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Mar 5, 2014 08:36 PM

Mercury News: "A water buffalo ranch yields perfect mozzarella" [Tomales, CA]

"Because it's local and delivered fresh, the flavor is incredible," [Louise] Franz [from San Anselmo's Pizzalina] says. "You can almost taste the grasses the water buffalo feed upon."

Besides the requisite Neapolitan pizza, Franz serves Ramini's cheese in dishes like a sweet-tart winter caprese that uses citrus -- Cara Cara oranges, blood oranges and tangelos -- rather than tomatoes. And she whips up appealing bruschetta starters featuring the creamy cheese with a variety of toppings, ranging from minted asparagus and speck to balsamic onions with fennel brittle.

[Craig] Ramini [founder and cheesemaker for Ramini Mozzarella] says his cheese "is best eaten within 72 hours" and should be the star of simple preparations. Some chefs even offer it solo. "There's this experience of biting into a fresh ball of mozzarella," he says. "The juice dribbles down your chin like a fresh peach."

Ramini believes he is currently the country's only farmstead buffalo mozzarella operation, because the economics are fierce in a business that involves low-production animals and tricky cheesemaking techniques.

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