Archive for the ‘Smoky Valley Goat Cheese’ Category

I’m Thankful for This Soup


I’ve been really grateful for the abundance around me lately. I feel a little like I’ve won the lottery [I don't buy tickets]. This soup kind of summed up my happiness of late. It’s a purée of winter squashes from my former lawned front yard, with celery and leek from my backyard garden + a whack of chevre from Holly. Atop it is a dollop of goat yogurt, wild lobster mushrooms a friend hooked me up with, some burdock root [from the garden] that was sautéed with a little bacon made from Nature’s Green Acres pig. This soup defined a moment, was unique, dynamic and tasted lovely. Every last bit of it was made from the garden, or from food received from a friend.

One of the things I’ll be grateful for this thanksgiving is for the relationships I’ve been building in the local food community. It has made every meal, no matter how small, more meaningful. Just like killing an animal gives you a deep respect for the use of its meats,  or growing your fruits and vegetables makes you love them that much more – so does having a close relationship with the folks that produce your food increase your connection to and enjoyment of their foods. Strange comparison, perhaps, but it’s true.

Amidst all the reasons to support your local farmer directly – health, chemical avoidance, sustainable ag, quality, freshness,  organics, whatever – community was not something I anticipated harvesting from doing so. And for that, I am grateful.

The Smoky Valley Cheese Tasting


I haven’t written about last Saturday’s event, which was an epic cheese event, but others have here, here, and here. Sarah and/or Chris edited this ode-to-the-evening-video to include in Chris’ post, and I couldn’t help but share it. Some good news about Smoky Valley Goat Cheese – they sold out in a few hours at the market this morning, CSA members are signing up, and a few big-name specialty retailers have contacted them wanting to carry their product [details as things materialize]. It’s starting to feel  like ‘Operation Save Our Artisan Goat Cheese‘ may have won the critical first battle.

FROM LOCAL FARMS – Smoky Valley Goat Cheese


Used to be that fine goat cheese was something my wife and I would enjoy while traveling in France. Ten years later, as did the Smart car and Sephora, artisan goat cheese showed its face in Edmonton. When Smoky Valley Goat Cheese arrived at our City Market this spring, I wrote about it immediately. It changed our household food culture overnight, and since then our cheese has been hand crafted by Holly Gale.

As you may know, I’ve been on a bit of a crusade of sorts lately, doing what I can to help one of too many small artisan farm operations  struggling with viability. And yes, there’s a reason their new website looks shockingly like my blog, as I have recently been charged with re-creating their online face, asap.

I often wondered how Holly could make such good cheese right out of the gates, but now I know – she’s been making small-batch, farmstead cheese for over 30 years. In the video she discusses some of the challenges [everpresent in the regional farming gig], inspirations, and goals for their artisan dairy. Forgive the impromptu camera folly as the goats played with my tripod during the interview, and ate my list of questions for Holly. Ah, goats.

Operation ‘Save Our Artisan Goat Cheese’ has begun


While taking care of production duties on the ‘From Local Farms‘ project, I learned from Holly – our regional artisan goat cheese producer slated for an episode – that their operation is facing a winter of financial-non-viability, and that they are at risk of being forced to close their doors. One of the sad, hard truths I’ve learned about while talking to farmers for my ‘From Local Farms‘ project  has been  the tenuous struggle many small producers face – especially come winter – if they can’t squeeze their way into one of the year-round markets, get off-farm  jobs, or otherwise find some way to make ends meet until the farmer’s markets re-open in May. In order to resolve this problem, Smoky Valley Goat Cheese is making the shift to a CSA [community supported agriculture] model where folks buy a share of production, and periodically pick up their share of what the farm produces – throughout the year. Common with vegetable farming, it has  also proven to be a successful model in the goat dairy business in Canada. A CSA approach can give the farmer more predictable year-round revenue, reduce waste by making use of all their product line on an ongoing basis, and on the consumer end makes you more deeply connected to the people and places behind our food – all while assuring the survival of the artisan producer in our rather disjointed food system. I feel that I already buy this way when it comes to meats, buying whole animals from small producers every year, so this model for cheese makes equal practical sense for me. And no butchering required!

In an effort to help them make this work, I’ve embarked upon what my wife and I are calling ‘Operation Save Our Artisan Goat Cheese‘. I’m going to be redesigning their website, hosting a tasting this weekend involving food writers, cooks, and critics in order to develop thorough tasting notes & recipe ideas, promoting their CSA program, and generally helping in any way I can to help save their important contribution to our regional food scene. We desperately need more producers like these folks, not fewer.

Their From Local Farms‘ episode is being shot Friday, and I’ll get it up as soon as I can. I’ll have details about their CSA program on their new website asap. In the meantime, if you value our local artisan producers, give some thought to getting involved in their CSA program. I’m in.

Smoky Valley Goat Cheese – Feta


No, their goat feta is not pink. It’s fantastically textured, confidently salty – but decidedly not pink [it was the roasted forono and bull's blood beets' fault]. We’ve recently had feta from what I thought would be  a fairly good source: the Italian Centre [I heart the ICS]. But this stuff killed it. No competition. The more I try their products, the more I wonder how exactly Holly is knocking it so out of the park with so many of her cheeses, so early on – as they’re really new to the local cheese game. And don’t you worry. I’ll  be there soon enough to find out why on camera for you.

Speaking of local farms, the footage has begun, my calendar is packing up with farm visits during an exciting harvest season, and there’s only a couple producers I’m waiting to hear back from before I’m pulling back the reigns and getting down to a heavy shooting and editing schedule. The latest addition: Sunworks Farm.

From Local Farms Project Update


This project is getting pretty big pretty fast, and I couldn’t be more pleased. Starting in September, I’m going to have a blog-doc-short episode featuring each of the following biggest and brightest talents in local artisan food production – and the list is growing daily: Sunworks Farm, Nature’s Green AcresSmoky Valley Goat Cheese, En Santé Winery, Serben Free Range, Sparrow’s Nest Organics, Mighty Trio Organics, Gold Forest Grains, Green Eggs & Ham, and Peck N Berry Acres. These are busy people and it’s a busy time of year, so I really appreciate their willingness to have me show you more about who they are and what they do.

How cool is that.

Smoky Valley Goat Cheese – Mountain Tomme


Having posted tasting notes of their St. Maure and Valencay, I was pleased to have yet another lovely looking goat cheese to tackle from this relatively new, yet fantastic producer. Holly, who tends the goats, cheesemaking, and market booth mentioned that this particular cheese will achieve more of what she’s looking for by the fall. She’s got me excited too now, as it’s pretty darn nice at the moment.

This one’s a different beast than the other two, as it’s not in the moist-and-creamy category. It’s a drier cheese – soft and subtle, making it very approachable for even the non-goat-cheese lover. Despite the dryness, it’s not grainy or crumbly, and for a point of reference is more akin to the offspring of an aged-cheddar-asiago marriage than chevre. The flavor is light, with sunflower seed nuttiness and butter notes. I found it to have a similar approach as some of my favorite French wines – nuanced, not in your face, and you have to dig a bit to get to the substance of it. Like classic vanilla.

Smokey Valley Goat Cheese will be featured in Sept/Oct in the upcoming blog-umentary-online-video series I’m producing called ‘From Local Farms‘. Holly will be showing you around the farm, and walking you through the cheesemaking process. How cool is that?!? I’m really excited to have a growing list of farms involved in the project, and just today started to get regional musicians get involved by donating their music to the soundtrack. Stay tuned – it’s turning out to be a pretty exciting project.

Smoky Valley Goat Cheese: Valencay


Smoky Valley's Valencay

After giving them a bit of a hard time, while heavily praising their St. Maure goat cheese, I had to amend that post regarding a one-week-60%- price-increase from $5 to $8. In what I’m guessing was a hard-knocks lesson in supply and demand, a couple weeks later their pricing was back down to $5. [note: I heard from the farmer shortly after that the price increase was due to them increasing the weight of the cheese. My bad] I rejoiced. I bought not only the St. Maure, but their Valencay. The St. Maure, perhaps due to it not moving for a while, perhaps not, was extremely runny – which doesn’t turn me off – but it was extremely runny only around the inside of the rind, while having a lump of nicely textured cheese inside the ring of runny goo. I’m used to mature cheeses having a consistent gradient of ooze. It seemed like a fault to me, as if storage had been an issue. [this was not a storage issue, they had run out of their usual culture spores] I could be wrong here, but I figured I may as well mention that I vastly preferred the fresher version with a consistent texture.

Anyway, I wanted this post to be about the Valencay. Because their website description seems to be yoinked from Wikipedia, I figured I’d offer some additional tasting notes. It this cheese were scored like a wine, I’d give it a 94. It’s ultra creamy. The thick white bloom rind has a soft spongy texture with the ash giving it a touch of fine grit. Probably not for everybody, but I like the texture dance. For me, the smell is shockingly evocative of stepping into a very old building or cave in Europe – in an entirely pleasureful and happy sense. It brings me right back to a hotel in Paris, a wine cellar in Burgundy, or shop in Pienza – it’s startling, and I wish I knew why. It’s not because I had similar cheese there. There’s some aromatic compound that is present in this cheese and those places that we simply don’t have here in abundance. I apparently have a crush on that biochemistry. The creamy interior is like eating a cream-cheese-button-mushroom, then a touch of ripe grass, and a long, delicate finish of goat. This is a fantastic old-world style cheese, and seems vastly out of place in our largely blah world of cheese. It’s is absolutely a re-buy at $5, and I pray their quality can remain consistent.

Smoky Valley Goat Cheese – St. Maure


I’m starting to find it charming how small producers of food stuffs often could use a hand in the marketing department. Smoky Valley Goat Cheese lacks a slick veneer of branding, and their website’s lovely description of their St. Maure seems to come directly from another website. Their sales pitch at their new place at the City Market Downtown needs work. But if one’s judging by the taste alone, it doesn’t matter.

We purchased their St. Maure Saturday morning and it is a lovely piece of hapiness all covered in white mold. From what I can tell it lacks the French version’s ash coating and straw down the middle, but otherwise brings me back to eating fine goat cheeses from the market in Chagny, Burgundy. [St. Maure is from Touraine, I know: besides the point]. At this stage of ripeness it smelled of grasses, was super creamy and lovely in texture, followed by a very nice goat cheese touch on the finish. We couldn’t stop eating it, and quickly decided that this particular product would be on our ‘to buy’ list on our weekly jaunt to the downtown market through the summer – primarily to top salads and eat as-is. And with bacon.

There was hole in the artisan goat cheese market here that badly need to be filled, and it’s a joy to see it closing.

Update a week later: They just upped their price from $5 to $8 on this. We didn’t buy it this week out of protest.