Gelato di Bufala Dairy and Creamery [Petaluma, Sonoma County]
On Sunday’s return visit to Freestone Artisan Cheese for the Taste of Freestone event, I was spied an old fashioned ice cream cart parked in front of the store. Gelato di Bufala, a new one for me. It’s said to be the only water buffalo milk gelato produced between here and southern Italy. The water buffalo herd grazes but a few miles away in Bloomfield and the dairy/creamery is located in the former St. Anthony’s Farm. Curtis Fjelstul, long time dairyman and butter-maker at St. Anthony’s said his good-bye in 2009, as posted here, when it closed.
Now he has partnered with Andrew Zlot in this new dairy. It was a pleasure to chat with Fjelstul and hear about his di Bufala project. He also said that recovery services would be starting again at the site. Good works and good dairy seems to be a winning combination. They’ve been working on making mozzarella, naturally, but it’s not perfected yet. In the meantime, they’ve launched water buffalo milk gelato.
The list of flavors that day included: fior di latte, hazelnut, espresso, fennel pollen, and saffron.
My first sampling was the fennel pollen. While the unusual flavor was striking in its barely sweet fruity/savory tones and almost tongue-numbing anise effect, I was mostly bowled over by the essence of this gelato. Extremely smooth and velvety on the palate, remarkably dense, and the milk is very transparent to the flavoring agent letting it shine through so directly. I asked Fjelstul what the butterfat content of the water buffalo milk might be and whether the gelato was enriched with cream. He smiled and said that his herd’s milk runs 10.5% fat, no enrichment needed. This compares to 3.5% on average for cow’s milk and 6% for Jersey cow’s milk. The higher fat gives this gelato a sublime texture, yet it does not leave a fatty deposit on the palate and finishes so cleanly.
I asked for advice on which flavors would combine well for a double scoop. Interestingly, the answer was not to mix flavors other than with the unflavored au naturel fior di latte (flower of the milk). So, Double cone, $4, with hazelnut on top and fior di latte on the bottom.
Such simple beauty. Again, the flavor of the hazelnut was pure and stark, lilting on the tongue. And the fior di latte came through as a light milky flavor, rather than heavy with cream despite its butterfat load.
Other than occasional appearances of the cart at special events, the gelato is currently distributed only to a handful of restaurants, including Rocker Oysterfeller's in Valley Ford and Poggio in Sausalito, when available. Keep an eye out for the cart or ask your favorite Italian restaurant about securing some.
Di Bufala Dairy & Creamery (no retail store)
11207 Valley Ford Rd
Petaluma, CA 94952
More about Freestone Artisan Cheese
Tara Duggan wrote a piece and the name is now Double 8 Dairy. "Gelato made from the dairy's water buffalo milk is available at the French Laundry in Yountville, SPQR in San Francisco, Poggio in Sausalito, A16 in Oakland, Osteria Stellina in Point Reyes Station and Nick's Cove in Marshall. A16 in San Francisco and Oakland serves the buffalo meat."
The fior di latte prompted me to rave on another thread recently. I tried it quite unexpectedly at Marin Sun Farms in Pt. Reyes Station and it blew me away. I called the number on the Double 8 Dairy website and got a super-nice guy (Andrew?) on his cell as he was driving across a bridge. Told him I was in Berkeley and WHERE COULD I BUY HIS GELATO? He laughed and said the Village Market -- I think. It was hard to hear him and I didn't want to keep him from driving. Aside from his safety, I might have threatened my future supply of fat-filled frozen deliciousness.
Got a pint of Double 8 Mission Fig at Bi-Rite in the Mission, as well as a pint of Bi-Rite's own. I've always liked Bi-Rite's ice creams, but a direct comparison showed that Double 8's was smoother and creamier than Bi-Rite's. The fig flavor is very nice. Will have to try the other flavors.