For many Seattleites, Kurt Timmermeister needs no introduction. He's a native who is well known in food circles as the former owner of Belltown/later Capitol Hill favorite Cafe Septieme (he sold the restaurant in 2004). If you've been wondering where he went, here's the story: these days he's keeping busy at his 13 acre farm on Vashon Island, Kurtwood Farms, taking care of a growing herd of Jersey cows and making cheese.
Timmermeister discovered his love for food while attending college in Paris. While pastry is his passion (all of those perfect, flaky, buttery croissants...) when he came back to the Northwest he ended up cooking in restaurants and eventually owning them. He purchased property on Vashon Island (about a hour's commute from Seattle by ferry, in good traffic) in order to get away from the rat race; there he grew produce, kept chickens and pigs and renovated the island's oldest house.
Four acres eventually grew to thirteen, enough to do something with. Timmermeister says in the beginning he had no plans to make cheese; instead, he operated a raw milk dairy for a couple of years (in Washington, it is legal to sell raw milk if you are licensed to do so). He later moved from selling milk to making cheese, feeling in part that the risks of selling raw milk outweighed the rewards. He's currently got ten Jerseys and is milking four; plans are to ramp up the milk volume slowly over the next year or so.
While Timmermeister never made cheese professionally prior to this new endeavor and freely admits he's learning something almost every day, his long and deep food background makes him a natural. Dinah, his first commercially available cheese, is off to an auspicious start. This camembert-style soft ripened cheese is everything you expect and hope it to be - delicate, creamy, mushroomy - and so good that it's got all of Seattle abuzz. He's also got an aged cheese in the testing phases; digging has just begun for a true aging cave on the property so he'll be working on that and perhaps other cheeses in the future.
Oh, and there's also going to be a book about all of this, coming soon. Growing a Farmer: How I Learned to Live Off the Land, is set for publication in January of 2011. Timmermeister describes it as part farm memoir, part guide to the work of a small farm. You can get a taste of day to day life on the farm on his blog here.
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Kurtwood Farms 18409 Beall Road SW Vashon Island, WA 98409
Dinah is available in Seattle at most places that sell good local cheese; also look for it on restaurant cheese plates in the Puget Sound area. It's also available on Vashon Island at Thriftway.