Kitchn Love Letters

This Splurgy Cheese Rivals the Stuff from France — And I’ll Be Eating It All Summer Long

published May 23, 2022
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Credit: Joe Lingeman; Food Styling: Jesse Szewczyk

In the mid 2000s I was visiting the Ferry Building in San Fransisco when a savvy friend who lived in the area told me to visit the recently opened Cowgirl Creamery store nearby. In fact, she told me under no circumstances should I miss the chance to stop by. I dutifully made a pitstop that afternoon, bought some cheese (and some fresh bread at Acme), and headed to the airport with my husband.

On the plane, I unwrapped the company’s already renowned Mt. Tam cheese and assembled a few cheese-slathered hunks of bread for a mid-flight snack. I think my eyes popped open when I took my first bite — until then I had only experienced this kind of triple-cream magic when enjoying cheeses from France. But this California-made cheese was just as knock-your-socks-off awesome.

Credit: Katie Workman

I remember our reaction being so ridiculous and audible that I was compelled to share some with the person sitting next to me (this was pre-COVID, a time when sharing cheese with a stranger on a plane seemed … well, if not normal, at least permissible). I shared some more with the person across the aisle and the flight attendant. Soon we were passing little  pieces of Mt. Tam on bread up and down the aisle until it was gone. It was simply too good to keep to ourselves.

Fast forward to today, and it’s still one of my favorite cheeses in the world — and the company’s best-selling cheese. Made from organic pasteurized cow’s milk, it’s fudgy, buttery, and lusciously creamy. And while it’s great with bread, it’s otherworldly when melted over a rib-eye fresh off the grill (just lay a slab on top and watch it melt right over).

Buy: Cowgirl Creamery Mt. Tam Organic Triple Cream Cheese, $14.99 for 8 ounces at Whole Foods

Credit: Katie Workman

Founded in Petaluma, California, by friends Sue Conley and Peggy Smith, Cowgirl Creamery has been making a small selection of mind-blowing cheeses for 25 years. Their mission was to create cheese with milk from organic local dairies in Marin and Sonoma county — something the two founders remain committed to this day.

Beyond my beloved triple cream, the company makes a mix of soft and hard cheeses that are crowd-pleasers in their own right: Devil’s Gulch, previously only available seasonally, has a bloomy rind, and is made with spicy-sweet pepper flakes that add a fiery kick. (Pierce Point, another bloomy rind cheese, will also soon be available year-round). And if you’re a fan of firm cheeses, Wagon Wheel (called “Liquid Gold” when it’s in its melted state) is a versatile one; it’s great nibbled in slices and transformative when used in a grilled cheese or mac and cheese. 

Both the Devil’s Gulch and Wagon Wheel are available, along with Mt. Tam, in a tasting box for $96, plus $10 for shipping. All go great with a crusty loaf — whether you’re 30,000 feet in the air or somewhere more grounded.

Do you have splurgy cheese you’re buying all summer long? Tell us in the comments below.