This past weekend was full of excitement, and the Scardello Cheese Tour that visited several Waco cheese makers was certainly a highlight. The tour included a large busload of Scardello customers along with staff members and owner and Rich Rogers and staff cheese monger and Crave contributor Lance Lynn.
The group met at Northpark Mall and embarked on a journey to Waco at 9am sharp arriving at the general store next to the Brazos Valley Cheese factory at Homestead Farms where we met up with head cheese maker Marc Kuehl who would be our guide for most of the morning.
After mingling in the general store for a bit, gawking at countrified gadgets such as a corn niblet maker (a device that shreds rows of corn cleanly off the cob), and a myriad of cast iron kitchen gadgets and assorted small farm implements, we soon found our way into the factory. Before entering the group was instructed to don hair nets and footie’s and within minutes we stood in the presence of some of the best cheese produced in North Texas.
As we made our way through the line we witnessed one of the Brazos Valley workers separating the curds from the whey after adding vegetable rennet and other enzymes to create a cheddar that would soon make its way into molds then an aging room.
The cow’s milk procured for the cheese is not milked at Brazos Valley, but instead single-sourced from local herds where the cheese is made then sold to many Dallas and Fort Worth area restaurants and shops like Scardello. The cheeses at Brazos comes in a wide variety including their creamy and tangy blue.
Included in the tour was an in-depth visit to the total operation at Brazos de Dios Communit where marc is a member of a group of about 1000 people who practice traditional farming and craft on 500 acres along the Brazos River near Waco. Although they have cars, cell phones, and other modern conveniences, they most value efforts to make things slowly, by hand, and in tune with the natural environment. As a result, they are experts in carpentry, farming, metalwork, pottery, and weaving.
We were also privy to the Homestead Gristmill that has become somewhat famous with many restaurants including Bolsa, Screen Door, Salum, Smoke, the Mansion and Parigi to name just a few. Whenever at a local restaurant I have made a point of asking about the brand of grits and when Homestead is mentioned I know they will possess a certain quality creaminess with a hint of bite that makes a delicious plate of grits. The gristmill which is water powered was found in new Jersey and dates back to 1760. the new owners of the mill lovingly restored the old wooden mill and use it to produce a variety of flours for the products sold in the store at the mill and throughout the country.
After scouring the grounds of Homestead and lunching at the on-premises restaurant, we aimed the bus just a few miles down the road visit the micro-artisanal goat cheese producers Caprino Royale where owners Eric Tippit and Karen Dierolf where waiting with their herd of pure-bred Nubian goats. Scattered across their front lawn ran the new kids that were just recently born, and on the other side of a gated area ran freely their mothers, some still expecting and days away from birthing the beautiful and ever-so friendly goats.
After a quick tour of the operation Karen and Eric hosted a wine a cheese party that included their chevre, feta and one soft edible rind cheese they proudly call Texas Bloombonnet. The latter is one of my favorite cheeses produced by the small dairy and possesses a quality that is unusual coming from an operation that is only one year old the day we toured.
The chevre is moist but slightly flaky and they sell the product with herbs sometimes. I have seen Caprino use Hatch peppers during the pepper season for a spicy mix that is perfectly spreadable.
After spending a few hours catching up with the couple and chasing down baby goats it was time to load up the bus and head back to the city, but not without purchasing a a few of the small wheels of Bloombonnet and a jar of their Cajeta, which is a goat caramel that you may find used with desserts at Abraham Salum’s new restaurant Komali.
More on this facinating couple later in the week here at Crave.
Sample all the cheeses we tried on the tour at Scardello on Oak Lawn in Dallas.