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Pastoral Travels

  • WHAT OUR WINE BUYER DID ON HIS SUMMER VACATION

    Oregon Pinot Camp Recap

    I recently had the incredible opportunity to attend the 16th Annual Oregon Pinot Camp (OPC) in the Willamette Valley. The camp was started in 2000 by several of the region’s best wineries as a way to showcase their wines to the rest of the country. This year, there were 50 local wineries on hand to meet and sample their wares to 240 wine industry professionals from around the country and around the world. OPC is three days of intensive study on the story of Oregon Pinot Noir both in the vineyard and in the winery.

     

    DAY OF ARRIVAL: A RELIGIOUS RIESLING EXPERIENCE

    pinot camp blog 1I arrived in Portland around noon on Saturday and arranged a ride to the pre-Pinot Camp, Oregon Riesling Revival Pool Party at the home of one of the host winery’s winemakers. The party was sponsored by a group of wineries:

    • Elk Cove
    • Ponzi
    • Penner-Ash
    • Anne Amie
    • Bethel Heights
    • Trisaetum

     

    They all brought along their current releases of Riesling as well as some older vintages to share — to make sure Riesling wouldn’t be forgotten after all the Pinot Noir we’d be drinking the next three days.

     

    Opening Night Festivities at Sokol Blosser

    pinot camp blog 2

    After the Riesling Revival it was off to my hotel in Newberg to check in and get cleaned up before heading to Sokol Blosser for the opening night festivities. All 50 wineries were in attendance pouring their current releases — including some whites and rosé, which were a treat considering the temperature outside was pushing 100 degrees.

    Event Highlight: 1998 The Eyrie Vineyards Pinot Noir

    David Lett’s Eyrie Vineyard was the first to plant Pinot Noir in the Willamette Valley 50 years ago – the ’98 was alive and well and maintained the classic cherry fruits and earthy edge that makes Oregon Pinot Noir so fascinating.

    DAY 1: THE STORY OF OREGON PINOT — AND SOIL!

    Sunday started early with a 7:45 am bus trip to the Evergreen Aviation & Space Museum for breakfast with a view that included Howard Hughes’ famous Spruce Goose airplane. After breakfast we headed over to the museum’s auditorium where every camper was introduced to the winemakers from all 50 wineries. The last winemaker introduced was Jason Lett from The Eyrie Vineyards who spoke with passion about carrying on his father’s vision of making the Willamette Valley a world class Pinot Noir destination.

    pinot camp blog 3

    My first stop of the day was St. Innocent Winery’s Zenith Vineyard in Salem where we walked the vineyard for three unique seminars on topics from canopy management to a study of soil via a 5-foot-deep trench that highlighted the vineyard’s marine sedimentary soils, known locally as WillaKenzie. These soils reside at lower elevations in the valley and are a result the Missoula floods that swept through the area centuries ago.

     

    pinot camp blog 4 pinot camp blog 5
    Left : Marine Sedimentary Soil Right : Jory Soil

    The next stop was Brooks Winery in Amity, which rests above an entirely different subsoil. The vines at Brooks are growing in Jory, the region’s famous volcanic soil that’s loaded with Iron heavy Basalt which adds a beautiful red tint to the earth.

    The day ended with ice-cold beers and a Q&A session with the winemakers.

    Sunday Dinner at Anne Amie

    pinot camp blog 6

    Sunday’s dinner was hosted by Anne Amie winery in Carlton. The amazing view of the coastal mountain range to the west was a stellar vantage point for one of the greatest sunsets I’ve ever seen.
    Half of the 50 wineries were showcasing their wines that night, including several large-format bottles and plenty of older vintages — both educational and delicious! I was seated randomly with a group from Penner-Ash Winery who just happened to be pouring a 3-liter of their 2005 Shea Vineyard Pinot Noir.

    Event Highlight: A Surprising Blind Tasting

    Another highlight of the evening was doing a blind tasting with Jason Lett from The Eyrie Vineyards. He poured me a wine that I knew right away to be Cabernet Sauvignon. I knew the wine had some age to so I guessed it was from the mid-1990s. I was shocked to learn that the wine was from 1976! The wine was still vibrant, especially given its age — the fruit was sourced from Washington at a time when no one was sure Pinot Noir would succeed in Oregon, and the Letts were just doing their best to keep the dream alive.

    DAY 2: INSIDE THE WINERIES

    We spent Monday visiting wineries in Dayton. My first stop was Domaine Drouhin, owned by the Drouhin family who has a long history of winemaking in Burgundy who were early adopters of the potential of Oregon Pinot Noir. The day’s first seminar was “The Multiple Personalities of Oregon Pinot Noir,” my favorite seminar from the entire event. We tasted through three flights of six wines — the last two flights were blind — with the emphasis being on figuring out how different factors like soil, vintage, vineyard practices and production methods affect Oregon Pinot Noir.

    Our second stop was at Lemelson Winery, where we got to witness the process of getting wine from grape to glass. The final stop of the day was at the stunningly beautiful Soter Winery for a seminar called “Hunting the Great White.” The seminar, a refreshing break from tasting literally hundreds of Pinot Noirs the previous two days, focused on Oregon Pinot Gris, Riesling and Chardonnay.

    Event Highlight: Stunning Whites

    Oregon wineries are really striving to make world-class whites to match their Pinot Noirs — in my opinion, they’re already there when it comes to Riesling, but they’re still playing catch-up with their Chardonnays.
    pinot camp blog 7 pinot camp blog 8

    Monday Dinner at Stoller Winery

    pinot camp blog 9
    Monday’s dinner was incredible and featured the other 25 wineries that didn’t pour at Sunday’s dinner. The main event was an Oregon salmon bake with whole fish cooked over open flames. By pure chance I was lucky enough to be seated with Janie Brooks Heuck from Brooks Winery. She is one of the nicest people in the industry and was extremely helpful in making my OPC experience so wonderful. Dinner ended with s’mores roasted over the open flames followed by the entire OPC group descending upon Dundee’s favorite karaoke dive bar, Lumpy’s.

    DAY 3: WINE WIZARDRY

    Tuesday afforded campers the opportunity to choose their own adventure and I went with Wine Wizardry at Brooks Winery, sponsored by Brittan Vineyards, Brooks and Winderlea. We broke off into three groups, each one led by one of the winemakers. We tasted through six wines made from different clones (nerd alert!), soils or oak treatment — and then we were tasked with blending our own wine from any of the samples. We also had to brand and pitch our newly created wine to the entire group. My group didn’t win, but it sure was fun to pretend to be a winemaker for the afternoon to conclude my time at OPC.

    Event Highlight: Oysters and Riesling

    An added bonus at the day 3 event was having lunch at the winery. Our feast at Brooks started with fresh oysters and a sampling of their bone-dry Riesling. The crisp acidity of the wine was a pristine match with the salinity of the oyster.

    pinot camp blog 10

    POST CAMP FUN: EXPLORING PORTLAND

    pinot camp blog 11

    Although the official events were finished, I ended my trip with one last hurrah with Janie after she was able to give several campers a ride back to Portland. Janie, fellow Chicago camper Patti Robison (from Vera) and I finished out our trip with a bottle of bubbles at Ambonnay Champagne Bar in Portland. We drank a bottle of Champagne Savart ‘Bulle de Rosé’, which, fittingly, was made from mostly Pinot Noir.

    FINAL THOUGHTS

    I learned a lot at OPC and was lucky to be a part of such a great event. It was nice to be there with several Chicago friends but it was also rewarding to be surrounded by so many other industry professionals. There’s definitely a sense of camaraderie among everyone involved in making and selling Oregon Pinot Noir and it was enlightening to see just how passionate they are about what they are doing.

    I’ve always thought that in their early days, Oregon Pinot Noir was trying to emulate the great wines of Burgundy. However after my experience in the Willamette Valley, I realized these winemakers have truly embraced their own identity and become confident in making great wines that showcase everything Oregon has to offer.

    -Mark Wrobel
    Beverage Buyer/Educator

    Mark Wrobel

  • A Visit to Switzerland

    After traveling around the Jura region of France, Lisa Futterman's trip brought her east to Switzerland...

    (Read about the first part of her journey here!)

    Jumi 1

    The second half of my recent European trip was a visit to Switzerland. From Geneva, we traced a path along the French side of Lac Leman through the Haute Savoie (see piles of Tommes de Savoie spotted at the farmer’s market above) and crossed the Swiss border turning north to reach Bulle, in the heart of La Gruyere, the French-speaking region where the Gruyere AOP was established. We visited the offices and modern aging caves at SA Gruyere, where the 33 kilo wheels of our 1655 Antique gruyere finish their 12 months of aging.

    jumi 2

    And of course there was a comparative tasting of 6 and 12 month gruyeres, paired with white wine from the region:

    jumi 3

    After lunch by a lake (beef tartare and Swiss red), we headed North to a JUMI Cheese in Konolfingen, a small town just southeast of Bern.

    jumi 4

    How do I explain JUMI?

    jumi 5

    jumi 6

    Jumi is an artisan cheese and meat company owned by two Swiss hippies whose ancestors have made traditional emmenthal for centuries. They sell their unique cheeses to restaurants and at markets in Bern and London’s Borough Market.

    Examples:

    Blaus Hirni, a raw cow’s milk ball that is allowed to blue on the outside (hence the name which roughly translates to “blue brain”):

    jumi 7jumi 8

    Belper Knolle, a raw cow ball coated in Himalayan salt, pepper, and garlic that can be eaten fresh, but is often aged for up to a year and grated. My companion purchased one and served it grated over spaghetti made in the Swiss Alps (near the Italian border). Uniquely delicious.

    And this one, whose label speaks for itself, “flavored” with hemp seed.

    jumi hemp seed

    My companion is a chef who buys Jumi cheese for his restaurant in Lucerne, so we got the VIP tour and tasting of Jumi’s aging rooms, kitchens, and warehouse.
    They have an ancient stone wheel on which to wash the surfaces of the washed rind cheeses (the hole in the cent is for the run off.) And a room specifically for cheeses that benefit from the effect of cheese mites.

    jumi 9

    They also make the most incredible cheese accompaniment, a fruit and nut “bread” that has no flour in it. Here is our guide showing it off.

    jumi 10

    Finally we got to taste the Blau, the Belper Knolle, and some others. What an outrageous visit…

    jumi visit

    Then we went “home” to Lucerne, and the Saturday morning farmer’s market did not disappoint! That’s Rolf Beeler there on the left!

    jumi 12jumi 13

    Here’s my overseas cheese haul from 2 countries and many regions:

    jumi 14

    And back at home at Pastoral’s Fulton Warehouse, carting around 3 cut wheels of Antique Gruyere!

    jumi 15

  • A Visit to Lakefront Brewery

    Lakefront Brewery Tour

    Stop by any Pastoral Retail Store & Bar Pastoral and you’re sure to find a carefully selected & awesomely varied array of beers. We’re very proud of our beer selection at Pastoral, and we’re even prouder of the Artisan Producers who create these fine brews. Recently we added a new beer to our rotating beer case from our neighbors in Milwaukee at LakeFront Brewery, a brewery dedicated to locally-sourced, green-friendly production. Pastoral Retail currently carries Lakefront Brewery's Bridge Burner,  a love letter to earthy hops that’s backed up by caramel notes and hints of citrus and pine.  Recently, I paid a visit to the Lakefront Brewery located alongside the Milwaukee River to see where this tasty brew was created.

    Product - Lakefront Bridge Burner

    Image from GreatBrewers.com

    The tour costs a mere $7 and begins in Lakefront’s massive Beer Hall, which looks like it belongs in Germany for Oktoberfest and is also host to a weekly Lenten Fish Fry. Each guest is given 4 tokens to trade for a tasting of beer and is encouraged to enjoy an assortment of Lakefront's brews before, during & after the tour. Guests are also given a free pint glass before leaving the brewery, plus a coupon for a free Lakefront beer at an assortment of Milwaukee bars (Only tours before 4 PM). The team at Lakefront is friendly and knowledgeable, and they even let me sample some beers before deciding which ones I’d relinquish my token for. We were given a five minute warning before the tour began, cuing me to chug the remainder of my deliciously malty & dark Fuel Café (a perfect substitute for my morning coffee) and selected my on-tour beer: a light & crisp Klisch Pilsner (my favorite of the day).

    As our adventure began, it became apparent that this was no ordinary brewery tour.

    We began our trip with a series of ‘Cheers’ in several languages, with our awesome guide enjoying a brew along with us. Our tour guide (the 'Brewery Dungeon Master') genuinely seemed to enjoy himself on the entire tour and never stopped cracking beer-related jokes and poking fun at the homey but fun nature of the brewery. Lakefront was founded by two home-brewing champions, The Klisch brothers, who took one friend's tipsy suggestion of ‘hey, you guys should start a brewery’ to heart.

    lakefront sign1

    We learned the ins & outs of the brewery, including the history of the building (a coal factory) and the dairy-farm origins of their equipment. We learned of the Lakefront traditional birthday celebration, where the birthday boy or girl is named ‘King of the Bunghole’ (a term to describe the hole bored in old-school wooden beer barrels). The king is then encouraged to hammer away at the bung hole with a ‘bunghole whacker’, announcing to everyone in the vicinity that his birthday has arrived.

    3 stooges

    The original brewing equipment from Lakefront Brewery, fondly nicknamed the 'Three Stooges',  now has a permanent home in front of the Brewery.

    Loyal employees of Lakefront who have paid their dues in blood, sweat & beer are chosen to brew their very own limited edition batch.

    The tour continued on to a small bar located inside the brewing area itself (awesome). It was there where I learned about the ‘My Turn’ beer series at Lakefront, perhaps my favorite factoid about the company. Loyal employees of Lakefront who have paid their dues in blood, sweat & beer are chosen to brew their very own limited edition batch. I sampled the Luther, a smoky-sweet Helles Rauchbier that would be perfect alongside some BBQ chicken or smoked salmon. Our day ended at yet another Lakefront Brewery bar to finish off our beer tokens and to toast to a fine day of educational, beer drinking fun.

    You can find Lakefront Brewery on Facebook & Twitter.

    IMG_3056Amanda Diamond is Pastoral's Social Media & Marketing Coordinator and Cheesemonger. She's a recent Chicago transplant who hails from Atlanta, GA (and yes, she says y'all). She studied at Tulane University in New Orleans, a city that also inspired her love of cheese and tasty new food. She's thrilled to be surrounded by cheese-lovers like herself while navigating the Social Media landscape for Pastoral.

  • Making Cheese at Uplands

    Now I was going to have some firsthand experience with something that I had only read about.

    rush creekIf you ask any cheesemonger at Pastoral about any cheese in the case, you can get anything from a bare bones description like “English clothbound cheddar” to a more prosaic description: “This is made at Kaserei Stufel by a father and son who own a small dairy in the beautiful Swiss Alps…” and suddenly you’re an expert in the history of the Stadelmann family. Usually, we absorb these priceless nuggets of information by reading and communing with our fellow turophiles (that's a fancy word for a cheese connoisseur). In December, however, I had the privilege of visiting Uplands Cheese in Dodgeville, Wisconsin where we get two wonderful cheeses: The award winning Pleasant Ridge Reserve and the amazing, highly seasonal Rush Creek Reserve.

     

    baby cows uplands cropped
    Young cows at Uplands - These future Rush Creek makers will be pasture fed all summer long.

    I’d talked about Uplands Cheese and Andy Hatch (the head cheese maker) countless times; I've sold dozens of wheels of Rush Creek and who knows how many pounds of Pleasant Ridge Reserve in my few years as a cheesemonger. I knew about how their cows are pasture fed in the summer, the spruce bark banding around the wheels of Rush Creek, the merits of unpasteurized milk – all things I’d learned in my time at various cheese shops. Now I was going to have some firsthand experience with something that I had only read about. On the long bus ride up there, I immersed myself in Paul Kindstedt's American Farmstead Cheese to try to buff up my knowledge on the more scientific aspect of cheese making. I met Andy in Madison and we drove to Dodgeville where we began making Rush Creek the next morning.

    Andy Hatch washing handsjpg
    "Anytime you touch anything," Andy told me "Rinse your hands in the saniwash."

    I met most of the staff in the flurry of pleasantries, cut short by the early hour. Cows, I now know first-hand, are early risers and so are cheese makers. The factory was a shockingly sterile environment. Sanitizing solution was everywhere. Hats, boots, and aprons were required. "Any time you touch anything," Andy told me "Rinse your hands in the saniwash." It was fascinating to see that for as long as Rush Creek ages (two months), the initial steps take only a few hours to go from milk, to curd, to wheels.

    Cows, I now know first-hand, are early risers and so are cheese makers.

     

    I won't trouble you, dear reader, with an exhaustive account of every step of the process, but I will share one particular step that I found interesting. It’s called flocculation. Rennet is added to the milk to form the curd and it takes a little time for it to work. Andy added the rennet to the milk and when enough time had passed he told me we were going to see if flocculation had happened yet. I was expecting a high tech device like a pH reader but he simply grabbed a clear pitcher and filled it with water. I watched as he dripped a few drops of milk into the water and watched, unsure what he was seeing. The milk swirled and spun around like smoke as I was expecting but then the tiniest little solid flakes of white fell out of the swirling milk and floated silently to the bottom of the pitcher. The solids in the milk were beginning to clump together as the rennet did its work. No longer was this milk, but curd and whey, the beginnings of cheese.

    That may sound dramatic, but after talking about cheese for so long, seeing it forming before my eyes was pretty amazing. After we made that day’s batch of Rush Creek, there was plenty more to do. Dozens of batches of cheese were at various stages of aging. We flipped wheels, bound some with spruce bark to help them keep their shape, patted down older wheels whose rinds were beginning to grow. Then there were the hundreds of boxes that needed to be built to ship all this cheese!

    I found a little box in a shipment to Pastoral with my name on it.

     

    After two incredible days I had to come back to Chicago. Rush Creek ages for two months so I had to wait a long time to taste the batch I worked on. (At least we weren’t making five year gouda!) Finally, a few weeks ago, I found a little box in a shipment to Pastoral with my name on it. My batch was ready to eat! The wheel was white and orange and springy to the touch. The inside was gooey and smooth with a delicious grittiness on the rind. The paste is savory with just enough funk to make me wonder how long this wheel is going to last in my fridge. In addition to this just being a great cheese there was the extra level of enjoyment from the knowledge that I'd helped make it. I had scooped some of the curd into the forms, I had stirred the vat of milk while the starter cultures worked their particular brand of molecular magic. I'd seen this cheese at (most) of the steps on the way and it only made it more delicious to me. Cheese from start to finish.

    Now if you'll excuse me, I'm going to go eat some Rush Creek.

    ????????????????????????????????????Alex Eberle is a Cheesemonger at Pastoral Broadway who recently moved to Chicago from Washington State. When he's not geeking out over casein micelle matrices, he's embarrassing himself at stand up open mics or karaoke.

  • See Behind the Building of Bar Pastoral!

    Our friends at moss design, the super cool Chicago design studio who helped us realize Bar Pastoral have posted a great video about the project.  It's easy to look good when you've got a great team of designers, artists and contractors on your side!

  • Thanks for the good times, American Cheese Month!

    We have so many fond memories of American Cheese Month... It seems like only two days ago we were posting profiles of American Artisans every day on our Cheesy Chat, painting the town orange (and white... and blue...) with all-American cheese plates at some of our favorite Chicago Restaurants and meeting the fantastic artisan producers behind it all!

    One of our highlights is certainly our staff trip to Wisconsin. We got to meet a lot of small producers from this big dairy state and get a fantastic idea of where our cheese comes from.  And a big part of the fun for us is sharing that experience as best as we can with you!

    Please enjoy this video re-cap of our 1 day whirlwind tour! 

  • American Cheese Month in The Gourmet Retailer and TCW

    AmericanCheeseMonth_logo_transparency-1024x862The Gourmet Retailer got the scoop on all of Pastoral's fun American Cheese Month events! Read the article online.

    Laura Levy from Today's Chicago Woman joined Pastoral on our trip to Wisconsin and recorded our trip with a great photo slideshow on her blog. Read it here!

    October is coming to a close, but there is still time to celebrate! We have producer tastings at all of our stores this weekend and lots of Chicago restaurants are still featuring all USA made cheeses on their cheese plates through the weekend. We are also still accepting donations to the American Cheese Education Foundation at our stores and as always, stocking fantastic American artisan gems! Get a full list of events on our American Cheese Month page.

  • Tales of an ACS Competition Judge

    Pastoral's Fromager Cesar Olivares recounts his experience as a judge at the 2011 American Cheese Society Competition in Montreal this August.

    Judges Cesar Olivares from Pastoral and Laure TuboulozIn our foodie culture there are a few events per year that draw the artisans out from their busy days and connect them with the people that tell their stories and sell their products. My favorite would have to be the American Cheese Society conference and competition. A mecca for great people and a chance for the farmer to take a much needed break.

    This year was a year of many firsts. It was the first time in its 27 years that the conference was held in Canada and it was the first time that I participated as a judge for the competition. I flew to Montreal a few days before the conference and with 33 other cheese professionals from all over the world, went through the 1,676 Cheese Competition entries in two days.

    The way the judging works is that the cheeses are broken down into 22 categories and within each category there are multiple sub categories. For example, the Cheddar category is broken down into aged Cheddars, flavored Cheddars, goat's milk Cheddars, etc. Each cheese is scored by a team of two judges, a technical judge and an aesthetic judge. I served as an aesthetic judge with the talented Laure Tubouloz alongside me as a technical judge. The highest scoring cheese in each category, the blue ribbon cheeses, are then tasted by all the judges to find the best in show cheeses for that year.

    Amongst many others (all the winners are listed here), my fellow judges recognized Rogue River Blue (Best in Show!), Point Reyes Toma, Humboldt Fog, Prairie Breeze, Echo Mountain, Up In Smoke, Marieke Gouda, Spring Brook Tarentaise, and Pleasant Ridge Reserve as some of the top cheeses in North America.

    Aside from the complaints from my tummy after two very long days of eating cheese I have to say it was one of my favorite moments in my cheesy career. I got a chance to taste so many beautiful cheeses and because of the conference location, I had the opportunity to taste a lot of the gems created in Canada that just don't make it far from their farms.

    Cheese Case at the Atwater Market in Montreal

    One of these gems led me on an adventure in Montreal, searching for a retailer that carried this local cheese. The journey ended in a place I would consider a foodie's dream come true. The Atwater Market in Montreal had it all - cheese shops, oil shops, candy makers, bakeries, flower stands, produce, butchers, wine stores, you name it. Every vendor had something amazing to offer and the bustling market was full of people and a great appreciation for food.

    The third place best of show cheese was Louis d'Or from Fromagerie du Presbytere in Quebec. This cheese was a complex gruyere style cheese that was much like an aged Comte. Fromagerie Atwater was selling it amongst all their other tasty offerings and I was able to bring a little piece home to share with my fellow mongers. But the market didn't let me off that easy - I just couldn't help myself. I ended up with mustard, honey, chorizo, coffee, chocolate, caramels, wine. . . shall I keep going?

    Pates at Atwater Market in Montreal

    Needless to say the week long cheese adventure has many other delicious finds. I am grateful to be part of a community that gets together to celebrate the hard work of all the cheese makers in North America.

    Happy eating,

    Cesar

  • Lisa Futterman's Trip to Prairie Fruits Farm

    Lisa FuttermanWholesale Cheesemonger
    Lisa Futterman

    July 22, 2011

    Periodically I like to round up a chef or two and take them to visit a cheese maker or two. As Pastoral’s wholesale cheesemonger, I find it’s beneficial and eye-opening for chefs and cheese makers to meet each other and get to know about each other’s passions and challenges.

    Chefs become friends with the goats at Prairie Fruits FarmMy guests this trip were Nicole Pederson, Executive Chef at C-House (and former Pastoral cheesemonger!) and her Pastry Chef, Melissa Trimmer. We chose the tail end of a heat wave to pay our visit, and when we arrived the cheesemakers were almost as hot and tired as the farm animals. Despite the heat, Leslie Cooperband, the owner and founder of Prairie Fruits Farm with her husband Wes Jarrell, gave us a very thorough tour of the make room, the tiny drying room, and the endless warren of specialized aging rooms.

    Along the way we learned about the work that Leslie and the new cheesemakers, Pastoral alums Nat Bjerke-Harvey and Alison Olewnik, have been doing on refining the recipes for their gorgeous repertoire of cheeses. We heard about the chemistry involved in creating the perfect cocktail of molds and bacteria, along with the physical techniques used to properly dry and age the cheeses to create the perfect texture and rind development. The blend of precise science and artistic passion that the job entails was quite fascinating.

    Prairie Fruits Farm cheesemake Alison Olewnik with cheeses ready for ripeningThe makers are also experimenting with different shapes and sizes for some of the cheeses, including making a new round ewe bloom to create more even ripening.

    The chefs and I were really impressed by the number of different cheeses that such a small operation was able to make, using just milk from their own herd of adorable goats and sheep milk from the Amish farmers down the road.

     

    Prairie Fruits Farm cheesemaker Nat Bjerke-Harvey sampling their own creationsAfter meeting the animals and touring the orchard and expansive vegetable garden, we got down to the really fun part—tasting all the lovely cheeses we saw in various states in the cheeserie. We cracked a few bottles of vinho verde rose and enjoyed a gustatory tour. We were lucky in our timing because the gang had recently made their 1000th batch of cheese and created a special cheese in honor of this event. The cheese, a log-shaped 70% goat 30% sheep blend called Millie, was, in the words of Pastoral monger Bryan Bland, ”super tight.”

    This year Wes purchased a gelato machine and has been producing a rainbow of goat milk gelatos. We got to taste and consult on several flavors, and Melissa, a certified gelato expert, gave them a solid stamp of approval.

    The day ended with a long and lovely dinner at Bacaro in downtown Champaign. We loved reading their cheese menu, since deservedly 4 out of the 5 cheeses listed were from Prairie Fruits Farm. We drove back to the city with a renewed appreciation for the difficult yet fulfilling life of our cheese making neighbors.

    Pastoral carries Prairie Fruits Farm's Fresh Chevre from early spring through the fall. During this season, we also carry a rotating selection of their ripened and aged cheeses including Ewe's Bloom and Little Bloom on the Prairie.

  • Pastoral featured in Chicago Magazine Holiday Guide

    Beer & wine journals, a holiday gifting hit!

    chicago mag 12.2010

    chicago mag 2 12.2010

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