In the cheese industry, collaboration is thriving. For Cherry Valley Dairy in Duvall, WA, and Trellis restaurant in Kirkland, WA, a collaboration has turned into an ACS Judging & Competition 2nd place win in the “Monterey Jack with Flavor Added” category.
Over two years ago, Cherry Valley Dairy’s head cheesemaker Blain Hages met Trellis Executive Chef Brian Scheehser at a pre-production tasting. Weeks later, they profiled a four month old natural-rinded Jersey Jack and decided to collaborate on two flavored cheeses.
Blain initially offered to make Brian a typical pepper jack, using peppers from Brian’s farm, which is 10.2 miles west of Cherry Valley Dairy. Blain and Brian also discussed more unique ingredients, with Brian coming up with a dried blueberry and basil cheese. A dried and powdered sweet carrot cheese with dried nasturtium leaves and flowers was also mentioned during this discussion, and it is the cheese that went on to win 2nd place honors in its category at the 2013 ACS Judging & Competition.
From there, the possibilities have been endless. “Flavored Jack cheeses provide great versatility and uniqueness for the Trellis menu,” said Blain. “We have also created a Caraway Jack with the Reuben sandwich, a true whey ricotta for the cheesecake, a lavender-rubbed Jack, and a supply of cultured butter and buttermilk for Trellis’ in-house baking.”
The initial farm-inspired Pepper Jack is another cheese collaboration that has worked well. “Brian is focused on being ‘farm-inspired’ for all of his recipes, whether it is a Cherry Valley Dairy cheese or a meal. He walks his farm, constantly finding and using only the best ingredients for you, the conscience consumer!” said Blain.
On make days, Blain uses the milk from Cherry Valley Dairy, and the other “flavor” ingredients come from Brian’s farm. Brian joins in on flavored cheese days as well. They have both learned a lot in the process — in particular, to stay patient. “Fresh ingredients in a natural-rinded cheese can be difficult to age properly,” said Blain. “It took us a few generations to figure out we had to dry and powder a carrot. It takes ample time just to [give] these ingredients the correct integrity before mixing them into the curd.”
Not only has Cherry Valley Dairy been providing these cheeses to Trellis, but the cheeses are also available at the Duvall Farmers Market and 21 Acres Farm Market in Woodinville, WA.
Cherry Valley Dairy currently only uses whole pasteurized Jersey milk for their products. They are building a new aging room that will house a new line of raw milk Jersey jack.
Blain has been making cheese at Cherry Valley Dairy for over two years. He started at Beecher’s Handmade Cheese in 2003 and worked there for seven years, as well as working at Dairy Fresh Consultation for about a year. “It was an education and an honor to work for Beecher’s owner Kurt Dammeier and Head Cheesemaker at the time, Brad Sinko. They created this experience and excitement around something I knew nothing about,” said Blain. “After the first production day, I was hooked and I never looked back!”
Blain and Brian have no plans to stop making their collaborative cheeses. “The relationship between Cherry Valley Dairy and Trellis has been a success and we will continue to keep it thriving with flavor,” said Blain.