I didn’t realize I was going on the unauthorized bus trip until I arrived at 7:30 in the morning and was told so. No, the ACS volunteers didn’t know where my bus was. No, they had no information. I couldn’t, for the moment, reach the rep who set me up on the trip because she was coming from Iowa which, it turns out, is very close to Wisconsin. Eventually a number of us who had signed on found each other and then the bus, tucked behind the bus for the beer and cheese tour.
I guess I should have realized it was unauthorized when I was told it was free.
I have never been to a goat cheese plant like Montchevré outside of France. It really is something. If you can appreciate factories, and I can, it is a brilliant model of organization, planning and efficiency.
You may think I am being sarcastic or damning with faint praise. I am not. Before one criticizes a cheese factory for being a factory, one should examine oneself. My first goat cheese, being a Californian of a certain time period, was hand-made and fresh, but I would imagine most people’s first goat cheese these days is likely Montchevré.* Even though my first punk album** was on a major label, it did not prevent me from searching out more obscure and, as the years went on, more artisan, bands. Think of Montchevré as a gateway cheese.
This is necessary because many people are scared of goat cheese. C’mon, we can admit it here. This is a safe space for real cheese talk. I still get people asking at the counter for “the mildest goat cheese you have.” Montchevré often fills that niche. Also, as one likes to say when one buys for a retail store, the price point is very good. Don’t be snobby. This country needs cheese factories as well as cheese artisans.
I will add also though that their Bucheron and goat blue are also very good cheeses. And when we replaced the Montchevré Bucheron for the one made in France we were just replacing one factory cheese for another. Because when I said I had not seen this scale of goat cheese production outside of France, I meant it. Many American cheese-fanciers would be shocked to see the scale of production of the companies that make their fancy not-quite-A.O.C. goat favorites. While French factories like Sevre et Belle still have some women ladling curds by hand for a few specific cheeses (because the phrase “hand-ladled” has a distinct meaning in France), French-owned Montchevré has created a similar model of efficiency. I was surprised to see that much of the Montchevré is actually packed by hand as well.
They even have the curd hammocks that Molly and I could not stop making fun of while on our tour of France. Curd Hammock or Kirk Hammett: You don’t have to choose. You can love both.
Montchevré does have the annoying policy, like Emmi USA, of not allowing pictures in their factories. Fear not, lawyers for Montchevré, that picture linked above is from France. Montchevré did allow us to take picture of the anerobic digester though. This little baby produces power for hundreds of neighboring homes. Mmmmm. Sludge.
We also got to visit a multi-generational farm that won the award for top farm in the Montchevré system. In fact, this is the farm where their goat cam is set up. What is not to love about goats and cute kids who love kids?
And check out the goat paparazzi:
They also served us cake. I love cake.
They also have the best HACCP-inspired head covering in the business. Everyone was required to wear these, beard or no beard. It makes a great Facebook icon too.
* Montchevré re-packs until many different labels and names, just fyi. Nothing wrong with that, it’s just that it may have been your first and you didn’t even know it.
**The Clash, The Clash, even though it was Americanized by the major label it is still one of the best albums ever made.