I joined the Woodlands Family in 1989. From that day to this, cheese has been a growing passion.
Cheese is exciting! It’s beautiful to look at, to taste, and to experience. Over the years I have learned volumes from slicing it daily. The interaction between customers, myself, and the cheese is an amazing education and opportunity to share my love with others.
There is nothing like tasting a cheese for the first time, from feeling the texture as it’s sliced and inhaling the aroma for the first time, to that first taste. When a cheese is exceptional, that first introduction to it is magical. This intangible quality is balanced by the very tangible chemistry and methodology necessary to the cheese-making process.
I continue my education in all aspects of the cheese world via many avenues, but am especially proud to be a member of The American Cheese Society and to travel to the Society Conference every year. I get to meet cheese makers from across the country and am able to attend various seminars from wine and beer pairings, to cheese chemistry courses. I have attended dozens of lectures and had the opportunity to hear from the cheese makers themselves about their passions and processes, to ask questions and learn on a one-on-one basis with some of the most creative and innovative minds in the cheese world today.
One of the best parts of crisscrossing the country at these events is having an opportunity to meet up with local cheese producers. Even though they live and work in my own backyard, I sometimes only get to connect with them at the conference. In addition, I always visit a creamery or two that is local to that year’s event. When the conference was in Providence, Rhode Island, I drove up to Vermont where I and others actually helped to make a batch of cheddar at Grafton Village Cheese Company that will be released as a two-year cheddar.
Renewing local connections is an important part of my job and one that I take great pleasure from. The Bay Area is bursting with great local cheeses and cheesemakers, and I’m proud to carry as many as I can get my hands on. On a wider scale, I’m very excited that this November we will be taking part in Adopt an Alp. This annual program was begun to showcase and support smaller, family cheese makers who wouldn’t otherwise get a chance to have their cheese featured in the Bay Area. We will pair up with one Swiss cheese maker and exclusively carry their cheese for the holiday season at all three Woodlands stores. I invite you to come in and try our adoptee in November. All our stores carry wonderful local cheeses from Bellwether Farms, Cowgirl Creamery, Marin French, Nicasio Valley, Point Reyes Farmstead, and Laura Chenel Chèvre to name a few. Plus we carry many seasonal and unusual cheeses.
What is cheese without crackers? In addition to the hundreds of cheeses we carry that vary from specialty to everyday, coming from around the corner to around the world, we carry a broad variety of crackers from near and far. Want to elevate your cheese experience above the ordinary? Browse our array of jams, fruit pastes, honeys, and nuts that compliment your favorite cheese with just the right accent.
New to the department are cheese boards, knives, and accessories that join our books and magazines as durable goods to enhance your cheese enjoyment. Find the perfect gift for your cheese-loving friends. Wish to continue your own cheese education? The Cheese Primer by Steven Jenkins is a must-read. But the best way to learn is to try new things. Do you love cheese? Then you’re in the right place: the Woodlands Cheese Department.
– Octavio Saez De Ibarra, Cheesemonger/Buyer, Kentfield
Gustavo Ortega – Cheesemonger, Tiburon
Rizalde Mendoza – Cheesemonger, San Francisco