Our Marketplace Blog Series highlights items from our Marketplace, a haven for chef-recommended delectables and local specialties that belong in the hands of foodies everywhere. We work with our award-winning chefs to bring you products and brands that guarantee quality you can trust so you can effortlessly fill your pantry with premium essentials. We’re offering these items at prices you deserve, prices that make real ingredients an attainable part of everyone’s cooking arsenal.
Don’t just take our word for it, find out for yourself why our chefs hand-selected cheese from Cowgirl Creamery.
The Cowgirl Creamery Story
In ’76, two friends decided to pack up a baby blue Chevy van and head west. Seventeen years and two successful culinary careers later, Sue Conley and Peggy Smith founded Cowgirl Creamery, a bonafide institution in the Northern California cheese-making landscape. The success of their cult favorite, award-winning cheese is based on a simple ingredient—delicious, local milk. Since its inception, Cowgirl has been sourcing from neighboring Straus Family Creamery, and today they continue to feature milk from family dairies around the region.
We took a trip to Point Reyes, to the original barn where Cowgirl Creamery got its start, to find out how they made the cheese and how it became such a national success. Oh—and we got to taste some profoundly incredible cheese.
The Bordeaux of Milk
It’s no coincidence that Cowgirl Creamery was born in the beautiful rolling hills of West Marin, the comparatively rural, stunningly scenic, coastal region of the county just north of San Francisco. In fact, this picturesque landscape has been home to dairy farmers since the late 1800’s. Inspired by Alice Waters of the legendary Chez Panisse and the burgeoning local food movement that was taking root in California when they arrived in the 1970’s, Sue and Peggy gravitated towards the exceptional farmland beyond the Golden Gate Bridge.
During our tour of the facilities, our tour guide and certified cheesemonger, Hillary, provided an apt insight into Sue and Peggy’s choice of location: “We have really special land here—grassy hills and a gentle, hospitable climate for cows and their healthy, out-to-pasture lifestyle. It’s similar to the northern Mediterranean, where cows can graze outside most of the year. We like to think of West Marin as the Bordeaux of milk.”
In the same way that the Bordeaux’s geographic location lends itself to exceptional wine, dairies in Marin have flourished due to more than tradition—the climate and terroir are perfect for premium milk production. You just can’t get milk that tastes like Marin milk, anywhere besides Marin.
Stewards of the Culture
As the Bay Area grew in population and industry throughout the 1970’s, family dairies in Marin were at risk of losing out to new housing developments. A woman by the name of Ellen Straus (sound familiar?) sought to prevent these developments, founding the Marin Agricultural Land Trust (MALT) with biologist Phyllis Faber in 1980 to protect desirable West Marin farmland. She saw something unique in this coastal paradise—an opportunity to cultivate sustainability and preserve the excellence innate to the land.
One day, Ellen Straus came to Sue Conley’s house to canvas for a local politician. They realized they shared a passion, and the two decided to start selling milk as a vehicle to promote sustainability. By showcasing the quality of Marin milk, they were sure they could motivate people to protect Marin’s natural landscape. Sue and Peg then took up the torch to take this mission to new heights.
Very much a vanguard of the modern cheese revolution, they use handmade, artisanal products as a countermeasure against the commoditization of cheese that has been taking the US by storm for decades. In addition to making excellent local products, Cowgirl sources craftsman cheeses from across the globe, like Parmigiano-Reggiano, to show the American consumer just what “artisanal” means, both locally and abroad.
A Tale of Two Cheeses
We are proudly offering exclusive member access to two of Cowgirl Creamery’s best cheeses on our Marketplace. Each hand-crafted morsel has its own unique flavor profile that pairs elegantly with a variety of foods. Our hosts at Cowgirl Creamery were kind enough to let us taste both of these delectable morsels, and here’s what we experienced.
Nothing says creamy quite like Cowgirl Creamery’s signature product. A majestically simple cheese, Mt. Tam is smooth, decadent, and exquisitely buttery with gentle notes of white mushroom. Made with organic milk from Straus Family Dairy, you can pair this cheese with just about anything. Then again, it’s pretty darn fantastic on its own.
This seasonal delight, produced with 100% Jersey cow milk, is more savory than Mt. Tam but just as creamy. The cold weather means more dry feed for the local Jersey cows, giving their organic milk a thicker, richer quality. The resulting cheese is spritzed with Quady Winery’s Muscat wine and dusted with sweet and spicy heirloom peppers from Allstar Organics. The buttery texture tempers the piquant seasoning, allowing each bite to feature dynamic, balanced flavors—if you consider your palate refined, this is the cheese for you.
We all left the barn with smiles on our faces (and cheese in our bellies). Finding partners like Cowgirl Creamery is imperative to achieving our mission, bonding together like-minded producers to promote premium food that exudes sustainability.
Whether you pack it up in a basket for your next picnic or simply cut yourself a wedge from the fridge to get yourself through the day, remember that you are promoting sustainable agriculture with every decadent bite. If you are interested in learning more about MALT, visit their website here and learn about how you can help save Marin County’s farms and ranches.
Munchery members in SF—bring Cowgirl Creamery’s world of creamy grandeur right to your doorstep! Head over to our Marketplace today, where you’ll find both Mt. Tam and Devil’s Gulch for a deliciously low price.