Loleta - Cheesemaking Without the Fuss

We left the giant trees of the Redwood forests in Northern California to make our way to Willits to see a friend who was working at a place called The Grange Farm for Adaptive Agriculture. Intrigued towards what we were going to find on an adaptive agriculture farm we decided to brainstorm what it might be like. In order to brainstorm we needed fuel to think. Therefore, cheese.

We decided to stop at a dot on the map named 'Loleta' which apparently held a small cheese factory within the limits of the town. We peered out of the windows of the car at rural Humboldt county, green and lush pastures aren't necessarily what one thinks of when conjuring up an image of California but this was certainly the case amongst these parts. The vibrancy of the fields reminded me of my home country, England, with its rolling hills and farm buildings.


The shop was on a side street opposite a derelict building with smashed windows, it hardly seemed like a good location from the outside. However, when we went in we could clearly see that it was a popular location. First opened in 1982 I think the factory must look the same today as it did 35 years ago. The shop had a simple cheese case that was filled with what I like to refer to as 'solid no frill cheese!' There was a large selection of Jack, Cheddar and Havarti that was infused with different flavors and each cheese had a respective sample to try.


Filling our faces with cheese I looked up to the picture on the wall and saw an image of Guy Fieri from Diners, Drive-in's and Dives when he visited the establishment a few years ago. He was stood with Bob Laffranchi, the owner of Loleta Cheese. Guy Fieri was quoted as saying 'it was the real deal'. On a side note I think Fieri's spiked hair would make an excellent spot to place cheese and pickled onions for a party!


Being on a strict budget we decided to by the end piece of a Monterey Jack for our 'make it yourself and eat it out of the trunk on the side of the road' picnic. The end pieces were ridiculously cheaply priced at $2, it would have been rude not to buy one. As we set off on our merry way we saw the cows that made our cheese possible. We thanked them udderly...

Kootenai River Brewery

We left the amazing mountains and crystal blue lakes of Banff to return to the good old US of A with its incredible terrain, vibrant cities and worrying political system. We were heading west towards Washington and the start of cheese country but first we needed to make a trip to Northern Idaho just to see what it was like (and to snare a cheeky bevvy!)

Having no phones and an iPad with limited connectivity we generally just stop through towns and hope for the best. This time, the best happened to be a brewery found in Bonners Ferry. We parked up alongside the river next to a pristine, light blue Chevy from a time period long before we were born and walked through the wooden doors.

The first thing I thought was that it was big. Bigger than it looked from the outside. A large selection of merchandise greeted us immediately as we walked in with a bar that stretched the entire length of one wall. Ample indoor and outdoor seating was available but we decided to place ourselves at a small table situated in between the bar and the brewing vats. Perfect spot for a pint.

With respect to pints, these were the cheapest pints you could aim to find. $4 for a 16oz and $3 for a 12oz. When you are on the road and under a limited budget with only a small amount allocated for drinking alcoholic beverages then this is a steal. Lots of the drinks referred to animals - Osprey Pilsner, Grizzly IPA, Two Tails Pale Ale which is what you would expect from rural Idaho. I asked the girl at the bar what their signature drink was and she shrugged her shoulders and said 'I dunno, people like Osprey.' It was blue and bright outside so I ditched my IPA boots and picked a Pilsner she recommended. Sometimes Pilsners lack flavor, this one didn't. I took a swig, flapped my bird wings and soared off into the distance. Haley, my better half, decided to go for Two Tails Pale Ale but in 12oz size. A fun size glass for a fun size girl.


Whilst waiting for the bevvy I noticed a chalk board on the wall that said 'Today's soup - Beer Cheese Soup.' I immediately had to have it. Beer is an incredible idea, cheese is an incredible idea so a combination of the two always sounds good. I boldly ordered a bowl of it and waited for its arrival, filling the time with sips of Osprey Pilsner. We had driven all the way from Banff to Bonners Ferry and all we had eaten was a croissant. I was a starvin' Marvin, whoever he is.

Along came the soup. It was thick, it was creamy, it was beery, it was grey-brown in color. It would look totally unappetizing in a nice restaurant. But this was no restaurant, this was a brewery that made beer cheese soup and it was fit. Fit, fit, fit!

Osprey Pilsner beer-o-meter - 7/10

Beercheesesoup-o-meter - 9/10!

Fonterra Sharp Cheddar: Your dad's favorite cheese!

A lively customer walked straight for me this week, extremely eager to tell me something. He had a manic look in his otherwise friendly eyes and I waited with trepidation for what was coming next. 'I'm 42 and I never knew' he exclaimed. He waited impatiently, anticipating my reaction. On realizing that he wasn't going to kill me with the block of cheese that he was holding aloft I offered a reply. 'You're 42?' I said. The man was looking positively radiant and not a day over 30. This was not the answer he wanted and he brushed it aside immediately. 'I just never knew' he repeated, a bemused look on his face somewhere between concern and awe. I finally ventured with the response he was waiting for. 'Never knew what?' I said. 'I'm 42 and I never realized that cheddar could actually taste so good. I never believed the hype. I thought that ordinary cheddar, cheap cheddar that I usually buy was worth the price and that there was no difference. I've literally spent my whole life EATING BORING CHEDDAR' he said animatedly.

Cheddar Mountain; the highest peak in New Zealand

Cheddar Mountain; the highest peak in New Zealand

The piece of cheese that he was holding above his head like a caveman wielding a prehistoric tool was Fonterra, New Zealand Sharp Cheddar. If you put hundreds of cheddar's in a line, it is pretty good. Not the best, but nowhere near the bottom of the pile either. This gentleman with the secret aging cream was amazed at the price as well as the taste and on comparison he realized he was actually getting more 'better cheddar' per pound than his 'usual cheap cheddar.' Once he had made his point we exchanged pleasantries and off he went on his merry way. I never did find out what cheap cheddar he had been eating all those years!

As a company, Fonterra is pretty big. However, big doesn't necessarily mean bad. They are committed to responsible dairy farming and they have projects in place to promote sustainable farming, preserving wetlands and taking care of cattle. The cheese is made with milk from grass-fed cows. It pretty much melts in your mouth, it's incredibly flavorful and it leaves you thinking 'I'm just going to have to have another piece!'