Choose the Cheese

"What's the point of doing another marginal thing?" Mary Keehn quietly asks. "The world is full of marginal things."

Two short sentences and we get it. This is a cheese wizard sitting across the table from us, if ever, oh ever, a wiz there was.

Mary Keehn is the founder of Cypress Grove Chevre and its first cheesemaker. "I wanted my children to have good food, so I bought two goats," she explains, recalling her company's simple beginning in 1984. Today, there's a spacious new creamery, just off the edge of the Pacific Coast near the redwood forests, in Humboldt County, Calif.

From the start, Cypress Grove cheeses have won an impressive number of gold, first and best of show awards in national and international cheese competitions.

"What's important, however, is consistency," Mary says, "not the awards." The fresh milk comes from nearby goat farmers. The families are paid a premium for high-quality milk produced through careful herd management, which guarantees Cypress Grove a supply of excellent milk year-round.

Don't underestimate the creativity in this tiny corner of California. Who thinks of adding fennel pollen and a dusting of lavender buds to fresh goat cheese and dubbing it Purple Haze' It's like a meadow, this newest chevre in Cypress Grove's line. And what about their world prizewinner Humboldt Fog, which just keeps the awards rolling in for the cheesemaker' Its various textures and flavors as it ripens are as fascinating as fog itself.

'It's magic,' Mary says. 'When you look at all that milk " Her voice trails off and she smiles without margin, 'Yeah, I love it.'

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