Cheese never tastes better than from a fresh-cut wheel, so my introduction to Goat Lady Dairy’s Providence was about as good as it gets. I had stopped into San Francisco’s Cheese Plus just as the monger was making the initial cut into this crusty aged North Carolina goat cheese. What sweet, nutty, caramel-like aromas. I took home a big chunk.
Goat Lady Dairy is a 20-year-old enterprise with an enthusiastic following in the Southeast and some East Coast presence, but we West Coasters are just getting acquainted with it. Established on a former tobacco farm by siblings Ginnie and Steve Tate and Steve’s wife Lee, the dairy has always had a mission beyond cheesemaking—to educate its urban neighbors in Greensboro and High Point about the source of their food and heighten their appreciation for endangered farmland. To that end, the dairy holds frequent farm dinners and occasional “open farm” days, and the family has placed the farm in a conservation easement so that it will remain in agriculture. Bravo.
Providence is a 5- to 6-pound cheese made in the square molds that Italy’s Taleggio producers use. Goat Lady’s attempts at goat-milk Taleggio weren’t entirely successful, so the Tates switched gears and used the molds for a hard cheese instead. They use pasteurized milk from their own goats and animal rennet. The curds are lightly cooked, then ladled into the forms. The fresh squares are hand-flipped multiple times so the curds drain largely from their own weight. Because the cheese isn’t pressed, you will probably see some fissures in the ivory paste. Three to four months in the aging room produces a rustic natural rind inhabited by a diverse and colorful universe of microbes. Get out your hand lens.
Near that crust, expect a damp-cave scent. Then cut the rind away and note the interior aromas of custard, mushroom, artichoke and celery. The texture is firm and brittle, the flavor tart and salty. Providence has the hint of caramel that I find in many aged goat cheeses, but that nutty artichoke aroma is, for me, more pronounced. I can eat a lot of this cheese.
The family’s 20-acre property in the state’s Piedmont region can only support about 70 goats. To grow their milk supply, the Tates have turned to “partner farms” to host the rest of their herd, now numbering about 260 and headed higher. That’s good news, because California alone could probably consume the 60 squares of Providence that the creamery currently makes weekly.
If you have 15 minutes, you won’t regret spending it on this video. Working with his videographer son, Steve Tate has produced an admirably clear and concise overview of the cheesemaking process.
Look for Goat Lady Dairy Providence at The Cheese Shop in Carmel; SHED in Healdsburg; A Market in Los Angeles; Oxbow Cheese Merchant in Napa; Cal Mart, Cheese Plus and Rainbow Grocery in San Francisco; DeLaurenti in Seattle; Sunshine Foods in St. Helena; Erewhon Market in Venice; Atelier by JCB in Yountville; and Oliver’s Market (multiple North Bay locations). A Belgian tripel, brown ale or porter would be a good match, as would richer white wines and meaty red wines such as Syrah or Cabernet Sauvignon.
Yogurt: make it, love it, use it! Join me on Thursday evening, December 1, at Napa’s Silverado Cooking School for a deep dive into this luscious and health-promoting dairy product. I’ll demonstrate my preferred method for making yogurt at home, then we’ll get to work and make our dinner, start to finish. A hands-on class for a maximum of 14 students. Reserve now.
Rich and Creamy Homemade Yogurt
Chicken Soup with Toasted Pasta, Chickpeas and Yogurt
Warm Grated Carrot and Yogurt Salad with Cumin
Lamb Meatballs in Warm Yogurt Sauce with Sizzling Red Pepper Butter
Roasted Butternut Squash with Yogurt and Toasted Pumpkin Seeds
Absinthe’s Golden Yogurt Cake with Yogurt Cream