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Glen Ellen: Raymond & Co. Cheesemongers – Probably the best cheese shop in the Bay Area

rworange Sep 7, 2009 12:16 PM

I am so in love with this shop, not only do I stop by whenever I’m somewhat in the area, I will probably make a special trip during the holidays to purchase my cheese here though the Cheeseboard is much, much closer.

The selection is small, the prices are high and it is a trek for me.

So why am I obsessed? The owner of this tiny, charming and intimate shop is obsessed with cheese and that shows in the quality of choices.

Not only will you tastes exquisite cheeses, the owner chats about what makes them great which can be anything from the process to details about the cheesemakers to how many goats, cows or sheep are on that farm and special breeds. There was some sort of goat breed for one cheese that has short clipped ears.

Another plus is that when he is not in the shop, he has trained the staff very well and they are also extremely knowledgable and seem to share a similar passion for cheese. It's not just a job.

I may give myself a birthday gift this year and do the one hour cheese tasting at the shop. My understanding is it is outside by the river and includes a bottle of wine and a loaf of bread.

From the site “John takes you deep into the cheese one at a time. He doesn’t limit himself to a specific number of cheeses and has been known to sample every cheese we have. This is an intensive hour focused on the fundamentals and tricks of the trade used to eek out certain tastes.

They also do large events. More info is on the web.

Looking at the cheeses on the Raymond website doesn’t even scratch the level of detail that available on each cheese in the shop. Here’s just one example

“Snow Canyon $28.00 lb
5-12 months old made on raw milk at Rockhill Creamery, Cache Valley, Utah
This is destined to be a great American cheese. The wide open paste of the younger ones with well spread eyes gives way to tight glacial marks in the older versions. Both are great: the younger is like eating a poached Bartlett pear, the older lets layers of caramel and chocolate unfold in the mouth. We have only younger ones at the moment.”

On Thursday that burrata A16 gets from Los Angeles is also overnighted to this cheese shop.

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Raymond & Co
388 Devlin Road, Napa, CA 94558

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  1. bbulkow RE: rworange Sep 7, 2009 03:25 PM

    I am currently loving the "bo poisse" from Bohemian Creamery. We are truly blessed in the cheese department.

    1. Robert Lauriston RE: rworange Sep 8, 2009 08:50 AM

      That tasting sounds like a fun lunch, if they can serve wine.

      1. Pei RE: rworange Sep 8, 2009 02:10 PM

        Wow, I just read the website and the tastings sound fabulous. I've been meaning to treat myself to one of the classes at The Cheese School for awhile now, but now I'm torn. Please do report back when you go.

        Raymond & Co website: http://www.raymondcheesemongers.com/

        -----
        Cheese School of San Francisco
        2155 Powell Street, San Francisco, CA

        1. maria lorraine RE: rworange Sep 8, 2009 09:12 PM

          John Raymond is a genius. This is a great store, and John has established importing relationships with some of the finest cheesemakers in the world.

          He also sells at some of the farmers markets.

          See this thread of three months ago, as well:
          Glen Ellen-Raymond & Co. Cheesemongers
          http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/629756

          1. howefortunate RE: rworange Sep 9, 2009 03:24 PM

            Will pay a visit next time I'm in Glen Ellen, Thanks!

            1. susancinsf RE: rworange Jan 4, 2010 07:46 PM

              When I saw this post and Cynsa's (in the link from Maria Lorraine below) I was amazed that I had never noticed this place on my fairly frequent visits to Glen Ellen to see family. I mean, I missed a great cheese shop? How?

              It is tucked away in the Jack London Village. hubby and stepmom and I stopped in recently. John Raymond was there, and we started tasting quite a few cheeses (for which we were never charged). It was amazing, and yes, it is a fantastic store. As for Raymond, yes, he is a genius. Big thumbs up. That said, there is a just bit of the curmudgeon about him, which I found to be slightly uncomfortable. (though hubby and stepmom seemed to love his attitude. For that matter, it didn't stop me from joining the Raymond and Company Cheese club. Now, I can actually get amazing cheeses in my little town four times a year!)

              Wine Country Chocolates next door wasn't nearly as satisfying, (and the only tastings they offer are a tiny bit of ganache) but they do have a very nice portable flexible insulated lunch box/ carry-all, quite reasonably priced, that made a good carrier for the cheese I purchased.

              1. Robert Lauriston RE: rworange Jan 11, 2010 10:32 AM

                Wow, I'm not sure I'd call this the best cheese shop in the area, but Raymond is certainly one of the most obsessed cheesemongers in the world.

                He reminded me a lot of the guys at Terroir. As it turns out, everything I know about cheese / wine is wrong and many of my favorites are inedible / undrinkable crap--which argument might be annoying if it wasn't supported by a diverse selection of extraordinarily delicious products.

                After an hour or so of samples and Socratic-method cheese standup, we couldn't face eating what we finally manged to buy for dinner.

                -----
                Raymond & Co
                388 Devlin Road, Napa, CA 94558

                18 Replies
                1. re: Robert Lauriston
                  rworange RE: Robert Lauriston Jan 11, 2010 11:11 AM

                  Lol. I would have paid to sit on on that discussion. What did you wind up buying?

                  1. re: rworange
                    Robert Lauriston RE: rworange Jan 11, 2010 03:50 PM

                    Most of the time he was handling both parts of the dialogue. It was very entertaining.

                    1. re: rworange
                      Ruth Lafler RE: rworange Jan 11, 2010 11:22 PM

                      Me, too. Because as we all know, Robert is a wishy-washy shrinking violet with no opinions of his own! ;-)

                      1. re: Ruth Lafler
                        wolfe RE: Ruth Lafler Jan 12, 2010 04:34 AM

                        I, for one, was not aware of that.

                    2. re: Robert Lauriston
                      susancinsf RE: Robert Lauriston Jan 11, 2010 11:37 AM

                      I do think it is one of the best, for a reason I forgot to mention in my quick report, which is that one of his obsessions (and yes, I'd agree that Raymond is obsessed) is with local product. Very local, including where the milk came from, plants the animals ate, etc. I am sure I was told terms for all of this and forgot them. Which does raise a point:
                      yes, if Raymond is there you will get a lecture. I saw it as just that though: didn't get into as much discussion/back and forth as you obviously did, and since I was on holiday and not in class I concentrated more on tasting than on listening.

                      1. re: Robert Lauriston
                        a
                        arlenemae RE: Robert Lauriston Jan 12, 2010 03:23 PM

                        Agreed that he is somewhat of a purist. Not sure if I would necessarily agree with him that triple-cremes and cheeses with truffles (which I both love) are "not real cheese".

                        Nevertheless, I thoroughly enjoyed the hour-plus that we spent at his shop, loved all the cheeses that we sampled, and am looking forward to my first cheese club shipment that my husband got me for Christmas.

                        The education and experience was very valuable, but yes, I will still be buying Brillat-Savarin with truffles in between shipments! :)

                        1. re: arlenemae
                          wolfe RE: arlenemae Jan 12, 2010 03:39 PM

                          I guess it would be prudent of me not to ask him what he thinks of cambozola.

                          1. re: arlenemae
                            maria lorraine RE: arlenemae Jan 12, 2010 05:27 PM

                            I can't speak for John, but I do know his knowledge is exhaustive and accurate. As others have stated, he is highly opinionated, a bit of a curmudgeon, and also a purist. For example, he believes that cheese made from the milk of animals while they feed on silage is a distortion of the cheese's nature (not reflective of terroir) and that pasteurized cheeses are bastardizations of the same cheese made with raw milk.

                            I think John's opinions come from his having tasted so widely, and after tasting and studying the "original" versions of cheeses, the silage-milk versions and the pasteurized versions suffer from markedly inferior flavor. From what I surmise, he loves artisan cheeses made in smallish quantities with proprietary molds/fungi, and not much else.

                            The problem with truffled cheeses, IMO, is that the brown bits are often fake truffle, like the problem with much of that labeled as truffle oil. And that those additions -- like the addition of sausage or chili peppers -- distort the true flavor of the cheese. But, Arlenemae, if you're referring to the Brillat-Savarin from Whole Foods that has the layer of truffle paste in the middle (like a layer cake), that's great stuff. Whole Foods assembles that, and the truffle paste used -- La Rustichella. -- is quite good. And I'm a huge fan of Cambozola, and consider it one of the few well-made industrial cheeses.

                            As far as John's opinion on triple-creme cheeses, I think that requires further information. Many Brie-style triple-creme cheeses found in the US are industrially made, or made for an American market using different molds/fungi that create something more like a firmer Havarti-style Brie (that's the industry term) rather than a genuine French Brie. That may be what he is referring to.

                            John's been brilliant at establishing importing relationships with some European cheesemakers whose cheeses had not before been imported into this country or to the West Coast.

                            It's probably a bit easier to be a fan of the cheeses than it is to be a fan of John's, though I'm both. That kind of scholariness is rarely found in the cheese world.

                            1. re: maria lorraine
                              Robert Lauriston RE: maria lorraine Jan 13, 2010 11:21 AM

                              I feel like I should dislike 2,4-dithiapentane on principle, but in fact I like it.

                              1. re: Robert Lauriston
                                wolfe RE: Robert Lauriston Jan 13, 2010 12:13 PM

                                Don't ask.
                                2,4-Dithiapentane is an organic compound known to be an important component of truffle flavor. It is used as a primary aromatic ingredient in truffle oil when combined in an olive oil base.

                              2. re: maria lorraine
                                a
                                arlenemae RE: maria lorraine Jan 13, 2010 09:50 PM

                                Yes, it's the Whole Foods Brillat-Savarin with the truffles in the middle that I usually get, though one time they once had a mini-wheel that was covered in black truffle (not sure if they were fake or not, but it was really good). But then, I also like the taste truffle oil, fake it may be.

                                I do understand where John's opinions come from though, all the cheeses we tasted at his job were fabulous (especially the Tumalo Classico) and unique. I'm definitely looking forward to my cheese club shipments this year.

                            2. re: Robert Lauriston
                              Robert Lauriston RE: Robert Lauriston Jan 13, 2010 11:23 AM

                              Well, after eating the two cheeses we brought home, I'm a bit dubious. They were both good, but to my ignorant palate not as good as what I usually get from the Cheese Board, where we would have paid half the price.

                              On the other hand, he complained that he didn't have a good selection of cheese this time of year, and suggested we do our one-hour guided tasting in the spring. So I'm looking forward to that.

                              1. re: Robert Lauriston
                                maria lorraine RE: Robert Lauriston Jan 13, 2010 01:48 PM

                                The Cheese Board is utterly amazing. Hard to top.

                                1. re: Robert Lauriston
                                  m
                                  mrs bacon RE: Robert Lauriston Jan 14, 2010 08:53 AM

                                  Well, this time of year is a great time for cheese if you happen to be in Europe. It's the season for Vacherin, which is illegal in the U.S. It must kind of suck to be a cheesemonger here and know there's so much great stuff out there that you cannot have.

                                  1. re: mrs bacon
                                    Melanie Wong RE: mrs bacon Jan 14, 2010 11:48 AM

                                    Hmm, Vacherin is made from milk of cows fed on silage during the winter months. Wonder how JR feels about this cheese.

                                    1. re: Melanie Wong
                                      m
                                      mrs bacon RE: Melanie Wong Jan 14, 2010 12:17 PM

                                      Well, if thinks it's not "true" cheese or something, he can just pass his portion over to me!

                                      1. re: mrs bacon
                                        Melanie Wong RE: mrs bacon Jan 14, 2010 12:23 PM

                                        As a Vacherin fan, you might like this post (and photo link).
                                        http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/301932

                                        1. re: Melanie Wong
                                          m
                                          mrs bacon RE: Melanie Wong Jan 14, 2010 01:32 PM

                                          You're killing me with that link! I noticed that Murray's Cheese Shop sells Vacherin online, but it must be the pasteurized kind. Haven't tried it, but I can't imagine it would be the same.

                              2. s
                                sonomajom RE: rworange Jan 11, 2010 04:18 PM

                                Didnt know about the tasting - now that sounds like an idyllic hour. Thanks for mentioning it.
                                On the subject of cheese - we stopped by the new tiny store Epicure Connection, on Highway 12 on north side of Sonoma as leave town, right beside Rocket Cafe (another of my favorites) a couple of weeks ago
                                They had some good cheeses. The owner is a cheesemaker so was very interested nad helpful about our choices. She also carries homemade pasta, lots of high quality artisan sauces. I saw saba for instance
                                Also had some really nice looking pickles. there is a tiny cafe - coffee and pastries. Worth a stop by if you're a foodie and in the area

                                1 Reply
                                1. re: sonomajom
                                  Melanie Wong RE: sonomajom Jan 11, 2010 09:58 PM

                                  Epicurean Connection by Sheana Davis
                                  http://www.sheanadavis.com/

                                2. wolfe RE: rworange Feb 14, 2010 10:05 AM

                                  My daughter just called from Glen Ellen, her assignment was to pick up some of the cheese from the 8 cow dairy, and Raymond has already moved to Napa, Silverado Trail. Is there other confirmation. Other assignment fried pickles from La Dee's.

                                  5 Replies
                                  1. re: wolfe
                                    a
                                    arlenemae RE: wolfe Feb 14, 2010 10:09 AM

                                    I'm part of their cheese club and John Raymond emailed us to let us know that they moved to Napa. Not sure where exactly their new location is yet, or whether the storefront is open. The info isn't posted on the website yet, so you may want to email them at order@raymondcheesemongers.com if you want to stop by.

                                    1. re: arlenemae
                                      wolfe RE: arlenemae Feb 14, 2010 10:11 AM

                                      Thanks, I guess no 8 cow cheese today.

                                      1. re: arlenemae
                                        maria lorraine RE: arlenemae Feb 14, 2010 12:05 PM

                                        The location is Black Stallion Winery on Silverado Trail. Not sure why, but that's what John said.

                                        1. re: maria lorraine
                                          wolfe RE: maria lorraine Feb 14, 2010 12:33 PM

                                          My daughter just handed me the message John left in Glen Ellen.
                                          Beginning Presidents' Day
                                          John Raymond Cheese Co.
                                          Black Stallion Winery
                                          4089 Silverado Trail Napa Ca 94558.
                                          Tastings call 707 253 1400

                                          1. re: wolfe
                                            a
                                            artemis RE: wolfe Feb 14, 2010 10:20 PM

                                            blast!!! we were headed there tomorrow along with br cohn for olive oil and deerfield for wine.

                                    2. Robert Lauriston RE: rworange Oct 26, 2010 12:29 PM

                                      What's the status of this place? I bought a tasting for two last year before the move and can't figure out how to schedule it.

                                      8 Replies
                                      1. re: Robert Lauriston
                                        maria lorraine RE: Robert Lauriston Oct 26, 2010 01:09 PM

                                        You might try the website:
                                        http://www.raymondcheesemongers.com/

                                        1. re: maria lorraine
                                          Robert Lauriston RE: maria lorraine Oct 26, 2010 06:00 PM

                                          The Web site doesn't have any contact information. That's why I asked here.

                                          1. re: Robert Lauriston
                                            maria lorraine RE: Robert Lauriston Oct 26, 2010 09:25 PM

                                            orders@raymondcheesemongers.com

                                            Anyway, looks like you're all set with
                                            jr@raymondcheesemongers.com
                                            from below.

                                        2. re: Robert Lauriston
                                          c
                                          celeryroot RE: Robert Lauriston Oct 26, 2010 03:19 PM

                                          got this recently

                                          October 30, Wine & Cheese Pairing with John Raymond, at Lambert Bridge Winery. Explore why many refer to this combination as a “match made in heaven”! Meet local Cheesemonger, John Raymond as he takes you through a selection of 5 cheeses that have been perfectly paired with 5 Lambert Bridge wines. Learn how to pair textures and flavors of cheese to wine. Discover two of Earth’s greatest pleasures! 1:00pm – 3:00pm, $50 per person; $45 LAC. Reservations Required – raelynn@lambertbridge.com or call 707-431-4670

                                          -----
                                          Lambert Bridge
                                          4085 W Dry Creek Rd, Healdsburg, CA

                                          1. re: Robert Lauriston
                                            a
                                            arlenemae RE: Robert Lauriston Oct 26, 2010 03:28 PM

                                            It seems like they may have been a bit disorganized lately with the move and all. I know they missed a couple of my cheese club shipments and seem to have lost the info on my membership more than once.

                                            I've tried emailing John Raymond directly at jr@raymondcheesemongers.com and I've gotten replies from him at this address. Good luck!

                                            1. re: arlenemae
                                              Robert Lauriston RE: arlenemae Oct 27, 2010 10:01 AM

                                              Thanks, that email is good.

                                              1. re: arlenemae
                                                d
                                                Dawgmommy RE: arlenemae Oct 27, 2010 10:57 AM

                                                I spoke to John last Friday at the St Helena farmers market. He's signed a contract with the folks at Tulacay (sp?) down on Airport Road. They're in the process of moving and said that he plans on having retail hours thursday-sunday.

                                                1. re: arlenemae
                                                  d
                                                  Dawgmommy RE: arlenemae Oct 27, 2010 02:53 PM

                                                  Below is e-mail newsletter from John, with address and hours at the bottom

                                                  This is it. The last rose of summer, except this is California andthe roses don't seem to stop unless we encourage them to, or Cleo thegoat eats them. Never thought I'd be living in a place where one hadto tell the flowers to "stop already, you'll exhaust yourselves." But this is the end of the line and it's nice to finally see where thetracks run out. As a midwesterner, I grew up thinking they would go onforever. An endless non-beginning and non-ending, which is perhaps whyI've stayed too many years at the market. The other could be that Iloved it.

                                                  The last St. Helena Farmer's Market of the year is this Friday. TheCourt Jest, otherwise known as the "chief meteorologist" says partlycloudy. His humor is a high wire act. The bittersweet end will be made all the sweeter with another batch offresh Burrata, curd and mozzarella, not to mention all our regulars.

                                                  Next week, we begin the new line of cheese and we widen our offeringsto the cheese club. We've always wanted the club to be larger thanmerely cheese shipments. Now, it will be. Understanding our foodshould be an internalized skill that we don't need to read about,think about or watch someone on TV compete over. Knowing the qualityof what we eat should be as automatic to us as knowing how to walk.

                                                  We're open at 388 Devlin Road, Napa for tastings, classes and cheesesales from Thursday, 4 November on. Since I don't know what else to dowith myself, I'll be there on Thur, Fri, Sat and Sun. Not Mon, Tue,Wed. Hours: 11-4 pm. Or whenever, if you call ahead. Please visit.

                                                  I am at Lambert Bridge Winery this Saturday, from 1-3 pm. (I thinkthere are six tickets left. Contact Raelynn@lambertbridge.com) Ourcheese (but not us) will also be at the Napa Museum, Yountville, on Saturday.

                                                  John Raymond
                                                  707.478.6033
                                                  order@raymondcheesemongers.com

                                                  -----
                                                  Lambert Bridge
                                                  4085 W Dry Creek Rd, Healdsburg, CA

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