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Cowgirl's SF Drake washed-rind cheese

For those of you on the look out for the serendipity that is Cowgirl's "SF Drake" cheese made only a few times a year, a friend brought some to a gathering yesterday. She purchased it at the Cheese Shop in downtown Healdsburg. This ripe sample was pretty ooey-gooey, as in, I used a spoon to get the ooze off the plate. Maybe it's still available at Cowgirl's other retailers.

Here's more about it on Joanne's blog -

Cheese Shop of Healdsburg
423 Center St, Healdsburg, CA

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  1. Saw two and a half rounds of it available in the cheese case at Traverso's, yesterday (Saturday).

    Traverso's Gourmet Foods
    2097 Stagecoach Rd,, Santa Rosa, CA

    1. I picked some up at the Ferry Building last week. This may be one of my most favorite cheeses - creamy and gooey and just a little tangy. I always keep an eye out for it when going by Cowgirl, as its production is somewhat erratic!

      4 Replies
      1. re: little cook

        Generally, I'm not a fan of Cowgirl's cheeses finding them too simple, but I liked this example. When I got home and hit the 'net to find out more about SF Drake, I laughed when I saw Joanne's pictures. The example I had was so soft, it had flattened out to a disk less than an inch thick. But the brownish rind wasn't at all ammoniated, and we all loved it.

        The cheese course also included Andante's "Figaro". Also a beautiful cheese, but this is probably the first time that an Andante cheese was not the star of the plate.

        Matos St. Jorge and Rouge et Noir's triple creme brie completed the offering of local cheeses.

        1. re: Melanie Wong

          would you include cowgirl's red hawk in that estimation? because i was once given a red hawk for a birthday, which i ended up leaving out at a warm temperature for a few hours, and when i put it in my fridge, it overwhelmed everything in there. thankfully it tasted good. but i'm far from a cheesehound.

          thanks for the tip though...this is the only cowgirl cheese i haven't had yet.

          1. re: augustiner

            Every washed rind cheese I've ever tried is incredibly stinky and if it's not, well, it's probably underripe. The taste is generally much milder.

            The examples of Red Hawk that I've tried are usually immature and do not have anywhere near the character of raw milk Epoisses, Alsatian Münster, Ami du Chambertin, etc. For that matter, SF Drake doesn't either but I still found it quite delectable in its own way. A few years ago when I was in Cowgirl's store in Point Reyes Station, I complained about the Red Hawk to the cheesemonger. She acknowledged that they're sold too young and unripe, and that it's because that's how their retailers and consumers prefer the cheese. Sigh.

            1. re: Melanie Wong

              Cowgirl sells cheese based on what their wholesale customers needs are. A retailer, where the cheese will sit on a shelf for up to a couple of weeks, want their cheeses less ripe (so they can age on the shelf) while a restaurant wants the same cheese in a much riper state to serve immediately, more or less. Cowgirl is still perfecting this program, but it makes sense. So ultimately, it's important to realize that proper time is given to allow the cheese to ripen. BTW Doralice at Cheese Shop definitely knows what she's doing.

      2. Just a heads up: more Drake has surfaced at Traverso's (and apparently the Sonoma Whole Foods, per rworange's post earlier in the week: http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/567285 ). When I last looked a couple of days ago, they had four whole rounds left in the cheese case (4 that is, after one came home with me...mmmmm).

        1. Doralice (the owner) knows what she's doing!

          1. When I left Cheeseboard yesterday there were 2 1/2 rounds left. Tasting my half soon after, letting it breathe and warm a little, it was judged excellent. Another cheese person suggested I try King Island Seal Bay Triple Cream. It is presently available at Andronicos Shattuck. Report on the piece in my refrigerator after Tuesday tasting.

            1. FYI: There were at least six rounds of the Drake in the case at the Cowgirl's SF Ferry Building outpost, when I was there this afternoon (Friday, Nov. 7th).

              Cowgirl Creamery
              1 Ferry Building, San Francisco, CA 94111

              5 Replies
              1. re: chocolateninja

                I would hope so considering they have an in with the supplier.

                1. re: wolfe

                  Hahaha. :-P Since the Drake is a limited edition, not around very often, cheese, I thought it would be nice to let people know when I see it available.

                  1. re: chocolateninja

                    That's why I posted about Cheeseboard. I did not see any at the cheese shop at Oxbow this morning.

                    1. re: wolfe

                      Thanks for the tip, we just got some of the Drake and I am very curious to try it. I really enjoy the Red Hawk. It does vary a good deal from batch to batch and as someone else eluded to, some unripe batches can be too mild and too firm. But some batches that I’ve had have been amazing. Good batches of Red Hawk can have the wonderful intensity of good Epoisses (Epoisses varies from batch to batch as well), but also this very rich milky creaminess. I will report back on the Drake once I try it.

                      1. re: Ridge

                        Just had some of the Drake for dinner. We had three different cheeses and a nice red wine for dinner (We like to be decadent on Sunday). We started with a Spanish sheeps milk cheese then onto a yummy Italian goat cheese- Bocconcino alta Langhe and finished with Cowgirls SF Drake. The Drake was buttery and mushroomy. It had the superb buttery consistency that good batches of the Red Hawk have. The flavor was not as intense as Red Hawk. The flavor was earthy, rich and creamy. We ate it alone and with crackers but I thought it would have been best with a crusty baguette which we unfortunately did not have. Overall a very satisfying cheese.

              2. Seems a healthy supply of SF Drake has recently hit SF. Found it at Whole Foods on California yesterday, and today at Cowgirl in the Ferry Building as well as Andronico's in the Inner Sunset. Andronico's has quite a bit at the moment. It disappears quickly, so I bought enough to get me through some upcoming holiday entertaining. Now if I can just resist eating it all...

                Also found some Cowgirl Pierce Pt. at Andronico's, available only this time of year.

                1. Last weekend I met one of Cowgirl's cheesemakers at a dinner party and had a chance to learn more about the SF Drake. It starts out life as Mt Tam. Some batches of Mt Tam may be too high in moisture, sometimes there's too much Mt Tam and/or some batches will grow additional molds that are tasty and not unsafe but that American consumers find unacceptable in appearance. These reject Mt Tam cheeses are redirected to SF Drake by removing the mold and coating them with currants soaked in wine. There's high demand for SF Drake and the creamery maintains a list of retailers and consumers who want to be contacted when its available.

                  1. FYI: SF Drake sighting last week at Oliver's grocery store in Santa Rosa, on Stony Point Rd.

                    Thanks for the little SFDrake history tidbit, Melanie. Interesting! :D Kinda glad for those "most Americans" who get squicked out by "weird" mold...means more yummy cheese for us! :P

                    2 Replies
                    1. re: chocolateninja

                      Definitely a silver lining to provincialism!

                      1. re: Melanie Wong

                        We just scored a round at Birite Market on Friday. Perfectly ripe and had a complexity I don't associate with Cowgirl cheese in general. We enjoyed it with hunks of fresh bread from Tartine. Yum!