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.

Cheese News November 2012

@@  Nancy Leson of the Seattle Times wrote a glowing piece recently about Meghan McKenna, cheesemaker at Washington's Mountain Lodge Farm. I recently visited the farm, tucked into the foothills of Mt. Rainier east of Tacoma, and I have to agree, this cheesemaker is one to watch! @@  Christine Hyatt has produced a series of outstanding videos about a number of Oregon's cheesemakers. Her latest covers Liz Alvis of Portland Creamery (see here).

@@ Now open in Portland - Clay Pigeon Winery and its associated wine bar, Cyril's at Clay Pigeon. This project is the brainchild of Sasha Davies and Michael Claypool; Sasha is well known in cheese circles as an expert cheesemonger and author of The Guide to West Coast Cheese and the new The Cheesemaker's Apprentice: An Insider's Guide to the Art and Craft of Homemade Artisan Cheese, among many other things. Michael and Sasha's Cheese by Hand project chronicled their 2006 trip across the country visiting dozens of artisan cheese makers.

@@  Bandon, Oregon used to be famous for its cheese factory. The factory struggled financially though, and in 2002 the Tillamook County Creamery Association purchased the factory, later closing it. Now plans are underway to revive the legacy of cheesemaking on the southern Oregon coast - Face Rock Creamery hopes to be open by Summer 2013.

@@  It's what they call "Cyber Monday," and don't forget that you can also order cheese online as well as iPads and Xboxes... A number of the Pacific Northwest's cheesemakers offer online ordering, including Rogue Creamery, Mt. Townsend CreameryBeecher's Handmade Cheese, Tumalo Farms, and Willapa Hills Farmstead Cheese. You can also order cheese online from Oregon State University (the new Beaver Classic) and Washington State University (Cougar Gold plus several other styles). Other cheesemakers, including Little Brown Farm on Whidbey Island in Washington and Briar Rose Creamery in Oregon's wine country, host on-farm stores if you're in their area. Don't forget local cheese for the holidays!

@@  Speaking of Beecher's Handmade Cheese, word is that they're producing a new cow's milk cheese at the New York plant called Dutch Hollow Dulcet. I guess we can't really consider this a new Northwest cheese, since it's made from New York milk in a New York facility...can we?

Mystery Bay Farm

Mystery Bay FarmI’m always interested in learning how cheesemakers got into the industry; sometimes cheesemaking is a career change, other times it’s an extension of an existing dairy business. For Rachael VanLaanen and Scott Brinton, cheese is one piece of a larger puzzle: it’s helping their small family farm thrive and sustain itself. Rachael and Scott started out growing market vegetables on their five acres. “We realized that we couldn’t afford the amount of land it would take to make that work financially, in the long term,” says Rachael. They already had a few goats, and she knew from befriending Dee Harley of Harley Farms while living in Northern California that making cheese had the potential to be a lucrative way to add value to a resource (goats) they already had. Milking goats also made sense environmentally. “I’m very focused on what I’m doing ecologically to the land, and goat’s browsing is really beneficial to the land in this area of Western Washington. We’re on a piece of land that’s really made for goats.” Goats are much more partial to the dense thickets and shrubs that characterize the area’s marine landscape.

Rachael had already accumulated an impressive cheesemaking education before going pro herself.  She spent a year and a half as an assistant cheesemaker at Mt. Townsend Creamery in Port Townsend (not far from her current farm). “I really enjoy cheesemaking,” she says. “I definitely feel like this is something I want to do long term.” After several years of careful planning and with the help of local investors, she started making cheese officially in May of this year (Scott does farm and pasture management and Rachael takes care of the goats and makes the cheese). The cheese comes from the milk of the farm’s current herd of seven Alpine goats, a small group that Rachael hopes will eventually grow to a maximum of about twenty.

Having worked for many years as a school garden and food based educator, Rachael is committed to developing Mystery Bay Farm as a center for education as well as cheesemaking. “People really want to engage with farms,” she says. “Not everyone has a context for where their food comes from. When you say this food or cheese is a ‘sustainable product’ they might not understand what that means. They can visit our farm and see what that really looks like.”

Right now, Rachael is currently making fresh chevre (both plain and flavored), ricotta and a surface ripened crottin. An aged tomme is in the development stages. Mystery Bay Farm products can be found at the Pt. Townsend Farmer’s Market on Saturdays during the season.

For more information and photos of the creamery’s startup see Wil Edwards’ Culture Magazine Blog - Birth of a Dairy.

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Mystery Bay Farm 72 Beveridge Lane Nordland, WA 98358 (360) 385-3309