I was wandering around the Encino, California Farmers Market last weekend. It’s not huge as farmers markets go, but it’s always a good place to stop for culinary inspiration. I came upon a booth, Drake Family Farms , that was selling artisan
farmstead goat cheese. What stopped me was the tag line, “Where Every Goat Has a Name.” How cute is that? I couldn’t resist.
Until fairly recently, it was my opinion that goat’s milk and cheese pretty much taste the way goats smell. Several dozen designer pizzas and salads over the years later, I have acquired a taste for goat cheese. The slight tanginess plays especially well with sweet/tart flavors of salads with candied nuts and apples in them. And goat cheese melts into lovely pools of creaminess on a pizza.
Drake Family Farms was sampling and selling 4 oz. containers of chèvre in various flavors including lemon/pepper, apricot/honey, basil, French herbs, garlic, jalapeño and my favorite, herbs de Provence. It’s the little bits of lavender mixed in with rosemary, thyme, fennel, basil and savory that does it for me. It imparts an especially luxurious taste spread onto crackers, crumbled into a salad or as part of a toasted portobello mushroom panini sandwich. These spreadable cheeses are almost like flavored cream cheeses, except that they are handmade in small batches, and contain less fat, cholesterol and carbohydrates than regular cream cheese and more calcium.
Back to “Every Goat Has a Name.” Checking out the website, the goats do indeed have names and you can buy them (or rather their offspring) if you are zoned right and so inclined. According to the Drake Family Farm website, “All the goats have names and are registered with the American Dairy Goat Association. We love our goats and give them a very high standard of care. Goats are like dogs with individual personalities and we consider every goat a pet. The herd consists of Nubian, Saanen, Alpine, and Snubian Goats.” The Drake Farm was started in Utah in 1880, but the farm in Ontario, CA began about 28 years ago with 143 goats brought over from the Utah spread. Dan Drake is a veterinarian specializing in dairy cattle during his “day job” but his real passion is raising his goats and marketing their creamy, flavorful cheeses .
At the Drake booth I met employees Danny Elkin from Boston and Jordan Kalish of Woodstock, NY (an aspiring vet!) who were handing out samples and knowledge about the Drake farm and chèvre. They seemed to share the enthusiasm for goats and their cheese, despite the chilly turn in the normally warm spring San Fernando Valley weather. The labels on the cheese containers say, “Artisan Farmstead Goat Cheese.” Danny and Jordan explained that “farmstead” means made on the farm with milk exclusively from the farm’s own goats. “Artisan or artisanal” is a cheese that is produced primarily by hand, in small batches, using as little mechanization as possible in its production.
Presumably with milk from goats with names.