Friday, July 12, 2013

It's the cheese

Joe and Mary Matos make one kind of cheese only, Saint George, a medium-hardness cheese based on the cheese of the proprietors' native Azores. A visit to their little cheese "factory" on the outskirts of Santa Rosa is for me always a highlight of a drive through Sonoma County.

From their sign on Llano Road, you head up a narrow gravel drive through the cow pasture, park, and enter the closet-sized front office. A loud bell announces your presence. Some minutes later, an oldish woman appears from the door to the aging room. I think it used to be Mary herself, but I believe it was someone else on my recent visit. She slices you a generous taste, and if you are like me you say, "I'll take a wheel" (the small size is ten pounds). She asks, in very halting English, "Want it cleaned?" The first time I bought a whole cheese I had no idea what she meant, but I figured it must be a good idea. "Sure." In the aging room, she takes a wheel down from the shelf, seats herself on a low stool, and with a large knife (small machete?), proceeds to scrape the entire surface of the cheese, white curls flying into a box between her knees. The sight and sound of this simple procedure justify going out of your way, regardless of any savings on the price of the cheese.

The price of the cheese... did I menton the price of the cheese? You can find St. George in a number of cheese shops around the Bay Area. At retail it runs between $15 and $23 per pound, usually around the middle of that range. Factory direct you can get as much or as little as you want for $7.50 a lb.

The cheese is very good. It has a pleasing, simple nuttiness and a little cheddar tang, and a wonderful airy texture. It is a great table cheese and would, I think, be great for cooking too. Trust me, you will want to buy a wheel and share some generous slices with your friends.


  1. At least you're admitting to buying this, unlike the bread you claim to bake

  2. LOL. Yes, I choose to use internet slang without a moments hesitation.