Goat Cheese, Please
For many local cheesemakers, goat is king.
November 21, 2011
Some of the residents at Haystack Farms in Longmont
Raising goats and producing cheeses from their milk is more popular than ever. Much smaller than a cow, a goat is more manageable and easier to care for and feed. And the result is quite satisfying to the palate. Diners will find a type of goat cheese on nearly every charcuterie platter in Aspen –in salads galore, mixed with beets, added as croquettes atop greens, and included in entrees and even desserts.
“The milk ends up making very wonderful fresh and aged cheeses,” says Michelle Kiley, Aspen’s resident cheese expert and co-owner of Specialty Foods of Aspen and The Cheese Shop. According to Kiley, Wendy Mitchell, owner of Avalanche Cheese in Basalt, has “truly mastered her craft” in goat cheesemaking. Kiley calls Mitchell’s selection of cheeses, which includes fresh chevre and Midnight Blue, “absolutely incomparable.”
Chefs throughout the valley use Avalanche Cheese’s products and those of another Colorado standout, Haystack Farms in Longmont. But while many diners savor goat cheese, goat meat is still underappreciated, says Jack Reed, who acts as a liaison between farmers who sell goats and restaurant owners who want them. Reed helps to supply goat meat to Mark Fischer’s Restaurant Six89 in Carbondale and The Pullman in Glenwood Springs. Closer to Heaven Farm in Hotchkiss also sells goat meat to Restaurant Six89.
According to Reed, diners are reluctant to order goat because they think the meat will smell bad, but the taste is actually closer to that of a wild meat dish such as elk. “Goats are pretty active,” Reed adds. “They forage and get around, so they’re lean. And they have a wild spirit about them; that’s what I’m looking for in a meat.”
Reed has been known to drive around the countryside of the Western Slope looking for Boer goats (the most desirable breed for meat). A relative few Boers survive into the autumn months because of the popularity of Mexican summertime barbecues. Not many farmers on the Western Slope raise Boer goats, but Ken Miller of Cedaredge’s Lone Pine Farm sells goat meat, raw goat’s milk, yogurt, chevre, and feta. “The best way to prepare goat is by grilling or smoking,” he says before turning whimsical. “We also grind a bit of it and make goat burgers. We try and not tell anybody until after they are done eating that [they just ate] Annabelle.”