Sunday, August 30, 2009

Check out my latest post on Rogue Creamery!

After a long break, I'm back to blogging - this time about the thriving food scene in the Southern Oregon's Rogue Valley!

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~The Wayward Chef

For the love of cheese

There are a lot of adjustments and sacrifices a food “enthusiast” makes when bidding adieu to life in the big city. When I said goodbye to New York to jump on a yacht sailing down to the Caribbean, I also said goodbye to my favorite butcher, fishmonger, ethnic markets, gourmet stores and most difficult of all, the cheese counter at Murray’s Cheese in Greenwich Village. Granted, I traded those places for white sandy beaches, and bartering with Rasta’s over the price of breadfruit and mangoes, so who am I to complain? But, even in a tropical paradise, I pined for a good butcher and a respectable cheese counter.

So here I am, once again, “officially” bidding farewell to one world and jumping into another. I’ve turned down several offers aboard yachts, instead opting for life on land in a quiet, little community in Southern Oregon’s Rogue Valley. As I’ve made my home here over the past few months, there are adjustments and sacrifices too. No white sand beaches, I have yet to find a good butcher, and I have lamented for months the lack of a “real” cheese counter here as I’ve pawed through the pre-cut, shrink-wrapped wedges of pepper jack, brie and blue in the cheese section of my local food co-op. I've missed the experience of smelling, sampling and ordering – and that warm, fuzzy feeling knowing that each wedge was being cut fresh from a big wheel, just for me. But today, my luck changed. As I lamented the sorry state of those poor, cryogenically sealed delicacies a message comes across my iPhone, “Rogue Creamery has Burrata and fresh buffalo mozzerella!” Fresh Burrata? Reason enough play hooky from work and drive out to the creamery in Central Point. I’ve been meaning to check that place out…


I thought I was taking another step in my new world, in my new life, as I pushed through the doors of Rogue Creamery, but instead it was just like a taste of my old life again. There, behind a gorgeous cheese counter, with his cheese shirt and baseball cap, glasses pushed up on his nose, and a big, cheese-loving smile spread across his face, was my old friend, Tom Van Voorhees, the leading, ACS award winning cheesemonger in the US (and formerly of the aforementioned Murray’s Cheese, Fairway, and Tuller Premium Food). A basket of heirloom tomatoes and a sampling of Burrata, that amazing cream-filled Italian mozzerella, sat on a small tasting table in front of the cheese case. I’ve had Burrata before, but couldn’t help but sample it again. It was so fresh tasting, I asked Tom if it had just been flown in from Italy. “Nope, it’s handmade in Southern California by Gioia Cheese Company” What? No way, Burrata this good cannot be from the United States. I didn’t believe him. “It is”, Tom said, “and half its shelf life isn’t gone by the time we receive it here, like it would be with Burrata from Italy”. Oh my god, my prayers have been answered. Who needs New York City when you have Rogue Creamery?

I perused the cheese selection and am happy to report that not only does Rogue Creamery carry it’s full line of award winning blue cheeses, curds, and fresh-churned butter, but they also have probably one of the finest selections of American made, artisan cheeses I’ve ever seen (and tasted) – this side of the Mississippi. Edelweiss Emanthaler raw milk aged swiss and Pleasant Ridge Reserve, both from Wisconsin. Pholia Farms raw farmstead goat cheese from Rogue River; Cyrpus Grove; Tumalo Farms from Bend; “Up In Smoke” chevre from River’s Edge on the Oregon Coast. And, a few essential European cheeses, for good measure. “Yeah, we pretty much don’t carry any boring, mass-produced cheese” Tom told me, in his usual matter-of-fact manner, as he handed me a golden, crystal-flecked shard of a 4-year aged Gouda.

So, I traded my cheesemonger in New York for the Rasta’s in the Caribbean. But now, my little piece of New York is here. Perhaps my sacrifice is trading back the Rasta’s in the Caribbean for my cheesemonger. That’s a faire enough trade-off to me. And heaven knows - if I really need a dose of trustafarians Rastafarians, all I have to do is go for a walk through downtown Ashland. In the meantime, I’ll be sampling my way through Rogue Creamery and weighing whether the sacrifice is worth it…

Rogue Creamery
311 North Front Street
Central Point, Or 97502

Cheese shop hours:
M-F 9am to 5pm
Sat 9am to 6pm
Sun 11am to 5pm

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