Monday, July 23, 2007

Goat Herd Mentality

In any intense foodie population, you'll be hearing about some favorite purveyors, restaurants, farmers... again and again. It's as if we had formed a club and we're all reading each others' comments and basing our opinions on what we learn and...
Wait. Yeah. We have. That's just exactly what we're doing here in the food blogs, and in the newspaper food sections too.
We're all recycling one another's group knowledge.
Pimientos de Padrón are fun because every now and then you get a really hot one and that's — fun.

Bi-Rite Creamery is oh, so, you know... What, you haven't been there yet?

Maldon salt. Yeah, baby. That's the shiz.
Well, I'm guilty of some of that groupthink myself.
But there are other purveyors that just get overlooked, or even dissed, and I don't understand why. Maybe they got a bad review. Maybe they've never been reviewed. Does that make me wrong for liking them?
If I fall in love with a "shunned" cheese, is it like having a crush on the pimply nerd in 7th grade? (Oh, you picked the ugly one! Ha.)
A bunch of years ago I was with a gathering of food literati in the Bay Area, and I mentioned liking Point Reyes Farmstead blue cheese. Everyone else at the table chanted in unison, "It's too acidic." As if they were reading from cue cards. Frankly, I believe they were mentally reciting a review they'd all read, and had never bothered to form their own personal opinions on the cheese, or to even trust their own opinions. I have a fairly fine-tuned sense of taste, and I happen to like the Point Reyes blue. Not too acidic for me.
Another cheese I've been enjoying for years comes from the Bodega Goat Cheese company in Sonoma County. I couldn't tell you the exact variety I usually buy, even though I'm looking right now at a list of their products, but I can always recognize it on sight. It's good, fresh, a little — well, the words I'm about to use sound negative, but they're positive in your mouth: bouncy, spongy, even rubbery. Let's say bouncy. Also very milky and pure white. Sweet. Salty.
But. I never see reviews of this cheese company. Has the proprietor soiled his reputation by getting a divorce? Are they too far away from the Ferry Plaza (120 miles)? Is it simply too goaty? (And for that matter, whatever happened to Laura Chenel? Oh. She sold her outfit to a French corporation. Still, she "invented" goat cheese for Americans, and I can't believe we never hear about her stuff anymore.)
So, anyway. Back to Bodega Goat Cheese. We found a little tub of their requeson at the market yesterday. It's a lot like ricotta (but don't let the phonetic similarities of "requeson" and "ricotta" fool you... one has the root word for "cheese" and the other has the root word of "cooked").
It's mild, slightly grainy, and very fresh and milky. Spreadable, though not creamy. It's girly but butch.
Cranky thinks it's goaty, and I don't. I can be very sensitive to goatiness, but this struck me as just — nice.
Here it is on a slice of wheat levain, topped with sliced radishes, a grind of pepper, and (sigh) Maldon salt.


Barbara said...

Great post Cookiecrumb. Wine often suffers in the same way.

Zoomie said...

Know what you mean - if it's not "foodie mainstream" it almost becomes a guilty pleasure. I figure there are at least as many different kinds of taste buds as there are ways to raise kids - some things just appeal to different people. My sister won't touch fin fish; my brother adores it. Go figure. Luckily, we have some independent minds among us - like you!

Jennifer Jeffrey said...

You're spot on, Cookie. So many purveyors do get lost in the shuffle, and it's anyone's best guess as to why...

I love Bodega goat cheese. I have a little tub of their soft chevre sitting in my refrigerator right now. Mmm.

Didn't see you at the market yesterday morning - I got there a little after 9; you were probably smart enough to go sooner.

Anita said...

We *love* the Point Reyes blue -- we bought a big slab over the weekend and we'll be lucky if it lasts until friday. :)

I like that some bleus are acidic and some aren't. If every one tasted the same, wouldn't that be sad?

Rev. Biggles said...

ha ha you used the word dissed

let zoomie know I'm off to get another badass burrito

Dagny said...

That cheese sounds great. And I have yet to meet a blue cheese that I haven't liked.

Catherine said...

I agree, so many wonderful foods and purveyors fly under the radar.

But should I be a bit insulted that you think all I'm doing with my pepper posts is hopping on a yawnarific, unoriginal bandwagon?

I wasn't the first to eat them, sure, or post about them either, but I'm not merely recycling other people's ideas. I genuinely had fun eating the for the first time this sumer.

sniff sniff.

kudzu said...

Have to admit I discovered the Bodega cheese at the Marin festival in the spring because the guy who was at the display was so gorgeous I couldn't pass by. As a result I found the cheeses and the natilla (brown sugar and goat cheese spread) and am a fan, now. Check out their web sites: one is very odd and lists, among other topics, "Russian brides". Honest.

As for the Pt. Reyes blue, I'm sure its qualities depend on the season and the grasses, etc., and I don't care what anyone says, I like it. (I had it at the farmstead on Almondina crackers with oney -- yummmm.)

kudzu said...

I mean "honey".

Tana said...

>Pimientos de Padrón are fun because every now and then you get a really hot one and that's — fun.

I have eaten dozens and dozens and dozens of BASKETS of these things, and we're growing our own this year. Guess what? I have had one that was hot. Just ONE. Out of hundreds that "passed my lips, passed my gums, look out stomach, here it comes!"

It's a big, fat lie, and anyone who passes it on is guilty of hyperbole.

: D

That said, Pt. Reyes blue is my favorite of all blue cheeses. It's so clean. Like a swimming pool. Just clean and refreshing.

I could eat goat cheese every day of my life.

You da best, Ms. Cookie.

cookiecrumb said...

I am totally answering Catherine first. Darling, I am one of the sheep. I love them pimientos. Here's my proof and my penitence.
I am still one of your biggest fans.

Catherine said...

Aw, shucks, I knew I was overreacting.

cookiecrumb said...

Catherine: You know what I like? This intellectual pool. I feed on your DNA. Yum.

Anna Haight said...

Great post! I also like Pt. Reyes Farmstead Blue, and even posted about it earlier this year. Reminds me that it's time to have it again! I've been a salt fiend for a long time, but don't have any Maldon... now I'm afraid of following the pack if I try it!

Stacie said...

amazing pic and great education in media-hyped cheese-food. your knowledge is wide! do you guys (the foodie literati) wear gold chain necklaces? (been watching Top Chef, fancy "eating club" wears gold chains...)

katiez said...

Pimientos de padron are on every tapas bar in Spain, have been for years and years... I've never eaten one....
But no one ever talks about the goat!
Doesn't anyone eat goat? Or kid? Now THAT would be out of the foodie mainstream....
I'm afraid I'm not good at the name thing... I use to pick the little tiny alligators off my shirts before wearing them

KathyF said...

I've noticed the same thing in the vegan food blog community. Everyone's all about Silk, or Vegan with Vengeance. Nothing wrong at all with the latter, but there ARE other vegan cookbooks out there. And I really don't care for Silk at all.

Hey, why doesn't Blogger know how to spell vegan? We're not that weird are we?

Kevin said...

I'm with you on the Point Reyes blue, far superior to Maytag.

Cali said...

I never ate a blue veined cheese I didn't like, either.

My son's absolute FAVORITE snack is soft, plain, not herbed, chevre on Sunmaid raisin toast with a drizzle of honey. Sometimes he makes it as a break snack at work. The other guys look at him like he has two heads. But then, these are the same guys that called him a vegetarian like it was a dirty name because he brought taco salad for lunch one day. It had tons of taco meat in it.

El said...

Oh to have a ditto-head food-snob set in MY neck of the woods!

But your description of this cheese's texture reminds me of Wisconsin cheese curds. Something that can be found in every roadside convenience shop, right next to the Miller beer. The stuff squeaks between the teeth. It's an acquired taste, but, well...I miss it!

I do think it is important to state what you like, the glitterati be damned.

Nerissa said...

I don't think I have had access to so much variety to become either a sheep or food snob. But I see the relics of the thinking everywhere and it saddens me. Why must people turn everything into a popularity contest? Even when I did a bout of raw veganism there was this feeling that some people were more "raw" than others and snipes like "...and she didn't even KNOW where goji berries come from. I mean, is she only pretending to be raw?" seemed rife through the raw message boards.

The cheeses sound great and I'd love to try. I LOVE goat cheese.

Sam said...

I LOVE point reyes blue - it is one of my favourites which reminds me it has been too long since I indulged in it.

I like the fact that food blogs have become another vehicle for promoting under the radar artisans and farmers. I listen to those people because I know it comes from the heart, not a PR machine, even if there is some collectivity involved. It's a matter of trust.

I look forward to your post being the number one hit on google when I search for Bodega Goat Cheese.

shuna fish lydon said...

I'm such a big fan of Bodega goat cheese! I wanted to buy their crema in bulk when I was working at Bouchon but they wouldn't let me-- they make it in such small batches.

I ate some of their feta yesterday and told my friend prepping the snack that they grow an entire garden of homeopathic herbs to make tinctures for the under-the-weather goaties.

Ask to go for a visit sometime, it will just break your heart with lovliness.

Anonymous said...

I love everything I've ever had from Bodega Goat Cheese. Have you tried his cajeta? Mmmmmmm.

cookiecrumb said...

Barbara: When the assembled group of foodistas announced the cheese was too acidic, I crumpled. Was I so terribly wrong? But thanks to the comments here, I'm feeling brave. :-)

Zoomie: Yes indeed. We do all have different tastes. And they're not all in our mouths, you know? Your sister and fin fish: surely that's about something other than flavor. Something spooky. Heh.

Jennifer: I'm seeing the Bodega supporters emerge here. Great! (Yes, we tend to hit the market, well, actually before it opens! Only way to get a seat near the coffee vendor.)

Anita: Cranky reports that the Mill Valley Whole Foods groups *all* its blue cheeses in one display case. Cute. Yep, they're different from one another. And that is good.

Biggles: Aw, I know lots of slang you young folks use. "Happening!" "Groovy!" "Bad Trip."

Dagny: So get yourself over to the Mill Valley WF. Easy peasy. (Groovy slang, Biggles.)

Kudzu: I'm a little worried Bodega Goat Cheese lost its web address to that weird site. It happens if you don't pay up for your subscription. It happened to Fish in Sausalito a while back (but they recovered it). Anyway. Yeah, that beautiful Peruvian man with the beard? :)
Oh, and BTW, it's so true about the season and what the critters are eating. I love to taste their changing diets.

Tana: Ha. I've had a hot one or two in every bag. I also tried to save the seeds, but they rotted. I am a terrible farmer (but you should see my arugula; I am in trouble).
Thanks for your endorsement of Pt. Reyes blue.

Anna: Yes, I remember your cheese post. As for Maldon salt, I resisted and resisted... and finally caved (I have so much salt in the house, I don't need to buy any more EVER). But. It's... fun! I recommend you give it a try.

Stacie: Gross-out revelation -- Cranky and I got engaged by giving each other gold chains. It was a *long* time ago. Can't even find dem chains anymore.

Katie: There's an apocryphal story about Alice Waters finally eating a chile for the first time, and she fainted... They say.

KathyF: Vegan? What is this vegan thing you speak of? Are you from Las Vegas? You kids.

Kevin: Merci. (And now we've dissed the Maytag.)

Cali: Your son is cool. (I suspect his office mates have difficulties with their, uh, genital self-confidence.)

El: I may have maligned the lovely fresh, white goat cheese by calling it rubbery. That's a very evil description, and I apologize. However! I have had cheese curds, and they *do* squeak. Fun. But weird, to this Californian.
(Ditto-heads. Snerk.)

Nerissa: That's a great topic -- who is most holier raw? 115º? 116º? Well, we bloggers are here to topple the nazis. Yes.

Sam: I love your point of view that this democratic platform, blogging, can actually fight the echo-chamber food machine. Thanks. I won't wither in the face of the fooderati anymore. (Oh, not that I hang out with them anymore. Boy, did they consider me an interloper of the basest sort.)
Now go get yourself some PR Blue.

Shuna: Yay! I have SO got to get out of my rut with the simple fresh white cheese, and try their other lovelies. xx

Anonymous: Another endorsement! Woo-hoo. Cajeta? You have got to be kidding me! That would be like crack for me. I'd never eat another leaf of arugula or (close your eyes, Biggles) strip of bacon. Dangerous. :D

kudzu said...

Cooks-- The "cajeta" mentioned above is actually natilla, and it's what I (wrongly) referred to as brown sugar and goat cheese -- it's really cooked-down goatie milk and brown sugar and it can become a major addiction. (PS Yes, the man with the beard. And the ponytail. And those eyes......)

MizD said...

Someone should just revoke my food blogging license right now.

Pimientos de Padrón? Never heard of 'em. Bi-Rite? Sounds like the name of a drugstore. Maldon salt? You mean people don't just buy those big, cheap boxes of Diamond Crystal brand Kosher salt? How very odd.

Point Reyes? Oh, wait, I know that one! That's the name of the town on my pink baseball cap!

(I suppose some people in Portland get a bit groupthinky about their beer, but I tend to steer clear of all that. Especially when we can just brew our own.)

cookiecrumb said...

Kudzu: Thank you for that clarification. I really want to try some, and now I will be asking for it by the proper name!

MizD: I know. Snort.
(So -- making your own beer? Do you flavor it with fruit? Groupthink.)

MizD said...

Fruit flavored beer is groupthink? I am so out of touch. Seriously, I wouldn't recognize a groupthink if it painted itself purple and danced naked atop a harpsichord... but I digress.

Nope, no fruit. Lavender and honey, maybe.

cookiecrumb said...

MizD: I think I'm terribly, terribly out of touch. And yet I have tasted homemade blueberry beer and peach beer.
Soldier on! Lavender sounds nice.