Love thy Cheesy Neighbor

Here in Humboldt we celebrate the uniqueness of our locality like it’s our job. And it’s true: we are very special and that is something to celebrate. The cool thing is, we have awesome neighbors too. I want to take a moment to honor our friends to the North and South who are also contributing to a vibrant local food scene.

Benjamin Barber sparked this idea in his TED talk about “Why mayors should rule the world”. His thoughts remind me that, while it is important to focus on the issues of our region, it is also imperative to recognize our interdependence with other communities around the world on a local level. A good example of this concept is Arcata’s sister city in Nicaragua: Camoapa.

While nation-states can too easily become abstractions that fail to address specific problems, Barber, in his lecture, reminds us that cities are where the action is because cities are where we live and act as citizens. Mayors are familiar with local issues because they are usually from the area they govern; their ability to problem-solve in a pragmatic way is crucial to uniting diverse regions. Barber envisions mayors forming a network of global governance that actually has the capacity to represent its people.

In the spirit of Barber’s talk, let’s bring food to the table. The last couple years I fell in love with traditional foods. This romance was sparked by cheese: Dutch gouda, French brie, Spanish manchego, Italian parmesan, Swiss swiss! They all have a heritage whose authenticity is guaranteed. Europe’s “Protected Designation of Origin” (PDO) certification or a more specific appellation denomination protects the reputation of genuine, regional foods. It is a system that ensures a product is made traditionally and from a specific locality.

Today’s food industry tends to overlook the time-tested and approved artisan approach to production. Yet there are those of us who draw inspiration from this long history and work to reinvigorate our food with these principles. Sonoma County and the Rogue River Valley stand out as regions bursting with artisan style products that complement Humboldt’s own offerings. This month I have really enjoyed a couple new cheeses from these locales.


When tomato season kicked in the fresh mozzarella began flying off the shelf. Having tried plenty of bland tasting pasta filata style cheeses, I found Pt. Reyes fresh mozzarella to stand out cleanly from the pack. The magic is in the mouthfeel; the subtle texture of this brined mozzarella is unexpectedly remarkable!

Raw milk cheese is making a comeback. Both Pt. Reyes Creamery and Rogue Creamery offer raw milk blue cheeses that are fabulous. Rogue River Blue was just released at the beginning of September. It is a seasonal offering whose unique character reflects the region from whence it came. Rogue River Blue is a rich, buttery blue wrapped in pear brandy soaked grapes leaves before being cave-aged for 9-12 months. The choice of nearby Clear Creek Pear Brandy and Carpenter Hill Vineyard Syrah leaves is no coincidence. These decisions hint at Rogue River’s underlying values and provides the resulting cheese with a vital depth of character that is hard to describe. I will gladly work on community-building if it means eating this cheese!


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