Hello from sunny southern California! I’m in Orange County for the next few days to see my family. However, this week’s blog post is from an AMAZING day I spent in Valley Ford, CA, meeting Gypsy Cheese Company! I got to see owners Lauren and Jon Bowne flip cheeses before we moved on to their gorgeous farmhouse, where I spent the rest of the afternoon taking cheese and family portraits.
The happiest surprise of the day? Pulling up to the creamery in the middle of nowhere, and finding most of the team from Mission Cheese crowded around Samson, the Anatolian shepherd owned by Pug’s Leap Cheese proprietor Anna Hancock.
Here are the cheeses of Gypsy Cheese Company, and some condiment pairings I found from my subsequent tasting.
This is Gypsy’s feta cheese, made from raw goat’s milk. It is aged 60-90 days in whey brine, and comes in a gorgeous, snow-white, basket-formed round. Its texture and flavor are like a bubble—it bursts immediately with its fresh salty, milkiness before dissolving away. I would unabashedly crumble this over everything!
This marinated feta makes me want to just dip a huge hunk of bread straight into the container. It is the Bownes’ traditional feta marinated in olive oil and a mix of herbs, which mellows out the cheese’s flavor. Savoring a mouthful of this treat is like experiencing the Mediterranean coast in a jar, always a great thing.
Django is a tomme-style cow-goat blend, with a gorgeous basket weave on the rind. Its pale yellow paste is slightly crumbly, with small eyes throughout. With its sweet cream aroma, if I weren’t already in a charming farmhouse in Petaluma, I would have imagined I was. Tasting Django was a delight all around. It’s got an interesting texture, slightly crumbly, not at all creamy. It also has a quality that sort of dries out the mouth, like a high tannin wine, which I thought was unusual. Django tastes as clean as it smells—tangy up front, rather lactic, with minimal salt. The rind offers a fresh grass quality that’s just like the farm just outside the creamery doors.
Pairing: Try this with Blue Chair Fruit’s quince jelly with rose geranium. It tastes like spring!
This cheese is so new, it doesn’t yet have a label! This also seems to be a goat-cow blend, but more aged than Django. It looked like Django’s older brother, with a similar basket weave pattern on the rind, and stout figure. Its paste is a little on the flinty side. And that smell—Zola smells like leather, robust and hearty. You could almost imagine it sitting in an aging room for months, pondering its lactic existence. Tasting Zola, I loved the dry, crumbling texture, and its flavor reminiscent of buttered, toasted almonds. Serve this on a cheese plate, or try grating it!
Pairing: L’Epicurien’s Espelette Chili Jelly. I loved the slight kick in the jelly and how much the jelly’s flavor complemented the cheese’s buttery qualities.
Rosebud is like a miniature version of the Bownes’ whey-brine washed cheese, Gypsy Rose. It comes in button-sized rounds of dusky orange and coral. Faint traces of white surround the cheese. It almost does look like a rosebud! Opening the wheel, there are some small holes throughout the burnt white paste. It smells slightly funky, with some earth. I LOVED tasting this cheese. Its texture is beautifully smooth, dissipating so smoothly onto the tongue. Its full flavor is like a three act play: salty and tangy up front, fading into burnt butter on the long finish, then turning into fresh grass on the rind. Did I mention I loved this cheese?
Pairing: The Jam Stand’s Sweet Wino-nion jam. Actually, this jam went well with almost everything, but it especially worked well to balance out the cheese’s front end burst of flavor.
Gypsy Rose is a raw goat milk cheese washed regularly with whey-brine solution to help it achieve its orange-clay glow and full flavor. It comes in photo-album-sized squares (although are much more savory). The first thing anyone is likely to remember about Gypsy Rose? Its aroma. There’s a LOT of funk going on in that cheese; my allergy-clogged sinuses could still pick it up. Once you get past that, though, this cheese’s silky, semi-soft paste and meaty flavor will make you fall in love. I especially savored the long, mineral-y finish. Gypsy Rose needs a big pairing. If I had a Bordeaux blend on hand, I would reach for it.
Pairing: Bernard Michaud’s chestnut honey paired marvelously well! The honey’s deep, woodsy quality complemented the rich cheese.
After the cheese portraits were taken, I took a few family photographs of the Bownes as well. I THOROUGHLY love my decision to plunge into photography, and am enjoying the journey!
If you want more tastings, see this tasting of Vulto Creamery’s cheeses.
Do you want me to photograph your products or people? Email me, and we can talk about it!