Editor’s note: NYC cheese consultant Raymond Hook chatted with Jill Giacomini Basch, Karen Giacomini Howard, Diana Giacomini Hagan and Lynn Giacomini Stray from wildly successful Point Reyes Farmstead Cheese. Based in northern California, this family-owned company has inspired American consumers and dairies alike. This is part 2 of 2 in a series. Read part 1.
Raymond Hook: What part of the country does your cheese sell best in?
Lynn Giacomini Stray: Point Reyes Farmstead Cheese certainly sells best in our backyard – between the local food movement and the fact that consumers in Northern California are very sophisticated foodies, we sell the majority of our products here in the Bay Area and the West Coast. Having said that though, major metropolitan areas across the U.S. have embraced our cheese and our brand.
Raymond Hook: What are the joys of making great cheese, what are the struggles?
Jill Giacomini Basch: Overall, cheese making is really enjoyable – it is a business where you’re making a product that all consumers can enjoy – and price doesn’t get in the way. You can hold it in your hand, you can touch, smell and taste it. You can experience your customers’ joy as they try it for the first time and then watch them become long term fans. It is incredibly satisfying to produce food that is simple, pure and of great quality. Now, having said all that – cheese making is a hard business (read about making farmstead cheese). Many people idealize the effort and labor involved. It appears so romantic to be working on a farm with family to preserve the legacy of your parents’ hard work. While the rewards are many, the business requires focus, strategy, commitment, patience, passion and lots of long hours!
Raymond Hook: What is your favorite pairing with your blue, beer, wine or both?
Karen Giacomini Howard: Original Blue – the great thing about our blue is that depending what time of day and how you serve it, there are many options for beverage pairing. What We love it with a sparkling wine when crumbled into an endive spear and topped with some toasted nuts before a meal, it goes well with a full-bodied red (Cakebread Cabernet is a fave) when partnered with mushrooms in a risotto or with beef (a great burger for instance), or –of course—paired with Vintage Port (we prefer Dow) after dinner, maybe drizzled with a little honey. Delicious!
Raymond Hook: Where do you see the future of artisan cheese in California and America heading?
Lynn Giacomini Stray: It is still a booming industry and we love it – the more growth, especially in our west coast region, the more awareness for our category, which is great for us all. Just this year alone, we’ve had five new cheesemakers get started in Northern California – it is a very exciting time for specialty cheese!