As farmers' markets have increased in quantity and quality, artisan farm-based producers are using them for direct distribution. Along with bakeries and fish mongers, meat purveyors and prepared food folks, cheese makers are setting up stands to show their curds and wares.
Achadinha Cheese Company is a family-owned goat farm in Petaluma producing goat cheeses and even goat sausage. The Pacheco family that runs the farm is using farmers' markets to reach you. While their goat sausage is mild enough to appeal to those resistant to the gaminess of goat, the star of the Achandinha show is their Capricious cheese.
Capricious is the cheese I went searching for at the Fort Mason farmers' market last weekend. The cheese took a "Best in Show" at the American Cheese Society, a big deal in cheeseland, and I wanted to see what the local folks were doing that trumped the rest of the country.
Capricious is an aged, European-style, goat cheese. It's hand-rolled and "naturally aged in the fresh Pacific Ocean air." It's firm, like an aged raw-milk manchego you'd likely have to smuggle back from Spain: a solid hard cheese with good texture and flavor.
In the mouth there's a nice note of sharpness and modest salt. It's a dry bite, firm to the tooth, with just a bit of brine. It's a step-up cheese for dry-sharp cheddar and manchego eaters looking for something new.
Aging eliminates the bulk of the gamy notes often found in younger goat cheeses, until the finish where a classic dry/aged chevre flavor comes through. The cheese has a particularly long finish. It lasted from my tasting and notes to the end of this article. You'll remember you've eaten this cheese for awhile.
Tech note: Eat the rind to get the extra earthiness and complexity. (Rind is a to-be-eaten option, wax is not).
This cheese, and Achadinha's other two, simply scream for Sherry. A dry amontillado and Capricious would give Spain's best pairing (aged manchego and dry Sherry) a run for their money. Nip and sip and imagine the seaside mist.
BTW, if salt brine is your thing, try Achadinha's feta; it's packed in it. It's salty and true like I've only had in Greece; not for the mild of mouth.
Achadinha cheeses are available directly from the family at farmers' markets including at Ferry Plaza, Daly City, Fort Mason, Divisadero, Sunset and Glen Park. Capricious is $27 per pound; feta is $17 per pound. Goat sausage is $9 for an eight-ounce link.