This is the second in a multi-part series of blogs about my day exploring some of Marin County’s premier culinary destinations with the Marin Convention & Visitors Bureau. To read the first blog in this series, which features a tour of the Marin Civic Center Farmers Market, click here.
We board a charter bus (courtesy of San Francisco-based Extranomical Tours) and leave urban Marin County behind, slowly winding our way toward the Pacific Ocean and our next destination: the Marin French Cheese Company. In short order, suburban cities fade into the pristine farmscapes and rolling, oak-studded coastal hills that make up the enduring tapestry of West Marin. Nearly 80-85% of this land is protected Open Space thanks to state and federal efforts. In addition, the Marin Agricultural Land Trust has purchased over 47,000 acres of privately owned farm land through conservation easements that insure it will remain dedicated to agriculture forever.
Located 10 miles outside of nearby Novato in the lush Hicks Valley, the “Cheese Factory,” as it is fondly called by locals, has the distinction of being the oldest continuously operating cheese company in the United States. Nestled on a rise with beautiful pastoral views of the surrounding landscape, this well-known destination is a favorite for cheese lovers of all ages who come to experience the venue’s award-winning, soft-ripened French artisan cheeses. It is also a popular way station for cyclists who stop to fortify themselves as they ride the roads to and from West Marin.
In 2015 Marin French Cheese celebrates its 150th anniversary and commemorates an unrelenting commitment for making hand crafted Brie, Camembert, and Breakfast cheeses from a blend of Jersey, Guernsey, and Holstein milk sourced at nearby family owned dairies.
On the day of our visit, the group is treated to a special cheese tasting served with local farmstead cider. We gather outdoors, seated family-style around wooden picnic tables, to share platters brimming with bloomy rind Petite Crème, Triple Crème, and Triple Crème Brie with Truffles; a full-flavored, washed rind Schloss, and the company’s signature buttery Breakfast Cheese which received a coveted Good Food Award earlier this year.
We savor the tastes paired with a crisp, dry estate-bottled heirloom cider from AppleGarden Farm in Tomales which is crafted from rare organic varietals fermented in small batches to a lightly effervescent finish. It’s the perfect accompaniment for these cheeses.
The Marin Cheese Company is open year-round to guests who will enjoy perusing the well-stocked selection of cheese and other gourmet food items at the quaint on-site retail store. Linger for a picnic on the inviting grounds where ample lawn areas with tables, mature trees, and a duck pond beckon the young and the young at heart to relax and enjoy the day.
Through the years, my family has many fond memories of lazy afternoons spent at the Cheese Factory. When our children were young, we often planned impromptu excursions to buy Brie and a fresh-baked baguette at the store. We greeted the ducks in the pond and spent endless hours playing on the grass as we eagerly devoured our picnic. There is no doubt in my mind that those early visits are the reason both kids developed a love for Brie that remains to this day.
In honor of their 150th anniversary, Marin French Cheese is collecting stories reflecting the generations of family traditions, working, playing, romancing and hanging out at the “Cheese Factory.” Stories can be short or long, recent or cherished memories of long ago, and may be submitted as follows:
- Write your story on a card with your name and phone contact, and mail to:
Stories at Marin French, 7500 Red Hill Rd., Petaluma, CA 94952
- Email your story to: firstname.lastname@example.org
For more information on planning your next visit, check out their website.