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California Artisan Cheeses?

I am not sure if this is in the right spot, but I'm sure it'll get moved if I'm wrong.

I'm looking for a good cheese gift for a friend. One year, I received a pack of three cheeses from Cowgirl Creamery, which I enjoyed. Are there other sources I should look into for ordering cheese? He likes all types of cheese, even the soft, stinky ones and the crazy blues (all of which are my favorites).

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  1. If you'll be sending the gift to your friend, I recomment you check out www.murrayscheese.com (Murray's Cheese Shop in NYC) or www.cheese.com (iGourmet). Both offer great packages which they can ship directly to your friend.

    If you'll be giving the gift in person, I recommend you visit a local cheese shop in your area and ask for their help. They can help you select cheeses that are ripest, in season and sure to bring a smile to your friend's face. Another idea would be a gift certificate for a cheese class or something like that.

    Good luck!

    1 Reply
    1. re: mimosa

      That's a good point, about the local cheese shop. That would definitely make it easier to not worry about when the gift will be delivered!

    2. You didn't mention if you are in Calif, but local farmers' markets are also a good source, and you could ship yourself. Our central coast markets have a seller who brings cheese down from NorCal as well as selling local cheeses.

      1. I just discovered an artisan fresh buffalo mozzarella cheese place in Northern California, BUBALUS BUBALIS ( http://www.realmozzarella.com/ )plus a place to buy it in Santa Barbara at Tri-Counties Produce.

        They send gift packs so you can get it fresh, fresh, fresh which is the only way to really savor this wonderful low-key cheese that has nothing at all to do with one finds hard and rubbery in the supermarkets or bland and uninteresting when soft and made with cows milk or benign when even imported buffalo milk.

        1. If you are in San Diego, you might want to contact the folks at TASTE, in Hillcrest.

          1 Reply
          1. re: normalheightsfoodie

            I am in San Diego! What street is TASTE on? I also just remembered that there is a cheese shop in Del Mar... I think it's in the mall area.

          2. Taste is on University Ave in Hillcrest. The shop in Del Mar is called Aniata and it's in the Flower Hill Mall on Via de la Valle.

            1 Reply
            1. re: mimosa

              Aniata! That's right. Have you been there? Do you like one better than the other?

            2. Fiscalini Farms of Modesto makes some lovely California cheeses.

              1 Reply
              1. re: Snackish

                I second that! I enjoy their Purple Moon Cheddar and San Joaquin Gold. I sent cheese assortments to friends for Christmas a few years ago- they were a big hit.

              2. Try the dairy at Cal Poly - San Luis Obispo - they make an horseradish cheese that is fabulous - the hot pepper Monterey Jack is tasty too.

                1. I have found the personal service at TASTE to be above and beyond anything that I have experienced at other stores and shops. The clerks really helpful, they even will keep a record of your purchases so you can go back and get what ever you had before that you really like.

                  Taste is on 1243 University Avenue. They are connected to Wine Steals, so you can get a bottle too.

                  6 Replies
                  1. re: normalheightsfoodie

                    Aniata will also keep a record of your purchases. Big plus is that they also sell Vosges Haute Chocolate bars!

                    1. re: daantaat

                      I don't know, I've tried a lot of the Vosges products and they don't do much for me. Chuao, See's and even Scharffenberger satisfies the chocolate lover in me but no Vosges for some reason. But I agree about Aniate, they record all your purchases, keep the entire store appropriatedly chilled and their staff is extremely knowledgeable about the cheeses they sell.

                      1. re: DiningDiva

                        If you like Vosges, a local chocolatier worth checking out is Eclipse (www.eclipsechocolat.com). Like Vosges, they have some creative blends on their bars like blackberry/sage, coconut/lime, orange/anise and my recent fave fleur de sel/lavendar. His mainstay is his line of truffles which you can check out on his site. In addition, he does some salted caramels that are among the best chocolates I've tasted.

                        1. re: DiningDiva

                          We splurged on a bonbon/truffle box at Vosges because I'd read so much about them, but I'd much rather get a box of assorted Chuao bonbons. I like the flavors, texture, and price much much better!

                          1. re: leanneabe

                            Um.....if ya'll read my post I indicated I did NOT much care for Vosges chocolates. I think they're highly overrated. Though I did like their marshmallows. I think Chuao and even See's are better than Vosges. Vosges benefits from GREAT packaging and marketing as well as good press. There is a cabernet, raisin, chile dark chocolate bonbon at Chuao that is addictively to die for.........

                            I took 2 candy making classes at Chuao and had a great time doing them. I highly recommend them. They do, BTW, make great gifts for the chocolate lover in the family :-D

                            1. re: DiningDiva

                              I would agree that most of the bon bons at Chuao are better than the regular flavors at Vosges, with the exception of their Rooster truffle (seasonal only) which has walnuts, Taleggio cheese, dark chocolate and something else in it and olio d'olivio (white chocolate w/ kalamata olive and olive oil). I've found that I like Vosges chocolate bars better in general than their truffles (best one is the roasted almonds w/ grey sea salt, other next bests are the curry and Goji berry bars). Vosges also sells drinking chocolate which has been my substitute since Starbucks discontinued their Chantico.

                              Will definitely check out eclipse chocolates!

                              (and we're all off topic at this point....)

                    2. Another excellent sources for artisan cheeses is Venissimo cheese shop in Mission Hills (San Diego), which you can find online at http://www.venissimo.com.

                      1. What a shame that no one here knows of any artisan cheese in SoCal. I'm sure there are some, but definitely more in the North. Actually, one of my favorites on the West coast is Rogue Creamery in Southern Oregon (they sell Rogue beer there also, but its not a brewery). They have one of the best selections of Bleu, including a smoked version. Yum, I'm ready for some right now.

                        Another favorite is Cypress Grove makers of Humbolt Fog which is a goat (?) soft, mold rind-style (brie-like) but has a core that is more like a dry chevre. As it ripens, the creamy soft layer expands and melts out. A hint of bleu characteristic but not nearly as pungent.

                        Some Whole Foods are better than others for cheese. Selections are good at the Hillcrest store for cheese, but pay careful attention to the "packed on" date. The gourmet shops mentioned above are probably better for both the service and the fact that cheese is usually cut to order (not that whole foods is bad, but the counter people are sometimes less informed). I personally found Venissimo has a bit more of an interesting selection of unique cheeses.

                        Last, IMO, if you are shipping the cheese, you should go for something a bit more on the semi-firm or dry side. Not only will it survive the trip better, they often go better with a good dark winter ale or dark and chewy red wine. Perhaps a selection of Neal's Yard Cheddars? Caerphilly and Montgomery are awesome.

                        1. Hubolt Fog...From Nor Cal
                          Purple Haze...From Nor Cal
                          And if you can find it Organzola...from...Oregon So good!!!

                          1 Reply
                          1. re: kaholo1

                            No one has mentioned the world famous Point Reyes Blue.

                          2. In Winchester, CA, near Temecula is a dairy specializing in dutch gouda. It is really good, especially the aged versions.

                            1 Reply
                            1. re: kare_raisu

                              The Winchester gouda is (or at least was) sold at the Solana Beach farmer's market on Sunday, and probably others as well. It's tasty. Aged gouda (imported Dutch) is also available in Escondido at the European Deli on Kalmia. A friend of mine has a habit of having the same lunch every day, consisting of imported aged gouda on an open sandwich. I didn't know gouda was addictive till I met him.

                              BTW, there is some cheese coming from Tulare County also. http://www.edctulare.com/pdfs/FresnoB...
                              I liked the Bravo Farms that I had a couple of years ago, but I think they may have changed since then. Don't know if it's available here in San Diego.

                            2. In San Diego, Aniata, Venissimo or Taste and Whole Foods too are great places to buy cheeses. Also, if you go to the Cowgirl Creamery website www.cowgirlcreamery.com you can choose from a wide variety of cheeses. They have various packages or you can choose your own. It also gives you a list of all the Artisan cheesemakers in California.

                              1 Reply
                              1. re: sugarNspice

                                Bristol Farms in the UTC area also has a good selection. In the central SD area, I like Venissimo. They even give you pairing suggestions and tasting notes on the receipt.

                                If your recipient is also in San Diego, I would actually suggest giving a gift certificate instead of trying to buy the cheeses yourself, as the experience of tasting the cheeses and shopping is a lot of fun and educational to boot.

                                If you do decide to buy cheeses I recommend some aged Mimolette or aged gouda, fresh Tallegio, or Point Reyes Blue.

                                Vosges fans - Great News carries the complete line of their bars. Venissimo and Taste also occasionally carry Eclipse chocolates. I am on the fence as to which I prefer. I also really like Michael Recchiuti - www.recchiuticonfections.com and Burdick chocolates www.burdickchocolate.com, as well as Chuao.