Guests got a taste of local history along with cheese when Chef Jennifer Luttrell presented a spring menu at Fresh Starts Chef Events.
The executive chef for The Fork at Point Reyes Farmstead Cheese Company, who is part of a three-sister team running the business at a historic Marin County dairy, offered a glimpse of ranch evolution as well as recipes using the award-winning products.
The Giacomini family started the dairy in 1959, selling its milk to Clover-Stornetta for 42 years. When the farm began a transition to producing artisan cheese, the sisters banded together to lead the new endeavor.
Point Reyes Blue, introduced in 2000, continues to win awards and remains the company’s flagship product. Cheesemaker Kuba Hemmerling (Chef Jennifer’s husband) crafts other award-winners like Toma, the farmstead’s first non-blue cheese, a cross between Gouda and Havarti; Bay Blue, their version of a Stilton; and super-creamy Mozzarella, available May through October.
Chef Jennifer opened the menu with a Winter Greens Salad with Citrus Vinaigrette & Bay
Blue, using a light vinaigrette with reserved juice from the Satsuma mandarins to offset the earthy cheese. For winter greens, she likes endive, for “a little texture,” and radicchio, for “color and a different flavor component.”
Mushroom Lasagnas with Pesto Bechamel & Point Reyes Toma was another earthy dish that straddles seasons. Chef Jennifer suggests tweaking the recipe for spring by using asparagus instead of mushrooms. With the focus on the cheeses, the taste was decadent but not heavy.
Although The Fork does make ice cream with both the Original Blue and Gouda, Chef Jennifer opted to demonstrate a Lemon Mousse with Pecan Shortbread as dessert. She claims the fool-proof recipe is simple to assemble and hard to overcook.
Chef Jennifer concluded by telling guests, “I’m not a very fussy chef. I like things to be rustic.” She carries out her emphasis on simplicity and fresh ingredients at The Fork, a culinary teaching and dining space at the ranch that hosts regular classes and events.
Fresh Starts Chef Events thanks the Point Reyes Farmstead Cheese team for donating cheese for the evening and gratefully acknowledges support from The Republic of Tea as premier sponsor for the chef event series. — Contributed by Carol Inkellis with photos courtesy of Neely Wang.
Winter Greens Salad with Bay Blue – Serves 6
3 small heads of winter greens – endive, radicchio, etc. – washed, dried and torn into pieces
1 bunch arugula, washed, dried, and torn into bite-sized pieces
1 fennel bulb, cleaned, cored, and sliced very thin
3 seedless Satsuma mandarins, peeled and segmented with juice reserved
1 tablespoon of the reserved mandarin juice (may be substituted with fresh orange juice)
1 tablespoon champagne vinegar, or other lightly flavored vinegar
½ cup olive oil
½ cup crumbled Point Reyes Bay Blue
½ cup toasted hazelnuts, skins removed, chopped
Salt and pepper to taste
Toss greens and fennel together in a large bowl.
Make the vinaigrette by whisking the vinegar, juice, and olive oil until combined. Season with salt, to taste.
Toss lettuce with enough vinaigrette to coat, but not drench, the lettuce. Taste and season with more salt and pepper if desired. Add half of the crumbled Point Reyes Bay Blue and toss to combine. Place salad on individual plates or serving platter.
Toss the mandarins with a little of the vinaigrette and arrange on top of salad. Finish by topping off with remaining cheese and toasted hazelnuts.