Mary Keehn from Cypress Grove Chevre in Arcata, California was the second titan of the artisanal cheese world I met during my recent sojourn in San Diego for the Fancy Food Show. She was part of the cheese panel that had me, for a moment, thinking about ditching it all to become a cheese-maker.
Her roots in the cheese world are humble: she began the company almost accidentally as she sought out healthy, fresh milk for her children. There were a lot of goats. They made cheese. Today she manages a 18 acre dairy with 45 employees with joy and humor and is one of the most decorated cheese makers in the business.
Humboldt Fog is Mary's best-known cheese. It's a bloomy, soft ripened goat's milk cheese that looks like a two layer cake and is equally deserving of a spot on my dessert plate. I've been eating the Fog since long before I could really appreciate its greatness. Today, I understand why it has earned Mary so many accolades, and find myself talking it up to people waiting beside me at the cheese counter. I'm no trend-spotter: Humboldt Fog has been well-known for years and in many major US cities, you will find it at any food shop with a decent cheese department.
There's a lot more than the Fog coming off Mary's production line. She introduced us to another of her cheeses: a fresh chevre called Purple Haze, made with lavender buds and wild harvested fennel pollen. A nibble of it was a terroir-rich experience: as I ate the cheese, I also strolled down a Northern Californian path gathering wild-flowers. I don't think there is a more perfect name for the cheese.
Cypress Grove cheeses are available through their website, but check first to see if your local cheese monger carries anything from their line. In New York, Cypress Grove cheese are available at Fairway, Citarella, and Whole Foods, as well as just about any of the cheese shops in the city, including Artisanal Cheese and Murray's.