Specialty Food Magazine

OCT 2012

Specialty Food Magazine is the leading publication for retailers, manufacturers and foodservice professionals in the specialty food trade. It provides news, trends and business-building insights that help readers keep their businesses competitive.

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CHEESE FOCUS Tumalo Farms' Jewell The New Oregon Cheese Scene Is this hip, highly caffeinated Pacific Northwest state poised to produce the next wave of rock-star cheesemakers? BY JANET FLETCHER I t's no question that artisanal cheesemaking is booming in the Beaver State, with 24 licensed creameries today (up from five a decade ago). But with a few exceptions—notably, Rogue Creamery, Tumalo Farms and the colossal Tillamook coopera- tive—Oregon cheesemakers operate on a tiny scale and want to keep it that way. Many of the state's most acclaimed new cheeses rarely make it past Portland; only a handful of producers have enough output or ambition to sell beyond the border. "We're in it for the lifestyle," admits Liz Alvis, a former wine- cork saleswoman, who launched Portland Creamery last year with her chiropractor husband, Andy. Operating out of a facility in Molalla, 30 miles south of Portland, they make about 500 pounds of plain and flavored fresh chevres every week for farmers markets and local restaurants. Great Grazing Western Oregon's mild climate and abundant rainfall contribute to the state's allure for dairy farmers. "We have more green grass longer than any state in the country," claims Steve Jones, proprietor of Cheese Bar, a retail shop in Portland. What's more, land prices and living costs are relatively low in Oregon, luring would-be chee- semakers like Sarah Marcus from neighboring California. Marcus, who established Briar Rose Creamery in 2009 in Dundee, also liked the cross-marketing potential of locating in Oregon wine country. 16 ❘ SPECIALTY FOOD MAGAZINE ❘ specialtyfood.com But the cows that enjoy that lush pasture provide milk mostly for the state's dairy co-ops, like Tillamook and Dairy Gold. Marcus, for one, has struggled to find cow's milk that isn't under contract. And few of these new producers have the resources or expertise to start a cow dairy of their own. "That's why Oregon artisan cheese is going to be goat cheese," says Vern Caldwell of Pholia Farm, one of the state's most esteemed small creameries. "It's easier for small-farm management and the family lifestyle." For a retailer like Jones, who specializes in Pacific Northwest cheeses, the preponderance of goat cheese can present a merchan- dising challenge. "But it's getting a little better," says Jones, "because retailers and chefs are demanding it." Cheesemakers are also start- ing to produce aged cheese, he adds. Mixed-milk cheese is another Oregon trend, Jones suggests. Rogue Creamery's Echo Mountain Blue (a cow-goat blend) and PHOTO: TUMALO FARMS

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