While at the Oregon Truffle Marketplace this weekend, I saw a table full of big, beautiful wheels of creamy-fleshed cheese sitting on a table, and made my way over (after grabbing a complimentary glass of Oregon wine to go with it, of course). I was pleasantly rewarded with friendly vendors who offered me a slice of their little heaven...which quickly transported my tastebuds to my own.
The vendor that I discovered was Tumalo Farms Specialty Cheeses, the brainchild of Brazilian- born Flavio S. DeCastilhos and his wife, Margie. Flavio and his wife produce mostly goat milk cheeses, made from milk that they get from resident goats on their 84 acre farm outside of Bend, OR. The surprising thing is that they have only officially been producing cheese over the last several months. Yep, that's months, not years. One of their cheeses actually won an award before it was even on the market! I think that their biggest selling point is that they have unusual flavors that they add to their traditional Classico recipes for gouda, chevre and feta - and in addition also try to showcase unique-to-Oregon and local ingredients.
I tried three of their cheeses. A delightful Fenacho gouda, enriched with fenugreek which is an herb found mostly in the Mediterranean, African and Middle Eastern dishes. It has a wonderfully nutty, yet sweet taste that is unlike anything I had ever tasted before. The second cheese was the Giallo gouda, a smooth cheese with tangy mustard seeds packed perfectly throughout the flesh. A third gouda had specks of rosemary - a flavor thought up by Flavio's wife, executed by Flavio, and extremely popular...they were slicing up their last wheel when I arrived. They also have other unusual flavors in this same line of cheese (their Signatura Classico line), including lavender, hazelnut, and even a couple made with a local microbrew and a hard cider.
When asked how he got interested in cheese making, Flavio, a former computer-industry executive, told me that while he was traveling in Brazil, he became fascinated with the art of making cheese, and decided he wanted to do it back here in the states. He came home, began researching how and what to do, and started building his state-of-the-art facilities. Two years later, Tumalo Farms exists and while still a small, family-owned farm and business, this cheesemaker is already catering to restaurants and gourmets, making sure they have enough to keep their sellers happy. You can even buy their cheese in 10 and 2 lb wheels! This makes me think that there might still be hope for me yet!
I ended up with the Giallo gouda. I couldn't resist. I loved the fenugreek-flavored Fenacho with it's unusual taste, but the mustard seed was tangy and comforting, and what I was looking for at the time because it went perfectly with the amazing Viande duck and poussin pate I also came home with (I know, I'm weak in the face of food). Although Tumalo's supplies for retail purchase are getting low for the season, you can still order some of their cheeses direct from Tumalo on the website, or if you're in the area, stop by for a visit and a tour of the farm...and while you're there, I bet they would let you taste a few.
Tumalo Farms Specialty Cheeses
64515 Mock Road
Bend, Oregon 97701