetime of pizza, hot dogs, calimari, knishes, snails, dim sum, sushi and other wonders would lead you to cheese mountain? I love it! Your singular pater…MannyB

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