On the Cheese Trail in West Marin

By Ted Cousens, Guest Epicurator

We traveled to Pt. Reyes Station to see what we could learn about local producers, with an intended visit to Pt. Reyes Station and Cowgirl Creamery, one of the stars of artisan cheesemaking in West Marin. However, on the way as we cruised Nicasio Valley road, I bumped and bruised my fellow passengers in the car by skidding to a stop at an unassuming little farm stand which turned out to be the Nicasio Valley Cheese Company.  Upon stepping inside, I met Natalie and Scott Lefranchi (pictured), whose family have owned the dairy farm since 1919, and in the last five years, a cheesemaking plant. The onsite plant produces a variety of cheeses based on family recipes from Switzerland and Italy that range from mild to wild—with Morning Fog being the easiest on the palate. Formagella is a harder cheese with a grassy aroma and medium tang. Morning Square is a washed rind cheese that is strong, slightly smoky and very creamy in texture. Tasting was encouraged and while we nibbled our way down La Rue de Fromage, we learned that theirs is a ‘Farmstead’ operation meaning that all the cheese produced on the premises is based on organic milk produced from their own cows. ‘Farmstead’ is considered a notch above ‘Artisan,’ which is when the cheese maker has sourced the milk from a dairy, much like Cowgirl Creamery who get their milk from Straus Dairy (local heroes producing organic dairy products) which is only ten minutes away from their facility. The cheeses produced by the Lafranchi family were sumptuous, creamy and full of flavor, even the milder cheeses presented with distinctive aromas and tang. Next trip: To Cowgirl Creamery and Pt. Reyes Station.

 

Nicasio Cheese Company & Lafranchi Ranch

5300 Nicasio Valley Road, Nicasio, Ca. 94946

Tours and Tastings: Free, Thursday through Sunday 10:00-5:00 pm

Where to buy Nicasio Cheese

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Ted Cousens has been eating food his entire life; his major influences have been appetite, digestion, flavor and consistency. He has worked as a chef, sommelier, waiter, bartender and dishwasher at various times in his life. Like Anthony Bourdain, Ted enjoys searching out indigenous cuisine whenever he travels but will not likely be filmed while doing so.

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