There’s a new cheesemaker in town, and she’s driving a Mini Cooper and packing MAC lipgloss. That’s right, California cheese chick Seana Doughty and her Fat Bottom Girl have arrived on the cheese scene in the north Bay Area of California.
I met Seana this past week at the Sonoma Valley Cheese Conference, where she was showing off her new hard sheep’s milk cheese called Fat Bottom Girl. The cheese gets its name from its unique shape, which Seana says actually began as an accident. She had taken some cheeses out of their forms to be flipped, but then had to hurry out for afternoon milking. When she returned to the creamery (where she’s been renting time/space), the cheeses had flattened a bit under their own weight and were starting to form a wide bottom.
She says she found myself frequently referring to these yet-to-be-named cheeses as her “fat bottomed girls,” referring to the song by Queen that had come up on her iPod while working in the creamery. Apparently it was meant to be, and the name stuck. She has since continued to develop the process, coming up with the correct timing to achieve the perfect Fat Bottom Girl shape.
While Fat Bottom Girl is the only cheese Seana makes (she’s currently sold out – bummer), she soon could be making several more, as she just roadtripped to Wisconsin in December and bought 10 of her very own sheep from sheep dairy farmer Paul Haskins. That trip is a story within itself — she sums it up as “Operation Sheeporama” –featuring 1 truck, 2 girls, 5 days, 10 sheep, 4,200 miles and a lot of winter icy driving with 10 bleating sheep in the back of a “big ass 4×4 truck.”
Sounds like a good time to me.
Seana has since named her 10 ewes, which are specialized 50/50 crosses between the East Friesian and Lacaune dairy breeds. East Friesian sheep originated in Germany and are considered to be the highest producing dairy breed by milk volume, while French Lacaune sheep produce milk with slightly higher milk solids. The famous Roquefort blue cheese from France is made exclusively from the milk of red Lacaune ewes.
Each of Seana’s ewes has been bred to a Lacaune ram from the University of Wisconsin’s Spooner Agricultural Reseach Station, the only university in the United States with a program dedicated to sheep dairying. If all goes well, her ewes will give birth to lambs in April 2010 and she can begin milking them in May. She plans to increase the size of her flock by keeping all of the ewe lambs and purchasing additional ewes.
Eventually, she’d like to be milking between 100-200 ewes and plans to use every last drop of the milk for her cheesemaking. While she’s currently committed to California, I lobbied her pretty hard this week to move to Wisconsin, mostly because I’d love to serve a cheese at my table called Fat Bottom Girl, and her production is too small for any of her two-pound beauties to make it all the way to America’s Dairyland. Either way, I have complete confidence that Seana Doughty will be a force to be reckoned with. Expect to hear more about this glam cheesemaker and her Fat Bottom Girl in the years to come.