by Lance Lynn
If you’re reading this, chances are you’ve probably stumbled across Caprino Royale cheeses on a cheese plate at Bolsa or served as a side at Salum as well as many other top Dallas restaurants, although you might not know Eric and Karen by name. Known mainly for their fresh chevres and totally awesome decadent Cajeta, they recently released their first foray into the world of bloomy rind cheeses with their Texas Bloombonnet. As their cheeses start taking off, I thought it would be a great time to share a little background on the duo so next time you’re out you can drop some serious cheese knowledge on your friends.
Based out of Waco, husband and wife duo Eric Tippit and Karen Dierolf produce stunning cheeses that exemplify Texas’ cheese-making potential and embody our independent, DIY spirit. The cheese makers describe their diary as a “learn as you go” enterprise: their supple creations come from observation, experimentation and study of other dairy farms.
“We traveled to every dairy and farm we could,” Karen explains, “Studying and picking things that we liked to build something for ourselves. We never stay static– I have to credit my husband for that. He’s always looking for a problem and a way to make it better.” Eric and Karen are probably the only cheese makers I’ve met who credit tough inspections for keeping their operation sharp. “We are fortunate enough to have a really tough health inspector, which we like. It holds us to a higher standard, so much so that they use our facility to train new inspectors.”
This is a refreshing statement coming from a small cheese-maker, considering the FDA’s actions over the past year. Ramped-up pressure on smaller producers recently caused the closure of the beloved Sally Jackson, saturating the industry with tales of woe and whispers of revolt. But having the optimism and determination to let extra pressure hone you into a better producer is a point of pride, and I’m impressed and glad they wear it as such.
The dedication to keeping their facilities up to the highest standards and carrying that mentality throughout all of their endeavors keeps Caprino Royale busy. They released just a single cheese at first and have been slowly developing their portfolio, rather than bombarding the market with second rate cheeses. “We try to focus on one cheese at a time, making it taste phenomenal. First impressions are everything. If someone tries your cheese for the first time and it’s not up to snuff, they will probably skip over the next cheese you make even if it’s the best thing ever. But if you knock their socks off with an amazing cheese the first time, the next cheese you make has to be up to that same level. It’s a good way to holds ourselves accountable to the highest standards.”
With this slow and steady approach that favors hard work and attention to detail over novelty or quantity, Eric and Karen have yet to disappoint. Caprino Royale’s take on the Spanish cheese Garroxta is a contender for the next slot on their roster, and it’s going to be hard for me to wait the months needed for aging. Whatever their next creation turns out to be, the exciting thing is I know it will be 100% Texas. Caprino Royale has always honored a commitment to keeping the Texas terroir in what they produce. “We control the milk, because we want you to taste Texas in the cheese.”
The Texas Bloombonnet is a perfect example of “Texas in Cheese”, which is worthy of a dedicated post of its own. Soon to be craved about, keep your eyes open!
Editor’s Note: Caprino Royale is available at Scardello and they will be taking their annual cheese maker tour to both Caprino Royale and Brazos Valley in Waco April 30. Call the cheese shop as reservations are required. 214-219-1300