What's Tasty at Sigona's Farmers Market

February 22, 2012

Free! Award-Winning, Locally Made Cheese: Foggy Morning

Free! Award-Winning, Locally Made Cheese: Foggy Morning

Nicasio Valley Cheese Co., makers of Foggy Morning, have partnered with us to offer a free round of their cheese next week (Feb. 29 – March 6, 2012) with your coupon. You’ve got to try it!

By John Nava

Nestled in the valley of West Marin is Nicasio, Calif., home to the Nicasio Valley Cheese, Co., a new up-and-comer in the world of locally made fromage. Nicasio Valley Cheese Co. produces eight varieties of cheese, and it’s their award winning, organic Foggy Morning, a fromage blanc-style cheese, that we’re offering for free next week (Feb. 29 – March 6, 2012) with your coupon!

All Nicasio Valley Cheese Co. cheeses are made from 100% organic farmstead cow’s milk (for a cheese to carry the title farmstead, it must be crafted on same property the milk is produced). In the Nicasio Valley Cheese Co. case, the milk and cheese are produced at the Lafranchi Ranch, a third-generation, family-run ranch founded in 1919 by Fredolino Lafranchi, a Swiss-Italian who immigrated to America at the age of 17.

The Lafranchi family owns and operates both the ranch and the Nicasio Valley Cheese Co. creamery. To the best of the Lafranchi family’s knowledge, Nicasio Valley Cheese Co., is the only certified organic farmstead cow’s milk cheese producer in the state of California.

Some of the best cheese comes from West Marin

West Marin, where the Lafranchi Ranch is located, has become a well known cheese region; it’s home to some big name producers, such as Marin French Cheese Co. and Cowgirl Creamery.

Rich Lafranchi, a ranch partner and director of sales and marketing for the cheese, explained that the area, years ago, was the original San Francisco “milk pail.” All dairies were based on sustainable grazing and produced phenomenal milk. Unfortunately, demand dropped for Marin milk with the arrival of milk from the Central Valley. Many dairies had to find alternate uses for milk.

“Our family talked about getting into the cheese business for years, and finally, with the help and guidance of a cheese maker from Switzerland, we produced our first batch just two years ago on February 18, 2010,” said Lafranchi.

Before production began, the Lafranchis spent a summer in Switzerland with Maurizio Lorenvetti, their Swiss cheese consultant, where they learned the Swiss-Italian way of cheese making.

“We make Swiss-Italian cheeses to stay true to our family ancestry,” said Lafranchi. “Our cheese is influenced by the traditions of the area where Switzerland meets Italy, it’s neither traditionally Swiss nor Italian. Our Foggy morning is based on a fromage blanc, our Formagella is a distant cousin of Camembert, Nicasio Square is similar to Taleggio, Loma Alta is a distant cousin of Brie and our Nicasio Reserve is an Alpine-style cheese.

“Frankly, all cheese develops the same way, but the different variances and nuances are based on terrior – the land from which the milk comes,” added Lafranchi. “It depends on what grasses the cows eat, what time of year it is and so on.”

Down on the farmstead

Family is the name of the game on the farmstead. Rick Lafranchi’s brother Scott Lafranchi is the chief cheese maker and plant manager, while brother Andy operates the dairy. Their two sisters, Dee and Jan, help market and sell the cheese at a few Bay Area farmers’ markets.

With the decision to pursue cheesemaking, the family converted the old 3,700 sq. foot barn into the creamery and fashioned recycled shipping containers into an aging, or ripening, rooms (visit Nicasio Valley Cheese Co.).

While the majority of the fresh milk from Lafranchi Ranch is sent to Clover Stornetta in neighboring Petaluma, a bit of the fresh, pasteurized milk is delivered to the ranch creamery each day for cheese production.

Though Nicasio Valley Cheese Co. is a newcomer to the cheese scene, it has already earned second place for its Foggy Morning cheese at the American Cheese Society competition in Montreal, where it was up against cheeses from both Canada and the United States.

“We’re part of a great cheese making region, and we want our ranch and dairy to be a part of that,” said Lafranchi. “Our goal overall is to position ourselves as a viable contributor in the region, creating an opportunity for future generations to be a part of.”

In addition to the eight varieties Nicasio Valley Cheese Co. produces, it just released a garlic & basil Foggy Morning (available now at Sigona’s) and is working on another full-flavored cheese featuring characteristics of an Italian fontina and a Swiss raclette.

Enjoying Foggy Morning

Lafranchi noted Foggy Morning cheese boasts versatility. It’s fantastic on a toasted bagel with a swipe of jam, it also makes a nice spread on a sandwich or a Panini (Lafranchi recommends a Panini with salami, turkey and artichoke hearts). Another of Lafranchi’s favorite serving suggestions is using Foggy Morning in place of mozzarella for a summer caprese salad. It’s also lovely spread on a toasted baguette, drizzled with olive oil and dusted with a little salt & pepper. Pair that with a glass of white wine and you’ll be in your happy place.

We’ve also developed a sort of one-bite chocolate cheese cake appetizer: Dot a few dollops of Foggy Morning on a Berta Maria biscuit and drizzle the combo with a little Ficoco, it’s a fig & cocoa spread we sell at both locations. If you’re in the mood for something sweet, you’ve got to give this combo a try!

You can find more Foggy Morning recipes on our blog too, including Foggy Morning Shells and Foggy Morning and Strawberries in a Balsamic Vinaigrette. Don’t forget to come in next week (Feb. 29 – March 6, 2012) with your coupon for a free round!

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