Author Topic: Hi from Washington, DC  (Read 758 times)

Offline Case at the Fæt

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Hi from Washington, DC
« on: November 28, 2012, 10:48:06 PM »
Hi everyone,

I've now spent a few days on the site and have been impressed by the volume and quality of information in this forum.  Thank you in advance to all of you who have made this such a great resource. 

I live in the heart of the US capital, only about a 15 minute walk from the Capitol Building.  I grew up in Lancaster, Pennsylvania on a relatively small cow dairy called Verdant View Farm (http://www.verdantview.com/)  My parents still run the dairy farm as well as a bed and breakfast and farm tour business though two of my siblings and their spouses are now in the process of transitioning to take over the operations. 

Dairy farming goes back many generations in my family.  My father's side of the family descends from one of two Huguenot brothers who emigrated from France to Lancaster, PA in 1729 and we've been farming in the area ever since.  While my family assimilated into American culture and stopped speaking French a long time ago, we are a polyglot family who enjoys living and traveling all over the world.  My parents, sisters, and I all speak Portuguese from living in Brazil and Portugal at different times and I also speak Turkish and know some Arabic and Hebrew, too. 

While I grew up on mostly boring American cheeses, like many an American before me, traveling through Portugal, Spain, France, Germany, Turkey, and other places helped open the world of possibilities to me when it comes to cheese, wine, and other wonderful food. 

I now work in finance and government full-time but also work as a cheesemonger at an exciting new cheese stand called Righteous Cheese in Washington, DC's newly renovated Union Market (http://unionmarketdc.com/themarket/artisans/righteous-cheese/).  We retail about 60-70 artisanal American and European cheeses. 

While I love selling cheese on the weekends, my real passion is making cheese.  It started with Ricki Carroll's book several years ago and I've now made a few recipes out of Mary Karlin's book but am excited to graduate from these basic books to a more science-based process.  My new pH meter has been ordered and should be arriving soon.  I can't wait to use it to try to make my 3rd batch of reblochon, using Iratherfly's recipe. 

My longer-term interests are to move back to Lancaster, Pennsylvania and start my own creamery.  I'd like to make a handful of high quality artisanal cheeses that could be sold in the Southeastern Pennsylvania market.  In order to make all of this happen I am working on a business plan, intend to take the certification class offered by the Vermont Institute for Artisan Cheese (VIAC), and would really like to work as an apprentice for other cheese makers who are making wonderful cheeses, whether in the US, Canada, or particularly in France. I recently bought an Assimil book to teach myself French and am making some progress.

My passion for cheese knows few bounds.  I recently joined the American Cheese Society, went to the conference in Raleigh, and even drug my girlfriend through the countryside of Quebec for a grand cheese tour this past summer.

Mostly I'm just excited to join this community of people who share a passion for cheese and to learn from you all and contribute where I can.
« Last Edit: November 29, 2012, 09:03:41 AM by Case at the Fæt »
He cut off a sliver of reblochon and sampled it...he waved the cheese knife."  J.M. White, Garden Game, 1973 (OED)

Offline george (MaryJ)

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Re: Hi from Washington, DC
« Reply #1 on: November 29, 2012, 04:45:57 AM »
Welcome, Case!  Sounds like you're all set to start providing us with lots of makes to read about - yay!

I spent 20+ years in Alexandria before moving back to RI about three years ago.  Righteous Cheese sounds great!  I have to admit that I was REALLY excited when Cheesetique opened, but then never actually went there.  Out of fear.  A perfectly valid fear that every dime I made from then on would go straight into their cash register.  Now, of course, I regret that.

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Offline Boofer

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Re: Hi from Washington, DC
« Reply #2 on: November 29, 2012, 08:07:44 AM »
Welcome to the forum, Case.

You have a very interesting story and I look forward to following your cheese exploits here. Search on the forum and if you don't find what you're looking for, ask questions. There is some depth to the information herein.

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Offline H-K-J

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Re: Hi from Washington, DC
« Reply #3 on: November 29, 2012, 10:42:30 AM »
Welcome to the Forum :)
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But the ability to cope with it."

Offline Tom Turophile / CheeseStud

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Re: Hi from Washington, DC
« Reply #4 on: November 29, 2012, 04:00:38 PM »
Plenty of good cheese coming from that area; in fact, there was one featured in Culture (Autumn 12) -- Misty Creek -- that I visited two years ago.  I also enjoyed September Farms.

Looks like you grew up a stone's throw from Dutch Wonderland; I first went there 30 years ago, and I can't believe how small it looks now.
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Offline Case at the Fæt

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Re: Hi from Washington, DC
« Reply #5 on: December 01, 2012, 12:55:56 PM »
Thanks everyone for the warm welcome.

@George, I'm thinking about heading over to Cheesetique later today, I've lived in the city for about 6 years and have yet to visit, which is really quite a shame.

@Boofer, thanks for the tips on searching the forum. I still find it a little tedious but I'm getting better at it.

@Tom, I missed the profile of Misty Creek in Culture so will go look it up, that's great!  I actually know the owner, Amos, quite well and spent a day making cheese with him during the first year he got started.  In the past few years I've always stopped in to buy some of his fresh goat milk.  I've found it to be very high quality and have had good success making cheese with it.  I've also visited September Farm and they have a beautiful facility. 

He cut off a sliver of reblochon and sampled it...he waved the cheese knife."  J.M. White, Garden Game, 1973 (OED)

Offline iratherfly

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Re: Hi from Washington, DC
« Reply #6 on: December 02, 2012, 08:17:18 AM »
Haven't been on in about 10 days but let me return with a warm welcome!  ...another Reblochon convert n the making! I can feel your love, passion and dedication to this craft and you are in very good company here. I am in NYC and I have been getting lots of raw milk from Lancaster county PA too (one farmer which I particularly like has rare Dutch Belted breed cows).  VIAC offers some great courses and have world class cheesemakers as visiting instructors, but it's not a necessity to get a creamery off the ground.  I am going in parallel route and in addition to my supply business I am also working towards an urban Brooklyn creamery (which will share space with the supply business).  I still haven't checked out the cheese scene in DC but thanks for the tips!

What sort of cheeses are you working on now?

Offline Case at the Fæt

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Re: Hi from Washington, DC
« Reply #7 on: December 02, 2012, 09:33:23 AM »
I am in NYC and I have been getting lots of raw milk from Lancaster county PA too (one farmer which I particularly like has rare Dutch Belted breed cows). 

I think I know the farm you're talking about, I've driven past a few times on my trek between my parents' farm and DC, it's in the southern end of the county, pretty close to the Mason-Dixon line, no?  Have you ever gotten milk from Pequea Valley farm?  They have grass-fed (i.e. no silage) Jersey milk and it is some of the creamiest, most golden milk I've ever had.  I made camembert from it a few years ago and wow was it creamy and delicious.  It was a completely different world than the holstein milk I was accustomed to dealing with, and even this holstein milk was relatively high in butterfat (about 4%) compared to typical holstein milk.  Here's a bit on the Yogurt (the article, ironically, starts off incorrectly telling people how to pronounce "Pequea."  I'm a local and I can assure you that it's pronounced "peck-way" and not "PECK-wah)  But that's all nit-picking, it is delicious yogurt and well-adapted to American tastes (i.e. sadly, lots of sugar added).  Purists like me still like the plain, however, because it's choc full of naturally-occurring butterfat with no sugar added.

VIAC offers some great courses and have world class cheesemakers as visiting instructors, but it's not a necessity to get a creamery off the ground. 

I appreciate the point that VIAC's expensive course isn't necessary to get a creamery off the ground but I'd like to do it partly for the other reasons you mention.  I have two of Paul Kinstedt's books and I'd really like to meet and learn from him and the others at VIAC.  Mostly I want to get to know the visiting instructors and cheesemakers because I'd really like to start practicing with masters of the craft, whether in the US or Europe. 

I am going in parallel route and in addition to my supply business I am also working towards an urban Brooklyn creamery (which will share space with the supply business).  I still haven't checked out the cheese scene in DC but thanks for the tips!

That's fantastic and exciting news.  I, for one, am very excited to follow your progress and will be rooting for your success.  Would love to come visit the shop when you have it up and running and I look forward to being a regular customer.

What sort of cheeses are you working on now?

I'm at a cross-roads!  After taking a two-year hiatus while I focused on my career in DC, as of June I'm now back to making cheese in my kitchen.  I bought a little wine fridge and the other supplies I needed, found a grass-fed guernsey cow-share that's not too far away, and am back at it.  I started by making several wheels of gruyere but then grew impatient about waiting 8-12 months for them to age, so I'm now experimenting with washed-rind cheeses for the first time and hence my first batch of reblochon last week.

When I first got started several years ago I made several of the montasio, parmesan, and other hard aged-cheese recipes as well as a few of the bloomy rind recipes in RC's book.  Some of them turned out beautifully after aging them in the mud cellar behind the "stripping room" (stick with me, Boofer, this is not what you think it is) of our tabacco shed (see photo below of men stripping...tobacco leaves).

This is a topic for another thread but the big question in my mind now is, of course, what types of cheese are the most exciting and sensible for me to try to make and turn commercial.  Experimenting in my kitchen is great fun but it's also serving a greater purpose, it's helping me narrow the options until I settle on one or two that I feel like make sense to get me started.
He cut off a sliver of reblochon and sampled it...he waved the cheese knife."  J.M. White, Garden Game, 1973 (OED)

Offline Boofer

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Re: Hi from Washington, DC
« Reply #8 on: December 02, 2012, 11:29:50 AM »
Ooh, a stripping room... :-[

This is a topic for another thread but the big question in my mind now is, of course, what types of cheese are the most exciting and sensible for me to try to make and turn commercial.
This should be interesting....

I'm not personally heading in a commercial direction, but I am fascinated by what attracts people to different cheeses. In my limited cheese world I make a few different types of cheese and then share them with family and friends, asking for their unvarnished opinions. While I may thoroughly enjoy a cheese and feel quite pleased with the results of my efforts, feedback may say something else entirely. Yes, I realize I may be a bit biased, but some cheeses that I felt were off the line came back with glowing reviews. My recent Reblochon #4 had one reviewer praising it and another saying the opposite (apparently washed-rinds were just not his cup of tea).

Sailor con Queso has been working the commercial side for a while now. I would think he might have some worthwhile suggestions for what the public wants and what is commercially viable.

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Offline Al Lewis

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Re: Hi from Washington, DC
« Reply #9 on: December 02, 2012, 02:50:17 PM »
Yeah, there are guys stripping leaves off of plants in basements here in Washington State too but it isn't tobacco. LOL O0

Offline iratherfly

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Re: Hi from Washington, DC
« Reply #10 on: December 02, 2012, 11:59:03 PM »
Never been to Pequea Valley farm. I will ask about it!
The farm where I get the raw milk (Spring Water Farm) actually delivers it to the city. I have never been on the premises (though seen videos) but I look forward to visit on one of their upcoming customer appreciation days.

This is a topic for another thread but the big question in my mind now is, of course, what types of cheese are the most exciting and sensible for me to try to make and turn commercial.  Experimenting in my kitchen is great fun but it's also serving a greater purpose, it's helping me narrow the options until I settle on one or two that I feel like make sense to get me started.

You know, it's a bit like a painter asking what type of painting will make great commercial art... follow your instincts and what you love and I assure you that there's a market for that. As an artisan producer you should never be afraid of uniqueness and creativity that expresses your personality and love of the product. When you start thinking of cheese as a consumer product you will naturally give people tastings and collect feedback so you know where you stand and that you are not operating in a vacuum.  You will find yourself beginning to ask targeted questions (instead of "is it good?" and "did you like it?" you will ask, "is there any bitterness in the after taste?" "would you have enjoyed it more supple or more springy?" etc.). You will also place the opinions of professionals above plain consumers. It's not that plain consumers don't matter; it's just that cheese that is respected by professionals will most likely be top notch for the plain consumer. The difference is that the plain consumer will not be able to decipher what is it about the cheese that they like or don't. Professionals can break it to pieces and it's up to you to agree or disagree, but when the opinion is detailed, it is easier for you to change production variables because you would speak the same language. 

Okay, I veered off subject there for a second. To me, cheeses that speak for the terroir, for a great animal and its feed and for masterful cheesemaking and aging skills. I am partial to bloomy and washed rind cheeses with supple textures.  I enjoy making them.  Putting a creamery plan together though, I began to think about it more practically. As a startup creamery, I can't afford to begin by sitting on aging stock for many months. (not to mention the months of experimentation it takes to get them right in production).  Bloomies have their own issues.  Yes, you can sell them for more because the retail per Lb is the same yet the yield per gallon is higher (moisture content). They are not as stable and as they are turning ammoniated and headed to doom, the clock is ticking about selling them. Not great for a startup creamery without extensive market share.  they also require lots of babysitting and better shipping/packaging logistics.  Moreover, 60 day bloomies are just a bad idea, so there goes any ambition for raw milk creamery. So what we are left with are those in-between, 60-90 day blues, Tommes and washed rinds.  This is what I am going for. Can sell in as little as 60 days but can still be stable at 120 days. Not as sensitive to changing conditions in shipping. Enough time to develop a variety of deep characteristics of flavors, aroma, appearance and textures. Less risk. For me raw milk is the way to go. The flavor and quality you can get out of it are superior to pasteurized products and that's enough of a reason.  But a huge bonus is that it's actually easier and cheaper to make. Less cultures, no need to buy a pasteurizer and maintain pasteurization record, etc. It's easier with inspection and safety. My 5¢...