New Bandon Cheese Factory Opens May 8th, 2013

Face Rock logoNext Wednesday, May 8, 2013 the Bandon Chamber of Commerce will host a ribbon cutting ceremony marking the official debut of Face Rock Creamery in Bandon, Oregon. This is not the first cheese factory in Bandon. Many Oregonians and travelers along Highway 101 recall the old Bandon Creamery and its cheese curds fondly. But the former creamery (which had been open since the 1930s) struggled financially throughout the 1980s and 1990s, changed hands several times and even closed at one point. In 2000, the Tillamook County Creamery Association purchased the failing factory (see an article about the sale here). In 2002, Tillamook closed the creamery entirely and the facility was later demolished -- and those latter years are still a sore subject among Bandon devotees.

Now cheese is returning to Bandon, thanks to the efforts of developer Greg Drobot, Bandon city leaders and the Port of Bandon. At the helm of Face Rock Creamery will be cheesemaker Brad Sinko, who was the cheesemaker at Beecher's Handmade Cheese for a number of years before returning to his hometown. Brad's father Joe Sinko was one of the former owners of the Bandon Creamery, so it's fitting that son Brad will be at the helm as a new chapter of cheesemaking commences in this small town on the southern Oregon coast.

In fact, Sinko has been busy these past few months - he's already been making cheese at Rogue Creamery in Central Point Oregon, 160+ miles to the east, for several months. Face Rock Creamery cheese curds made their debut at the Oregon Cheese Festival this past March. Starting next week, devotees will finally be able to stop by the creamery in Bandon to get their cheese fix, just like the days of old.

Mt. Townsend Creamery at Pike Place Market in Seattle

Mt. Townsend Pike PlaceThis is not exactly new news - but I recently stopped by the Mt. Townsend Creamery shop at Pike Place Market in Seattle (it's been there for almost a year and a half now). The installation is an outpost of Washington's Mt. Townsend Creamery, which is based in Pt. Townsend, Washington about two hours to the north and west of Seattle. The cute shop is located at the heart of the market, right near Pike Place Fish (you probably know this as home to the fish-throwing guys). It's a great spot for sales, right in the midst of all of the hustle and bustle that is the market experience. As you might expect, you can purchase all of your favorite Mt. Townsend Creamery cheeses there including Seastack, Cirrus and Off Kilter (washed in Pike Brewing's Kilt Lifter Scotch Ale) as well as selected goodies like crackers and honey. When I was there, they were also featuring cheese samplers for $5.

The Mt. Townsend shop adds to what has become quite a respectable cheese presence at the market: Beecher's Handmade Cheese operates a busy urban creamery a block to the north, and there are several other cheese shops in the market, including DeLaurenti's and Quality Cheese. Though the Seattle Cheese Festival is no more, I'm happy to report that you can still find plenty of good cheese at Pike Place Market.

U. S. Championship Cheese Contest 2013 - Northwest Winners

Results have just been announced for the U. S. Cheese Championships, held semi-annually in Wisconsin. After scrolling through the list, I'd have to say that the story in this year's competition is the performance of Wisconsin cheesemakers, who took the Championship by storm, including the coveted Best in Show prize. Northwest cheesemakers did not show as well as they have in previous years (see, for example, the 2009 results, where Oregon's Tumalo Farms took runner up to Best in Show) though results depend in part on who enters from year to year. Best in Show

Holland's Family Cheese Thorp, Wisconsin Mature Gouda

**** You can find a complete list of results here. Thanks to the organizers for making the results a little more user friendly this year!

Tillamook County Creamery Association (Oregon)

Cheddar, Sharp (aged 6 mo to one year) 1st place – Yellow Sharp Cheddar

Cheddar, Aged 2 yrs or longer White Aged Cheddar (placed 1st and 2nd)

Marbled Curd Cheese 1st place – Colby Jack

Pepper Flavored Jack 3rd Place – Jalapeno Pepper Jack

Rogue Creamery (Oregon)

Smoked Soft and Semi Soft Cheeses 3rd place – Smokey Blue

Soft & Semi-Soft Mixed Milk Cheeses 1st place – Echo Mountain Blue

Glanbia Cheese Co. (Idaho) note: Glanbia is an industrial cheese plant located in Gooding, Idaho

Bandaged Cheddar, Mild to Medium 1st Place - Bandaged Cheddar

Monterey Jack 1st Place - Monterey Jack

Marbled Curd Cheese 2nd Place - Colby/Jack

Gouda, Flavored 3rd Place - Gouda, Olives and Garlic

Pepper Flavored Cheese 3rd Place - Red Habanero Gouda

Reduced Fat Hard Cheeses 1st Place - Reduced Fat Cheddar

Reduced Sodium Cheese 2nd place - Reduced Sodium Cheddar

The following regional artisans also placed in the top 10 in their class: Briar Rose Creamery (OR)  6th Place - Soft Goat's Milk Cheese (fresh chevre) and 5th Place - Semi-Soft Goat Cheese (feta); Jacobs Creamery (WA)  9th Place  Brie, Camembert and Other Surface Ripened Cheeses (Bloomy)

Tall Talk Dairy

[This is part of an ongoing series about the history of cheese and cheesemakers in the Pacific Northwest. Click here for previous entries on this topic.] Harlan and Esther Petersen of Canby, just outside of Portland, were among the earliest of a new wave of small cheesemakers that began emerging across the nation in the 1990s. They operated Tall Talk Dairy on an 8 ½ acre farm outside of Canby starting in the early 90s, first selling raw goat’s milk and then later branching out into cheese. Their products, sold under the brand name Willamette Valley Chevre, included feta, fromage blanc in a variety of flavors and a mild jack style cheese. They later added goat’s milk yogurtDSCN1329 to their product lineup.

According to longtime area dairy goat farmer and cheesemaker Mary Rosenblum, who helped the Petersons develop their cheesemaking operation, marketing goat’s milk cheese at the time was a real challenge. “At the time, stores would bring in imported goat’s milk cheeses that had a really short shelf life, and no one would buy it because it would smell of ammonia. It sure didn’t make people want to buy goat cheese of any kind.” The Petersens sold their property and herd in 1997, reportedly under less than ideal circumstances, leaving area goat’s milk aficionados scrambling for fresh goat’s milk dairy products. As we know now, it was not long before goat's milk cheese began to dominate local cheese production in the Pacific Northwest.

Full Circle Creamery A new generation of artisan cheesemakers are beginning to make their mark in the Pacific Northwest. Among the newest is Full Circle Creamery, located in Oregon’s Willamette Valley.

Cheesemaker Brian Humiston, a graduate of Oregon State University’s Food Science Program, worked for Willamette Valley Cheese Company for several years before starting Full Circle Creamery along with wife Kate in 2010. They were among the first to take advantage of OSU’s innovative cheesemaker pilot program, which allows aspiring cheesemakers to use the college facilities for several months as they start out, testing recipes and working on their business plans.

After their time at the pilot plant, Brian and Kate worked out a unique partnership with Noris Dairy in Scio. Noris has run an organic dairy in the Willamette Valley for many years and also produced cheese for some of that time. Instead of buying a farm or constructing their own plant, the Humistons were able to lease the existing facilities at Noris Dairy, and after installing additional equipment they are now making cheese there year-round. “We don’t know how to be dairy farmers,” says Kate. “Just making cheese, marketing and distributing it takes all of our time. Were happy to leave the dairy farming to those who know what they’re doing.” During the spring and summer, they make cheese using milk from the Noris Dairy’s herd of Jersey cows, and during the winter they bring in milk from Lochmead Dairy in Junction City (the Noris herd is milked only during the spring and summer months). Brian keeps busy handling the cheesmaking end along with help from Justin Rhoads and Lisa Parker, and Kate runs the sales and marketing aspect of the growing business with Bonnie Parker.

The Humistons were deliberate in choosing what types of cheese to make. Realizing that no one was making fresh mozzarella locally, they began with that. Their instincts proved correct, and mozzarella continues to be one of their best sellers. Full Circle Creamery is also making raw milk cheddar cheese as well as cheese curds in a variety of flavors. You can find their cheeses at a number of markets around Oregon, including New Seasons in the Portland area, Cheese Bar, Market of Choice, People’s Co-op and more. Check the website – which is updated often - for additional information, sales outlets and events.

Full Circle Creamery PO Box 13298 Salem, OR   97309 503-990-7325

Green Goat Dairy

Jillian Greenawalt discovered her love for goats while she was living in Bremerton, Washington, with husband Jeremy, who was then stationed at the Naval base. Greenawalt went looking for raw goat’s milk and became inspired by a goat dairy she found near Shelton, Washington. As it happened, Jillian’s mother-in-law, who lives in Idaho, found an article about Laura Sluder of Blue Sage Farm in Shoshone, Idaho. At the time, Sluder was sending sheep’s milk from her herd of milking ewes to nearby Ballard Family Dairy and Cheese, and the Ballards were making cheese for Sluder at their facility. Why not work something out with Sluder? Jillian and her husband moved to Idaho and eventually, a cheesemaker was born.

Greenawalt has since developed a unique cooperative working relationship and cheesemaking system with Sluder. Greenawalt maintains her own herd of about 20 goats, a mixed herd of La Manchas and Alpines, at her place about 10 miles from Sluder’s farm. When her does freshen in the spring, she takes them to Blue Sage Farm, where they’re let loose to graze with the sheep. The goats are milked daily along with the sheep. Sluder converted her bulk tank room to a cheesemaking room, enabling her to produce cheese on the farm rather than having to ship milk to the Ballard's place….. and now Greenawalt keeps busy making cheese from the sheep’s milk, which Sluder sells under her Blue Sage Farm brand, and from the goat’s milk, with Greenawalt sells under her own Green Goat Dairy label. “Things definitely get tight sometimes, when both the sheep and goats are milking and I’m making cheese almost every day,” says Greenawalt., “but we have developed a good system. Laura takes care of the animals and I make the cheese. It has worked out well for us.”

Greenawalt makes a variety of fresh and flavored chevres (word is that her lavender fennel chevre is amazing) as well as feta and goat’s milk soap. While Green Goat Dairy cheeses are currently only available in Idaho, those outside the state can console themselves by ordering soap from her website here. Greenawalt says she’s hoping to experiment with blue and mixed sheep/goat’s milk cheeses next year, so that will definitely be something to look forward to.

You can find Green Goat Dairy's cheeses at the Capital City Public Market in Boise, the Boise Co-op, Rosauers in Meridian, Wood River Farmers Market in Ketchum and on the web at Idaho’s Bounty.

Green Goat Dairy PO Box 516 Gooding, ID  83330

Bonus track: here’s a recent interview with Greenawalt that aired on Radio Boise in October of 2012.

[update: in early 2013 Blue Sage Dairy announced that it was merging with Green Goat Dairy as the Greenawalts were leaving Idaho to move to New York. Blue Sage Dairy will now be making both goat's milk and sheep's milk cheeses.]

Oregon State University Debuts Beaver Classic Cheese

The Oregon State University Creamery is up and running again, and making cheese! After an over forty year hiatus, Oregon State University released a new cheese in September. Dubbed Beaver Classic, the cheese is a rich, nutty, alpine style cheese resembling Comte or Gruyere. Best of all, Beaver Classic is now available for purchase. If you're in the Corvallis area, you can stop by Weigand Hall on Fridays from 11am to 1pm and purchase the cheese. Beaver Classic is also available at home football games (see schedule here) and word is that fresh cheese curds are available at games as well. Those of us outside the area can also buy Beaver Classic online here. Stay tuned for additional styles and flavors of cheese from the creamery.

Oregon State University is the second regional university currently making cheese - you may already be familiar with Washington State University Creamery in Pullman, Washington, famous for its Cougar Gold cheese packaged in cans. OSU Creamery operated on the Corvallis campus for many decades but closed in 1969. Food Science Professor Lisbeth Goddik has revived the creamery in recent years and it now serves as a teaching facility for Food Science Program students as well as an incubator for prospective cheesemakers looking for space to test recipes and techniques. Marc Bates, industry consultant and former creamery manager at Washington State University, is also part of the new OSU creamery management team.

Little Cheesemaker Surprises

If you frequent farmers markets you have probably already discovered this - many times cheesemakers sell products at farmers markets that you won't find anywhere else. Today's featured surprise is cajeta, or goat's milk caramel, a traditional Mexican confection. Portland Creamery is well known around Portland for its great plain and flavored chevrés, but if you frequent the local markets you'll find this gem of a cajeta. Little Brown Farm, a small goat dairy on Whidbey Island near Seattle, makes a number of styles of goat's milk cheeses but at Seattle area farmers markets you can buy not one but two kinds of cajeta, regular and chocolate, which is a rare sort of double deliciousness.

In order to make cajeta, cheesemakers combine goat's milk with sugar and heat the mixture low and slow until it gets gooey, thick and caramelized. As you might expect, the results are fantastic. Because it's made with milk (unlike straight caramel, which is made with just sugar), cajeta has a depth of flavor and gorgeous richness that takes caramel to the next level. There's also a just a hint of cinnamon. Cajeta is perfect for drizzling over ice cream, fresh chevre, fromage blanc...or just use your imagination. Check each cheesemaker's website for their current market schedule and give this stuff a try!

Jacobs Creamery Introduces CSA Program


Lisa Jacobs of Jacobs Creamery in Chehalis, Washington recently announced (note: article requires login) that she will be offering her cheese and dairy products through a CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) program. For $125, $250 or $450, customers can purchase cheese, butter and eggs from Jacobs Creamery and ensure themselves a steady supply throughout the season.

If you're not familiar with CSAs, here's how they generally work: the consumer pays a specific sum up front and in exchange the producer/farmer promises to deliver products according to an agreed upon schedule later in the year/season. It's a way for small producers to make money earlier in the production process, freeing them from constant marketing to focus on what really matters - in this case, making cheese.

Here in the Pacific Northwest quite a few produce farmers sell vegetables through weekly CSAs (see Helsing Junction Farms in Chehalis, WA, for example) but this sales method has not been all that popular with the area's cheese community. The only other regional cheese CSA that I'm aware of is run by Quillisascut Farms of Rice, Washington. Anyone know of any others? A quick Google survey shows that there are a few (but not all that many) cheese producers nationally that offer a cheese CSA program  - see, for example, Shady Apple Goat Farm in Pennsylvania. The most commonly cited reason I've heard from producers for NOT doing a CSA is the time and energy required to administer the program.

This is a great opportunity to support a local cheesemaker. For more specifics on Jacobs Creamery's CSA contact Lisa Jacobs (info here) or catch her at the Portland Farmers Market on Saturdays.

American Cheese Society Competition 2012 :: Northwest Winners

Beecher's Handmade Cheese of Seattle took the top prize in this years American Cheese Society Competition with its lovely Flagsheep cheese! (note: that's not Flagship, the other cheese Beecher's is known for). Flagsheep - photo on the left - is a mixed milk cheese made from cow and sheep's milk and has a lovely, rich buttery flavor. Congratulations to Kurt Dammeier and the crew at Beecher's on the win! It's also worth noting that this is the 3rd time in four years that a cheese from the Pacific Northwest has taken Best in Show at the competition - Rogue Creamery won in both 2009 and 2011 for its Rogue River Blue. Find the complete list of winners here.

Best in Show:   Beecher's Handmade Cheese - Flagsheep (WA)

2nd runner up - Valley Shepherd Crema de Blue  (NJ)

3rd runner up -  Emmi Roth Grand Cru Surchoix (WI)


Beecher's Handmade Cheese (WA)

1st Place - Cheddar Flavored with Peppers - Marco Polo Reserve 1st Place - Original Recipe (sheep's milk or mixed milk) - Flagsheep 3rd Place - Cheddar with Sweet Flavorings - Yule Kase

Black Sheep Creamery (WA)

1st place - Open Category Aged Over 60 days (w/ sheep's milk) - St. Helens

Briar Rose Creamery (OR)

3rd Place - Fresh Goat's Milk Cheese (flavor added) - Chocolate Chèvre Truffles

Mt. Townsend Creamery (WA)

1st Place - Monterey Jack (cow's milk) - New Moon

Mystery Bay Farm (WA)

2nd Place - Fresh Goat Cheese - Fresh chèvre

Ochoa's Queseria (OR)

3rd place - Fresh Cheeses (all milks) - Don Froylan Queso Oaxaca

Rivers Edge Chévre (OR)

3rd Place - Original Recipe (goat's milk) - Beltane 3rd Place - Farmstead Category/Soft (all milks) - Siltcoos

Rogue Creamery (OR)

2nd Place - Blue Veined Cheese with External Rind (cow's milk) - Flora Nelle 1st Place - Rindless Blue Veined (cow's milk) - Oregon Blue

Tillamook County Creamery Association (OR)

1st Place - Colby (cow's milk) 3rd Place - Mature Cheddar Aged Between 24-48 mo. 3rd Place - Flavored Montery Jacks - Hot Habanero Jack 2nd Place - Unsalted Butter (cow's milk)

Willamette Valley Cheese Co. (OR)

3rd Place - Dutch Style (all milks) - Farmstead Gouda 3rd Place - Open Category Aged Over 60 days (with sheep's milk) - Perrydale

Willapa Hills Farmstead Cheese (WA)

1st Place - Blue Veined Cheese with External Rind (cow's milk) - Big Boy Blue

[photo courtesy Beecher's Handmade Cheese]