Sunday, February 05, 2006

Marin French Cheese Co - Petaluma

We set out from Napa at about 8:45am, and by 9:30am, we reached our first stop: the Marin French Cheese Co on the rural outskirts of the town of Petaluma (Marin County is the county to the west of Sonoma--which is to the west of Napa--so the drive looks something like this).

The Marin French Cheese Co sells under the label Rouge et Noir, and they have been making cheese in the same location since 1865. They specialize in soft cheeses such as brie, camembert, chevre, and quark. Their cheeses are said to be hand crafted in the French style. All their cheeses are pasteurized, though, unlike the some of the illegal-in-the-US unpasteurized cheeses made in France.
They open at 8:30am, but I think we were the first customers on this winter Saturday morning. As we quietly browsed the cheeses, jams, and wine accoutrements (plus a truly gorgeous martini gear carrying case), a worker quietly opened packages of their cheeses to put out as samples.... Probably about 12 in total. This was one of our first breakfasts.

Just as I am not a wine aficionado, I am not a cheese one either, although I do enjoy it immensely. What I've noticed from wine tasting, though, is that a winery will often have a certain style that goes through all their wines--certain flavors and tones that permeate throughout its products. At Marin French Cheese Co, the flavor of the farm permeated, in the best way. A brie or camembert might begin with its creamy freshness, but by the end, notes of grass and hay of a farmhouse linger, as if the cheese had its own terroir. Oui, comme les fromages de France.

It was hard to choose among the cheeses, but in the end, I ended up getting their yellow buck chevre with its grassy notes and their fresh blackberry quark, which was rather purple-ish and jammy and sweet--too sweet for Chad, who said he couldn't even taste the cheese. But I've always liked to mix cream cheese with jam, and this was the apotheosis of that combination. There was also a buttery "Breakfast Cheese" that was tempting.

Outside, there is also a duck pond to spend time at for a picnic. They sell sandwiches and wine and there's a small deli section, but of course, you can bring your own breads and wines, too.

The above picture suggests a somewhat busier landscape than there really is....


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